Historical type setting examples and the Type Archive

I have recently been working on designs for a memorial to a compositor. For those of you that don’t know, a compositor was a person who arranged movable type for printing lettering. The family emailed me these wonderful membership cards of his. I thought they may be of interest. They reflect the era somewhat, and I think they’re great.

Talking of typesetting, a few months ago I visited The Type Archive in Stockwell, London, and it was a fascinating trip. There was an amazing collection of old typesetting machinery and associated equipment. Their website is great too: “The Type Archive holds the National Typefounding Collection, purchased with grants from the National Heritage Memorial Fund; broadly comprising; 1. the typefounding materials of the Sheffield typefounders, Stephenson Blake, a collection dating from 16th century London typefounders to their 20th century counterparts; 2. the hot-metal archive and plant of the Monotype Corporation, operating from Salfords in Surrey from 1897, and in London’s Lambeth from 1992 to date; and 3. the Woodletter pattern collection and plant of Robert DeLittle in York from 1888, and in Lambeth from 1996″.

Here are a few random pictures I took there:

Recent work in Aldborough

We installed a stone in Aldborough the other day, and it was a chance to see some of my previous commissions there, some of which are shown below. They vary considerably in style, design and materials. I have used all my own fonts on these, hand drawn and hand carved. I hope you like them, the older stones are starting to weather nicely now.

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Moleanos limestone from Portugal

The stone above was a memorial to a friend who ran Aldborough antique shop. The stone has references to some of his furniture and the bell that was attached to his door and rang upon entry. I miss Terry, he was a real character. He was always giving things to my kids…..

Here are a few more

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Crossland Hill York stone

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Crossland Hill York stone

Above is a York stone memorial showing the front and back of the stone. Marianne was a Moari, and the symbolism on the stone reflects her ancestry. The raised carving of the Koru on the front was copied from a bone pendant she wore and the fern carving on the back symbolises new life, growth, strength and peace.

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Woodkirk stone, from Yorkshire

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Woodkirk stone, from Yorkshire

This stone above was to a local woman of German descent, and the design and lettering was created to give a Germanic feel to the stone. I designed and drew these letters specifically for this commission. It’s weathering beautifully.

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Woodkirk stone, from Yorkshire

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Woodkirk stone, from Yorkshire

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detail from the Cook memorial above

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detail from the Denham memorial above

Above are two more York stone memorials, one featuring a lily carving and another an Ethiopian cross.

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Welsh slate monolithic piece

This wonderful piece of stone was one I came across in a quarry in Wales. I knew Alan, he was a lovely lad, a keen fisherman. The stripes made me think of water.

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Above, another piece of York stone, carved on both sides as you can see. Words by Mother Julian of Norwich adorn the back with an early Christian inspired depiction of incised doves on the back, complimenting the relief carvings on the front.

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Honed Welsh slate

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Honed welsh slate

 

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detail from Penny’s stone

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detail from Penny’s stone

This one is Welsh slate. Penny was my friend and neighbour and was very into her flowers. She was a lovely woman, missed by many. Working with slate gives a very different effect, it’s more akin to illustration than sculpture. The sharpness of the lettering and level of detail that can be achieved in slate is very challenging and rewarding.

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Nabresina limestone from Croatia/Italy border

This last image shows a cross made using Nabresina limestone. I quite like the simplicity of this, and the subtle bluey colour of the paint.

Laser-cut stainless steel lettering pieces

Here are a few examples of laser-cut stainless steel lettering designs:

 

These designs are created using my own true-type fonts. I make a design and layout which I then convert to a path. This is a vector outline that can then be edited. This looks a bit like this:

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These designs can then be scaled and laser-cut at any size. As you can see from the “may the circle be unbroken” design, I have made these at 30cm diameter and up to 1200mm diameter on the barn.

 

TEXTure show final preparations

TEXTure opens on Friday and we’re looking forward to setting up and seeing it all in situ. There will be around forty pieces in the show, some simple sculptural forms and some large and detailed pieces. Materials in the show include slate, limestone, sandstone, rock crystal, glass, resin and metal. Here’s the latest poster and the launch invitation, please come along at some point if you can.

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Moleanos limestone and glass

we drove to Cumbria yesterday to install a stone in Carlisle cemetery. It was an experimental piece with raised carvings showing that Daniel (PODGE) was very into his bicycles, and also incorporating a glass element, which really brings the stone to life. The glass was made to order as a one-off by Joseph Harrington,  glass sculptor.

see these pictures:

Laser-cut steel

I’ve been experimenting with digital design and this piece was designed for an exhibition in the Hostry at Norwich Cathedral in May. Here’s a sneaky preview.

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I’ll be showing this wall-mountable piece which is 60cm diameter, with metal pins in the back, and a smaller hanging version (below) at 30cm diameter,  which could go on a wall or in a window. I hope you like them.

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The Gunton Arms – cast iron signage

 

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One of the most exciting projects I have been working on recently is a sign for The Gunton Arms Pub here in north Norfolk. It’s a great pub with a fascinating collection of art both on the walls and in the grounds. I have been asked to design and produce a sign to be placed between the car park and the pub. After discussing various options and designs we decided that a cast iron frieze would work really well. This will be installed this Thursday. My approach to designing this was to think about something that would be visually simple, legible, yet not just letters plonked along a line, using ancient techniques but with a modern twist in the letterforms and the way they merge with the framing. My designs:

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inner sign proposal in cast iron
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The font is basically adapted from one of my own sans-serif true-type fonts but then the whole design was digitised (converted to paths) and manipulated to make the letters work with the curved shapes. When lettering is set on a curve it appears to be distorted and therefore it is necessary to intentionally distort the shapes to make the whole design and the spacing look right. The process of working with the paths and creating a satisfying design was very enjoyable. I was thinking very much about the space in between the letters, almost more than the letters in a way. The intention was both to make a nice series of negative spaces and also make the letters blend and flow nicely out of the curved ‘tramlines’ that contain them. Also I was really thinking about working with iron, and its unique properties and also the weight. The frieze weighs approximately 80kg.

This is a little snapshot of how the paths are created, with a series of control points each of which has ‘handles’ that can be moved individually to control the curves. This is a really time consuming process and I always aim to have as few of these control points as possible in a search for clean lines and purity!

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Two reclaimed cast iron posts have been installed and I have been working on the pattern making and organising the casting and installation on this project, including designing brackets. The pattern was made in MDF from my vector file, then this was used by the foundry to make moulds. This is sand casting, and I am lucky that there is a fantastic foundry not too far from me, East Coast Casting. They kindly photographed the process for me, and there’s a couple of videos below too. Basically, and I am simplifying this description, the pattern is set into a sandy-resin mix and when this sets the pattern is taken out creating a void that is then filled with molten iron. We chose SG iron as it is a little bit easier to work with. It contains graphite, and is easier to drill and weld. It is also more flexible and should not crack under pressure. See below. I’ll put more pictures up later when the sign is installed.

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here’s a picture of the finished piece, which will rust naturally over time

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more to follow when the job’s done!