Sunday, 15 December 2013

Second ALAW 2013 alphabet completed

The laser-cut versions of my personal hand-written true-type font produced a set of cut-out letters, all in 3mm thick card, in both upper and lower case.  I decided to use the upper-case set for my second alphabet.

In this case, I simply mounted the individual letters on folded heavy-weight cartridge paper, which i had previously cut and folded and assembled into a 26 sheet concertina book, which fits into another simple box.  Like my peace alphabet, these have also been sitting waiting for me to find the time to mount and finish them for some long time.

I realise that I have cheated rather on the concept of posting one letter each week.  That had been my firm intent, but life has been getting in the way, and while my conscience has been badgering me regularly to post them and to put them together into a book, I haven't been good at keeping to schedule.

Anyway, the letters are made, the book is assembled, a box has been constructed, and - because I dare not risk further prevarication and delay - here they all are.   I have called them 'silent letters' - but it's a misnomer because, in comparison to my abc for peace, these positively shout out loud:  they are capitals, they are in black on white, they stand proud of their mounting concertina, and they demand to be taken notice of.

Because the profile of each letter has come from my original handwritten script, in normal hand-writing size, the enlargement to 220 point reveals interesting details in the shape of the line in each letter.  So the profile has peculiar irregularities, dips and bends, which show up particularly well in these raised, cut-outs.  Here are two good ones - Q and F.

The finished book is 7mm or 3" square and just fits neatly into a slightly larger custon-made box.

I have been a laggardly contributor to ALAW 2013, because, like all of us I guess, lots of other things have demanded my time and attention during the year.  However,  I have enjoyed having this project at the back of my mind during other distractions, and I feel I have, latterly anyway, got back my initial excitement about the whole idea of creating unique alphabets in this forum.  So I hope to be able to carry on into ALAW 2014, but with a firm resolution to make my pieces in proper time and order, and to keep up with regular, if not weekly, postings to the blog.

I've also, as in previous years, much enjoyed seeing other people's work as it has emerged, and am intrigued by your ingenuity and creativity in finding so many ways to present and interpret such familiar but fantastic symbols.

Peace alphabet - finished at last

Actually, the 26 letters for my peace alphabet were finished months ago, but the task of assembling them into a book/object has been loitering in the margins of my time/place/consciousness.  And with the end of the year in sight, and amid all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, somehow my letters emerged at the top of my 'to-do' list this weekend.  Possibly as a displacement activity (I am always the last person to the post box with my Christmas cards) but who cares?  They are done, so here's the result.

I showed the individual letters up to 't', I think, back in July.  To re-cap - my letters are based on a hand-written alphabet which was turned into a true-type font via  I used this, at 220 point size which fit pretty well into the 7cm squares for ALAW, to create a file in InDesign which was then laser-cut  on 3mm thick card, providing me with relief shapes for embossing onto Somerset print-making paper.  The embossing shows the slightly brown edges which come from the laser-cutting process.

I trimmed the individual letters a little, and then mounted them onto cartridge paper to make a  concertina-fold book.  The end boards were also laser-cut, using the same personalised font, but in 18 point.  They are housed in a simple box from 3mm black board, with a white version of the title mounted on the top section.

I was very pleased with the font itself, and have been using it for various documents produced on my computer.  It feels good to be able to print things out in something approaching my own handwriting. However, the font isn't transferable on documents I send to other people's computers, unless I also send them the ttf. file.  

Blown up to 220 point, the hand-written nature of the letters becomes more obvious and more interesting:  every little wobble of the original line shows up and gives unusual edges and twists to the main letter strokes.  This shows up well, for example, on the letters 'o' and 'p' .

At the start of the year I was struggling a little to think what I would do for my abc for peace.  But these embossed letters have solved the problem.   They speak of peace, to me, because they are quiet, in the sense that they are all in lower case (no e-mail 'shouting' here!), they are embossed - so you can feel them rather than 'say' them, there is no colour contrast, but the slightly smoky edges give a hint of the violence of the laser which produced them.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

ALAW ... at last!

Back in January I posted enthusiastically about my plans for my first ALAW alphabet.  Well, the best laid plans.... but at last I have made progress.  I had a session with the laser cutting studio at college last week, which resulted in two complete alphabets, upper and lower cased from 2mm black/white card.   I used the hand-written font which I created using who ran a free offer on National Handwriting Day on 23rd January (who knew?).

I had planned to use these cut-out letters in various ways including relief and collagraph printing.  But I realised this might make the completed alphabet seem rather muddled, and - on the basis that simplicity is often the best solution - I decided to blind emboss instead.

