Q: What's a four-letter word that's about half a foot wide and 3 feet tall, rolls up in a can and is an inspired and inspiring gift for many people on your holiday list?
A: "Tree: A Calendar for 2014," the latest in the calendar-in-a-canister series from the Cummings & Good graphic design studio in Chester.
Twenty years ago, Peter Good and Jan Cummings created a calendar that played around with the various meanings and ideas of "Change" as a corporate gift item for a client. It was a hit, so the couple continued to create themed calendars — "Experience," "Balance," "Time," "Ideas," "Numbers" — each year's word rich with multiple associations.
And as the years rolled by, the effort snowballed and streamlined into the pithy four-letter series of "Slow," "Food," "Good," "Love," "Life," "Home," "Work," "Play," "Song," "Book," "Blue," "Ball, "Bird" and now "Tree," each calendar packaged in a canister that later can serve as a time capsule of tidbits from the year.
At this point, the long, skinny calendars have become prized collector's items, and little wonder. They are beautifully designed, as you'd expect from these pre-eminent graphics gurus, whose work you already know, if not their name. C&G is the design force behind such well-known logos as UConn's oak leaf, the Whalers' whale tail, the Connecticut Science Center, the Mark Twain House, the Wadsworth Atheneum, Dinners at the Farm, Arts and Ideas... the list goes on and on. Good has even designed U.S. postage stamps.
Each month of the calendar has an evocative theme, with related images and nuggets of poetry, philosophy and lore. There's the gorgeous photograph of a Royal Bengal tiger wrapping its paws around a tree and nuzzling the bark with its chin for "Tree Hugger" in September. And Sean Kernan's spooky black and white photograph of a man mysteriously disappearing behind a very slender tree embodies April's "Mystree."
One of the quotes sprinkled through the calendar comes in "Life in a Tree" for the month of May, which considers such denizens of the treetops as gibbons and tree frogs. The anonymous quote also is sage advice if you're looking for an offbeat holiday gift: "Do not be afraid to go out on a limb ... That's where the fruit is."
The calendars — 7 inches wide and 34 inches long — sell for $35; a case of 12 is bargain-priced at $210. Cummings & Good's gallery is in their 19th-century Greek revival building at 3 North Main St. in Chester, which also offers wrapping paper, note cards, journals, prints, posters and more. Call 866-749-4444, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to cummings-good.com.