Catching up with a few pages of daily lettering

I’ve been negligent here on my blog — has it really been two months? to the day! — but I’ve been working pretty steadily in my studio. Here are a few pages of daily lettering, mostly delving into gothicized italic and uncial letter forms.

May 24 – After mixing color to match a colored background, I just kept going because I was having so much fun.
May 25 – A first approach to uncial, which I had not studied in years. Just trying to remember the feel of uncials: round, short, fruity (okay, that’s some weird kinaesthesia going on).
May 27 – Getting a little more specific by studying a handout received from Sheila Waters c. 1986.
May 30 – The same uncials, but taking it down in size.

Gothicized italic

I’ve been studying gothicized italic, a hand I’ve never mastered. I began by analyzing a handout of a Lincoln quotation that Sheila Waters provided in a long-ago workshop. I determined the x-height and pen-width, lined up a sheet of paper, penciled in the bare bones of the letters, and had at it. As I worked I made notes about surprising discoveries: “the s is wider than I had thought”, “the final stroke of the e continues diagonally and does not go horizontal”, and so on. Then I repeated the exercise without penciling in the skeletal letters. (I won’t sully Sheila’s reputation — or mine — by reproducing my practice sheets here!) Next, I put up another handout from Sheila, a reproduction of a piece of Edward Johnston’s gothicized italic writing. You can see a portion of that handout in the image above. Once again, I analyzed it, ruled up a sheet, and copied the lettering as closely as possible, making notes as before.

Finally, I wrote out this sheet, choosing another text. My goal was to stick to Johnston’s lettering closely yet adhere to some best calligraphy practices and to make it more my own. I didn’t care for the long thin finials on his t and h, and his standard r is so wild and woolly that the next letter must be shorter to compensate. Next time around I will work on letter width and spacing to better match Johnston’s: mine were both two wide. Also, I regretted the use of the alternate r on the 2nd line. It seems to work best next to another oval letter such as a p.

A pair of testimonials

I recently had the pleasure of making two testimonials for a pair of sister schools. As usual, they took much longer than I anticipated. But it was fun.

detail of an illuminated testimonial
detail of an illuminated testimonial
slanted view of part of one of the testimonials
slanted view detail

Bauhaus today

This article about the resurgence of #bauhaus on social media on the AIGA website caught my interest when it was first published on January 8. I’ve kept open in a browser tab ever since, returning to read it several times since. And now I’m posting about it so I can close the tab 🙂 (Housekeeping is such chore.)

The article raises a few separate issues that resonate.

First, what does it mean when a hashtag gains popularity? Do those who post it know what they’re saying? We don’t know because it arrives with little or no context. And #bauhaus in particular! a concept that is all about context and interdisciplinary work, and which sought to weave art and craft into the fabric of everyday life.

And yet. And yet. As the article points out, social media has succeeded beyond every expectation in weaving itself into our everyday activities — without much of the art/craft, one could say. But new ways of communicating, the memes, the construction of meme generators — many of these are so creative and on-point.

As the article points out, both the Bauhaus school and the social media companies have attempted to present a neutral face, letting their students/users take the political stands. It hasn’t worked out well for Bauhaus or Facebook.

Lettering on fly rods

Lettering for Tom Morgan Rodsmiths

One of the interesting aspects of a freelance calligraphy studio is the wide variety of work. Lettering for Tom Morgan Rodsmiths is a great example. I appreciate getting to contribute my expertise to these hand-crafted fly rods.

I use sumi ink on the bamboo rods and gold ink on graphite and composite rods. Laying down the gold ink is sometimes a challenge. Also a challenge: writing on the curved surface of the rods with a pointed metal nib.

“Fragment” in the GBW traveling exhibition “Formation”

Remember this post about my paper mosaic “Fragment” in Letter Arts Review? I just revisited the exhibition at the Guild of BookWorkers site and was pleasantly surprised to see a beautifully organized online presentation of the exhibition. Here’s my page.

And here’s the remaining schedule of “Formation”:

Robert C. Williams Papermaking Museum
Georgia Tech
Atlanta, GA
November 1, 2018 — March 7, 2019

Charles E. Young Research Library Lobby Gallery
University of California, Los Angeles
Los Angeles, CA
March 15 — May 25, 2019

North Bennet Street School
Boston, MA
June 5 — July 27, 2019

University of the Arts
Philadelphia, PA
August 1 — October 30, 2019

A modular accordion book structure

In November I received an interesting book from Elizabeth Simmonds. It was four inches square, and I had never seen the structure before. I wrote to Liz and asked her about it. She told me that she had learned it from Anne Cowie, who made these as smaller books. I made a few models of the book.

Three models of a modular accordion book structure based on a book I received from Elizabeth Simmonds in November 2018. Elizabeth learned the structure from Anne Cowie.

One of the attractive features of this structure is that it is modular; that is, you can add as many pages as you like and each element is only two pages, so that if you make a mistake on a book page, you can simply cut another piece of paper and re-do that two-page spread.

Here are some I things learned in making those models.

The book consists of three categories of parts: the folios, the page wrappers, and the removable spine. The folios are standard folios: a piece of paper folded in half vertically. The page wrappers are the same width as the folios but double the height. Like the folio, they are folded in half vertically. But they are also folded horizontally twice: once 1/4 of the height from the top, and once 1/4 of the height from the bottom, so that the central vertical division of the page is equal to the height of the folios and the top and bottom division fold around the folio to meet in the back.

Folio and two wrappers, not yet assembled.
One folio and 2 page wrappers, mostly put together.

The folios and page wrappers are then assembled in a daisy chain, ad infinitum (theoretically).

Folios and page wrappers daisy-chained together.

A five-inch-square may be the largest optimal size but this depends on the materials used. The optimal length of the book, 8 to 20 pages. (That’s 4 to 10 folios and 4 and 10 page wrappers.) Any less and the structure isn’t apparent; any more and the book becomes chunky.

In Elizabeth’s four-inch-square book, the folios were made of card stock, the page wrappers of Arches Text Wove, and the spine of a card-weight paper. In choosing your materials, the folios should be heavier and stiffer than the page wrappers..

A small sliver of the folios will be revealed in the gutter area (at the center fold of each page opening), which can be a nice feature. If you don’t like that reveal, you can trim width the folio pages later.

An assembled folio and 2 page wrappers. The gutter shows the folio.

After (you think) you’re done, you can add a removable spine to make it more of a codex structure. You can see one in the top photo. I’m thinking I’ll add a board insert in the front and back to the first and last pages more “cover”-like. Since it’s all non-adhesive, if you add more pages, you can simply move the board insert to the new last page.

New classes beginning in January 2019

UPDATE 20 DEC 2019:
It’s now settled that I will teach two classes this winter — one on journals and sketchbook bindings, and one on brush and pointed pen lettering. So I’ve removed the interest survey. But you can get a complete description of the classes and/or register and pay for a class here.