Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Calligraphy & Lettering at the St. Bride Library

'Pax' and 'Love' by Sybil Ewin.
‘Pax’ and ‘Love’ by Sybil Ewin. Something to rest your head on as you dream of letters!

Today was a good day for exhibitions in London. Firstly, we took our students to see the Association of Illustrators’ exhibition at Somerset house of which I’ll discuss in another post. After this, my colleague and I headed over to the St. Bride Library, just off Fleet Street, to see an exhibition of calligraphy and lettering produced by the South London Lettering Association (SLLA). (Any student of ours who didn’t come to this missed a gem of a lettering exhibition!)

The first thing that I noticed when I entered the exhibition was the great use of the gallery space itself. Thoughtfully curated and exhibited, much of the work was displayed within appropriately lit cases. The diversity of work on display was great and some of it unexpected in terms of application.  As one might expect, the exhibition contained some extremely fine lettering including stone cutting by Rachael Gundry, but there was also some intricate paper cutting (Sue Shockett) and even some funky lettered embroidered cushions on show by Sybil Ewin. I was particularly struck by Keiko Shimoda’s elegant works that had fresh and pure feel about them. (Gallery below)

I then spoke with Sybil and her husband who kindly talked us through much of the work, and of particularly interest was the impressive ‘Lindisfarne Project‘ that will culminate in the association forming a book which is to be a contemporary, and in some cases, a somewhat tongue-in-cheek take on the Lindisfarne Gospels, including an image of St. Luke with his Nike’s on and iPad to hand!  The spreads are to be bound and put on show at Durham Cathederal.

We also went to see the CLAS exhibition taking place at Foyles Bookstore in Charing Cross Road. Unfortunately photography was forbidden, but by then my camera was dead anyway. Once again there were some stunning pieces on show with some pieces that took calligraphy into some unexpected directions.

It was heartening to see that calligraphy and the lettering arts are thriving. Now inspired and enthused by these exhibitions, I need to get some work of my own completed. A tough act to follow!

Both exhibitions will be penciled, beautifully, of course, into next year’s diary. The exhibition moves on to Fulham Palace until the 2nd November.

More information about SLLA and its members can be found on their website.

Note: Images reproduced by kind permission of the individual members of SLLA.
My apologies to the artists for the slightly poor quality of the images, as these do not do the works great justice. These were taken on my iPhone and mostly through the display cases.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Olde Tayles Newlye Relayted (Crawhall, Tuer & Field)

Olde Tayles Newlye Relayted

Some while ago I was fortunate to purchase an original copy of an intriguing book illustratrated by Joseph Crawhall II of Newcastle. The book is called ‘Olde Tayles Newlye Relayted: Enryched with all ye ancyente embellyshmentes’ and it was published by Field & Tuer of the Leadenhall Press in London in 1883. The book comprises of a series of folk ballads from chap books, and its styling sits somewhere between parody of, and a homage to, book design and illustration of the 17th and 18th centuries.

The book is printed on coarse, fibrous paper, making for a thick and weighty book, and the type is set in several different typefaces including a blackletter. It is the illustrations that are particularly curious and they set a certain quirky tone throughout. The images are woodcuts rather than fine line engravings and have a fairly crude, dense and yet striking presence on the printed page. Some of the solid, staring faces of Crawhall’s subjects can on occasion appear slightly eerie, as this advert for Pears’ Soap illustrates.

You can read more about the life and work of Joseph Crawhall II at the site of The Joseph Crawhall Society.


Andrew White Tuer. Proprietor of the Leadenhall Press.


Joseph Crawhall II
Joseph Crawhall II
Title page for Olde Tayles Newlye Relayed
Title page for Olde Tayles Newlye Relayed
The Leadenhall Press
Printing from The Leadenhall Press, London.


Love conquers all.
Love conquers all.


Olde Tayles Cover
A new cover was added whilst in the possession of Ealing Library.