I played around with several different approaches and made four complete alphabet sets, just using the lower case letters so far.   I tried both embossing and de-bossing (i.e. where the letter shape is depressed into the paper rather than raised from it) and using different papers.  They are all interesting, but for the purposes of ALAW 2013 I've settled on the set which are embossed into Somerset Smooth 300gm in a slightly creamy white.

Embossing was quick and easy - no inky fingers!  I rather like the results, including the slightly darkened edges of the letter shapes and their individual surrounds.  This comes from the smoky residue from the laser-cutting process, which will wear off after several pressing.  I also like the irregular and wobbly edges of the letters - the result of enlarging my wobbly hand-drawn original script.  This shows especially well on a few - e.g. the lower case b, whose tall upright is wrinkly, like a slipping-down sock.  Or the wonky interior outline  of the letter o, where my pen has overlapped itself at the top.  IN normal writing you don't see these imperfections, but the enlarged scale, and the embossing, exaggerates the wobbles, in what we are so used to seeing as tidy, regular shapes.

The idea with ALAW is that you make and post one letter each week.  But as I'm now so terribly late (it's week 22 already...) I'm catching up with a bumper crop, and will do the rest in orderly weekly posts from now on.

The second rule of ALAW is that one of your two alphabet relates to the theme of Peace.   Blind embossing seems to me to be about silent language, gentle text, whispered words.  Embossing also reminds me of tombstones and memorials, remembering the events of the past and those who have gone.

So these embossed and silent, gentle, tactile letters are my letters for peace.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

ALAW 2013 - Embossing and catching up

At long last, I have found time to think about my ALAW letters.  The first efforts have been sitting on my work-table looking hopefully at me for weeks, while other things have taken precedence.  I am therefore way, way behind, and need to work fast now to catch up with the year's first alphabet: other contributors have been keeping more or less to the one-a-week schedule.

Today I cleared space and made a stab at using the first cut letters for blind embossing - in effect, printing without any ink.  I hadn't done this before, so played around with different types and weights of paper, which I soaked for just a few minutes.  I don't have very many papers to choose from, so tried a couple of cartridge papers, some relatively light-weight Somerset paper, and some heavier drawing paper taken from a commercial sketch pad.   I rolled them through my small etching press.

This was my first attempt, using cartridge paper and the 2mm grey-board letters.  There was an immediate problem with the paper pulling and wrinkling at the edges of the embossed shapes.

These (below) were done using the thinner 1mm card shapes, and on softer paper.  I think I could have got better impressions with slightly greater pressure on the press, but the letters seemed to be floating rather uncomfortably against the background.

I decided to try using the other part of the cut-out shapes, including the square base-plate of each letter, to give a border to the prints.  Once again, I used the thinner 1mm card versions.  I was quite pleased with the results.

The laser cutter burns the card slightly and leaves a sooty residue round the edge.  This came out, a little, on the embossing - the image here shows slight discolouration around the edges of the embossed shapes, which i rather like.

I tried also using the hand-drawn italic letters, which gave a crisper result.  

This was a useful rehearsal for printing a full set of letters.  I will, next week at college, prepare and cut two sets of letters in the thinner card, one from each font.  I will also, if time permits, cut a set of etched letters, but in reverse so I can use those for intaglio printing.

I think a set of blind embossed letters, in either font, will work well, and could also perhaps be my "letters for peace" for ALAW - as in blind embossed = almost invisible = silent = peaceful.

I think these will also look good made up as a simple book,  so will begin thinking about designs.

I know I am still way behind with ALAW, but I feel I've made some proper progress now, and have a realistic plan for getting the letters cut and embossed quite quickly and definitely before the mid-way point of the end of June.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

BABE Bristol Artists Books Event, April 2013

BABE happens every other year, at the Arnolfini Gallery on Bristol's Harbourside, in conjunction with the Centre for Book Arts at UWE. Two year ago I visited BABE for the first time and was entranced, and this year I was there as part of the UWE Artists' Books Club, and had two of my books on show on our stand.

I had two books on show.  the first, A Book of Letters, was inspired by discovering A Letter A week in late 2012.  I made 26 letter, each contained in an origami-folded "envelope", bound together with Coptic stitch.

The second book is Exhibition,  which I made from copies of the quarterly publication Art, from the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol.  The pages are 3" square, and I used all 4 editions of Art for 2011, so representing a whole year's worth of gallery visits and exhibitions.  The coptic-bound book became quite long - roughly 14 inches - and I made a horse-shoe shaped box, approx 6'"x 8", to contain it.  The box is covered with torn pieces of the same gallery newsletter.  The book is invitingly tactile and playful - rather like a child's 'slinky" toy which tumbles down stairs.   The structure of the book plays with the ways in which we view gallery exhibitions, twisting and turning, glancing at some things, stopping to really look at others.  As you turn the book, random images catch the eye, while others are just a passing flicker of colour.