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.

Kimberley church floor plaque

I was working in Kimberley church in Norfolk this week, adding some lettering to a large marble plaque, and was very taken by this wonderful 17th century floor plaque……

Kimberley floor plaque

HEARE LIETH ANN THE WIFE OF EDMVND WODEHOUSE OF EAST LEXHAM ESQ THE ONELY CHILD OF JOHN ANGVISH OF GRAT MELTON ESQ AN OBEDIENET DAVGHTER TENDERLY LOVING WIFE & MOTHER AND A DISRETT MISTRESE DYED THE 28 OF JULY ANNO DIMMIN 1685

There are several interesting elements to this – firstly the spelling stands out. Clearly, language has evolved in the last 333 years, but there may have been some ‘freedom’ or lack of clarity as to the correct spelling even then. I have seen some of these variants before (such as HEARE, ONELY) but GRAT (for Great) and OBEDIENET seem quite Chaucerian. I particularly like ANNO DIMMIN (for Domini) and DISRETT MISTRESE ~ is that a discreet mistress? I think it may be ‘District mistress’ some sort of role in society, but I can’t get any further than that by searching online. I welcome any comments on this.

As for the lettering style, I think it’s gorgeous. It is linear and mono-weight (no variation in weight such as you would see in brush-derived letterforms like Roman or calligraphic lettering). I particularly like the H in HEARE, the lush W’s, the X, the C in CHILD, the D in DYED, T in TENDERLY, the J in JULY, the 5 and those lovely little triangles above the (upper case!) I’s. Also the ligatures (where letters are joined as in the first THE) are delightful and the A’s are interesting – where they start the word they are embellished with a flourish, but within a word they’re simple.

TEXTure show update

Our show texture opened on Friday evening and we’re really pleased with the reaction we’ve had. Lovely feedback,  interesting conversations and some sales. We look forward to seeing people there. Here are a few pictures:

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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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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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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!

Kilkenny limestone sculpture………………phase 2

Welcome!! Well, here’s the next instalment of the making of the sculpture mentioned in the previous blog. kk1I have been working on this over the last two weeks. As I said in the previous blog, it has become necessary to work the shape with the stone lying down, especially as I want the stone to be rounded at the bottom, so it appears to be balanced on the ground. This obviously cannot be done with the stone standing up. It is easier to work it in this way, as I can walk around the form, and get a good and safe working height on my scissor-lift table, which can be adjusted to a good height. This table will lift 1000kg, the stone was 750kg as a rectangular block, and will end up being around 500kg approximately. After cutting the angled sections off and pitching and cutting to the initial outline, and working the hole roughly, the next stage is working around the form cutting rough chamfers and ‘finding’ the shape. I want the shape to flow nicely from every angle, and yet not be predictably rounded. I want some asymmetry and a sense of tension and contortion in the form, so some ‘planes’ are rounded more than others, some of the curves are more flattened and compressed and some more rounded and generous. So I am basically walking round and round the table, cutting and grinding until I’m happy with the flow of the form. It is still early days, and I will turn the stone over tomorrow morning to work the other side and get the shape as a whole roughed out. I am thinking of making the two sides different, and one face will be purely rounded, and the other will have a chamfered element around the hole to add some more texture to the piece, and to make the stone different on both sides. We are planning to install the stone on a single pin so it can be rotated. I am aiming for the finished piece to be tactile (please do touch the sculpture!) and visually interesting. To be experienced with the eyes and then with the hands. There will be polished darker elements, paler claw-tooled sections, a carved chamfer with bold flat bolster chiselling. So lots of surfaces to explore. I’m very texture conscious in my work. I see an area of carved lettering as a texture in the same way as I see a chiselled surface. It’s all to do with rhythm and spacing, lettering and tool marks. I often think letters are like objects, with their own sense of gravity or magnetism, and this is how I think of them when trying to space letters evenly: I imagine they are individual magnets – and they need to pull evenly across the page or stone or they will start to draw the eye, and slide towards each other. Spacing is definitely a dark art, and for me I’d rather see good letters well spaced than beautiful letters bad lyspaced (:-0) I can get quite irritated by bads pacing!!

ANYWAY there’s no lettering on this so I’ll move on (!) This sort of sculpture is like a letter in a way (oh no back to lettering again, he’s going to start moaning about the overuse of comic sans soon………..) in that I’m looking at it like a letter, it has outline, a counter shape (a hole – like ABDOPR etc) it needs to balance and be upright, and the outline needs to relate to the hole, the proportions need to work together, there needs to be balance. That is what I’m thinking as I draw letters too, Drawing a good O for example is tricky because as you adjust the outline, the counter shape (or inner line) is affected, you can keep changing these and literally find yourself going round in circles. Time for more pictures, less talk!!

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These surfaces are still rough and machined, and will be worked more later, to acheive a smooth surface. This will be done with a combination of diamond cup wheels, spiracut semi-flexible silicone carbide discs, then round velcro sanding discs, and finally wet and dry sandpaper, sanded by hand, to get all the kinks and grooves out from the grinder stages. This is a lot of work, as this stone is so hard, like granite. It is unlike ‘normal’ limestone such as Portland stone or Bath stone. These would be so quick to work in comparison, but not weather very well ultimately.