Late afternoon, actually, sun low in the sky, that transformed this very ordinary dry-cleaner’s window into something a little more eye-catching. What first attracted me was a reflected ‘yes’ (you can just see the Y in the upper right corner), but here, I like how the strength of the afternoon sun has thrown the shadow of the writing on the window into such sharp relief, and that the angle of the sun has slightly distorted and skewed the letter shapes. The typeface is Arial—most easily distinguished from Helvetica by the shape of the arm on the r.
I can hardly bring myself to admit it, but I fear that this establishment has become a shadow of its former self. It was more than a cafe: it was an institution. A trip to Melbourne did not go by without calling in at least once for what was guaranteed to be the best coffee and the best spaghetti marinara in that fine city. Sadly, on my last visit, I was bitterly disappointed on both counts. However the neon lettering in the side laneway remains as character-filled as ever—no pun intended—so perhaps I will be enticed in once again, just for old times’ sake.
The last couple of weeks my routine has changed because I am temporarily working in-house. My assignment is with a publisher with whom I have an excellent longstanding relationship, and I regard them with great esteem. This closer-than-usual proximity to the inner workings of getting quality books to print has reminded me of the enormous effort that is put into checking and re-checking and checking again. My current morning routine includes doing the crossword and scanning the headlines, and it is clear that attention to detail—for that matter, a basic proofread—is not high on every publisher’s list.
I wonder if it is ever possible to successfully analyse one’s aesthetic sensibility. Sometimes I puzzle over why I like the look of some things and yet find other (often much nicer) things completely unappealing. For example, I have no idea what part of my brain or my upbringing or my cultural heritage makes me find this—a fading red number inside a white circle on a dirty grey tank—inordinately pleasing. And the geometric pattern of the rusty stairs only makes it better!
I really wanted this to still be a hardware store, because it would be the kind of place where I would just love to have a mooch around and stumble across some hard-to-find piece of equipment to add to my bookbinding toolbox: a thumb square, or a pin vice, or the perfect heavy duty knife for slicing through that browny grey boxboard—one that’s not too big, so it fits in my hand just so. But more predictably, it’s a cafe. I am impressed that they have maintained the hardware theme, and so cleverly used the screw clamp in the logo to thematically bring hardware and coffee together.
If I had to come up with a list of my top ten favourite artists, Alexander Calder would be on it. As long as I can remember I have loved his mobiles and wire figures, but his monumental stationary sculptures—stabiles—are equally compelling. I don’t often find myself at the top end of George Street, but whenever I am there, I stop for a moment at Crossed shears, the Calder stabile that stands in the forecourt of Australia Square. I am also reminded of a time when I was very young, barely a teenager. I picked up a copy of Time magazine and read something that still makes me giggle. It was a story about a punning game that proliferated in the Manhattan art world: pick an artist’s name, then make up the question for which it is the answer. My favourite: Why did the chicken cross the road? Alexander Calder.
This is more secco than fresco, but it hardly matters how the wall ended up as this—to my eye—aesthetically beautiful work of art. Fresco is a technique where pigment, using water as a medium, is applied to wet plaster, so that when the plaster sets, the paint becomes an integral part of the wall. Secco is done on dry plaster and needs a medium such as tempera to make the pigment stick to the wall. I can hardly imagine that the Renaissance painters would share my appreciation of this cracked, chipped and crazed masterpiece, but fortunately they are not here right now to fix it.
A scrawl on the dirty brick fence of a ratty block of flats on the edge of Newtown: there is nothing aloha about this bit of graffiti. And yet, and yet … It brought a ray of light into my day, enough for me to stop and, ahem, smell the hibiscus and take out my camera. The very word summons up imagery of clean turquoise waters, swaying palm trees and mai tais in tiki tumblers; a carefree life in the warm tropical sun. So perhaps it is a well-placed aloha after all.
Murray Hill is the area of midtown Manhattan bounded by East 34th Street, East 40th Street, Madison Avenue and Third Avenue. The Murray family—shipping and overseas trade merchants—arrived in the 1750s, and soon after rented land from the city for a great house and farm. They built their house, named Inclenberg but popularly called Murray Hill, on the corner of what is now Park Avenue and 36th Street. Murray Hill, the typeface, was designed for the American Type Founders (ATF) in 1956 by Emil J Klumpp. I always imagined that Murray Hill was named for the Manhattan neighbourhood, but in fact the inspiration came from the small town of Murray Hill in New Jersey. There is a connection however: the New Jersey town was founded by Carl H Schultz, whose mineral water business was at one time located in New York’s Murray Hill.
I doubt the graffitist was thinking about the weight of paper when they altered this ‘no standing’ sign, but in my world, GSM stands for ‘grams per square metre’, and is the standard of paper measurement that allows people who work with paper—printers, designers, artists, bookbinders, etc—to know exactly what they’re dealing with in terms of thickness. This week I replenished my paper supplies with two of my favourite papers: Stonehenge White (245 GSM) and Zerkall Laid (120 GSM). Stonehenge is a machine-made fine art paper with a smooth surface, made in the USA, and Zerkall Laid is a German paper with irregular wavy laid lines. I like them because I can draw and paint on them, print on them, cut them up, fold them, glue them, and I can put them through my inkjet printer and get the result I want before I fold them and bind them.