Saturday, 12 October 2013


Type:Rider is a new piece of typographic edutainment that’s recently been released by Cosmografik. I thought I’d give it a go to see if it any good. I’m not much of a games player, however, as a graphic design educator I’m always keen to see if something like this could be of use to my students. First impressions of this are quite good. The player is represented by a colon, and the object of the game is that you work your way through a series of atmospheric typographic landscapes, obstacles and puzzles in order to complete each level. The accompanying sounds are equally atmospheric.As you progress through each level, there are oportunities to find out about the history of type and printing.

The overall look of the game is great, although I’m playing this on an iPhone so some of the typographic information is a bit small. I also found that when I got wrapped up in the game I stopped paying attention to the informative bits.  It is just a bit of fun but if it’s enjoyable and gets people reading about type then that can only be a good thing. The app costs £1.99 and the game is also on Facebook.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Hypergraphia—confessions of a compulsive writer.

Try the strangely pleasurably act of writing will a dull pencil tip on card. It’s almost as satisfying as writing on a banana with a biro! — one of my collected samples of handwriting.

I should perhaps be writing this post by hand, as hypergraphia is the overwhelming desire to write, and it’s something I’m pleased to say I have.* I’m something of an obsessive when it comes to handwriting. I have been for as long as I can remember. It’s not that my hand is perfect by any means, but I simply love the physical act of writing. For me, writing somehow scratches an itch. And in the same way some people doodle or draw at any opportunity, I spend time writing, using a variety of pens and pencils. In fact I use whatever I have to hand, just to forge the same creative connection an artist has with paints and brushes.

When I say handwriting I’m referring to both the natural, generally unforced forms of handwriting as well as calligraphy, whereby letters are formed in a far more self conscious and considered way. Often my attempts result in something that falls between the two.

I’m keen to develop my natural handwriting to see how it might improve or evolve, and for several years I’ve made copious amounts of notes kept on scraps of paper and in journals. I’ve been experimenting with lots of different writing speeds, implements and surfaces and this yields a range of results, some are markedly different and as a result my writing appears to be developing and even steadily improving. My own hand changes and this is largely dependent upon how much time I have to write, and my handwriting is largely an amalgam of different scripts. I am influenced by the handwriting of others and even collect samples of interesting hands such as the old postcard above, written with a dull pencil tip.

Incidentally I’m ambidextrous, and my interest in handwriting was possibly triggered by an event in my early schooling when a teacher had me change my writing hand from right to left. The teacher did this two years into my education in the mid 70’s. Why she did this, I have no idea. Perhaps she noticed a latent ambidexterity and wanted to see what happened if I switched hand on a more permanent basis. There are others who are ambidextrous within my family. Whatever her reasoning—and by either nature or by nurture—I am now ambidextrous and I can write legibly (not beautifully) with both hands with only slightly different results. Having largely used the my left hand throughout school I started to favour using my right in my early 20’s. I did this simply because it’s easier to see what’s being formed as I write, and I felt the results were slightly better. (However, my brain seems to ‘see’ or better anticipate the letter shapes when writing with my left hand, but that’s a another peculiar matter!)

Here you can see some of my scribbles as they come; mistakes and all. Some of the images are my attempts of simply playing with different tools to see what happens. I’m working on some projects at the moment that utilise my lettering and will post the results here in the near future. In the meantime, I’d be interested to see the work of any other hypergraphicists (is there such a word?) who share this obsession.

Going for the flourishes a bit here, but this is written at near normal speed



A print script written an average speed.

Below: Click the image to link to see my growing collection of scripts on Pinterest.

Handwriting Samples
A collection of handwriting samples on my Pinterest page. Click the image to view them.

*NB. I use the term hypergraphia loosely. I am aware that this can be a genuine medical condition, sometimes a byproduct of epilepsy and other conditions. However, I use the word here in a playful sense to make a point about my writing fixation.