This pleasing type looms large at the bend in the road along Mullens Street, Balmain. This image comes from my book Type Town: a neighbourhood of glyphs, graffiti, ligatures and legs, which will be launched at the exhibition Typecast on Wednesday 22 August. All welcome!
My book Type Town has made it to the printer! Type Town is a photographic feast that highlights the quirky, the fanciful and fantastic typefaces and signage that contribute to the rich cultural fabric of Sydney’s vibrant Inner West. This is one of more than 280 photographs from the book, and here is the story behind the picture.
In February 1935 the Sydney Morning Herald reported a spectacular fire at the Superior Cabinet Company Limited in Excelsior Street. Flames from the incinerator, which had been filled with waste wood, set fire to the wall, sparks ignited sawdust on the floor and the highly flammable oils and varnishes exploded. Within minutes the interior was ablaze. Dense, acrid smoke poured from the building, and flames leapt fifty feet into the air. Brigades from Petersham and Leichhardt worked to control the fire while police tried to control the crowd of sightseers—but it was too late to save the furniture. I don’t know if this building on Elswick Street became the new premises, or was another street frontage of the Excelsior Street factory, but the typography remains intact and the lush red paint is a reminder of a dramatic piece of local history.
Type Town will be launched at my exhibition Typecast on 22 August.
Re:Play, an exhibition of new work from Sydney Book Art Group, opens this week. Please join us at the opening, or drop in and say hello any time over the next couple of weeks.
SydneyBAG is also hosting two public events to accompany Re:Play. The first is a panel discussion in the gallery on Sunday 1 July, when four guest book artists will come together to discuss what makes an Artists’ Book. The second event is a workshop, on Wednesday 4 July. Two SydneyBAG artists will lead participants in an evening of playful paper folding and construction.
SydneyBAG artists meet regularly and collaborate and exhibit when the opportunity arises. While not exclusively book artists, it is books, and the love of books, that unites the group.
There’s a lot going on in my studio. I am working away at my book—my book to be published, that is, not my artists’ book (it gets confusing!)—and at the same time I’m preparing for three exhibitions. Today I’m focussing on the first of those exhibitions: a show called Re:Play, featuring new work from my book group, Sydney Book Art Group. This is a detail from a piece I have just finished. I used a discarded cover from a book called What Would Google Do? and made paper string from Encyclopedia Britannica pages. The string is woven and then sewn onto the cover. It’s fiddly and challenging making all that paper string, but I’ll be making more of it today for my next piece!
I’m reading a book which has been set in Legacy Serif. I’m enjoying the book, one that caught my eye at the library by an author I have previously not had the pleasure of reading. The book cover is an unfussy design, with simple, elegant typography, which is the kind of book that my hand automatically picks up when I am making choices about my reading matter for the next three weeks or so. I have no doubt mentioned this before, but I love the library. It allows me access to more books than I could possibly afford to buy; when I find a writer I like I can go back for more; if I borrow a book that doesn’t grab me I can return it without having to suffer it all the way to the bitter end; and I don’t have to store books at home that I will only ever read once. My current book is published by Bloomsbury, who, to my great pleasure and approval, include a note about the type on the back page. The choice of Legacy Serif in this case is perfect, enhancing the joy of reading without detracting from the writing itself. Legacy Serif was designed by Ronald Arnholm in 1992.
Wow, Taylor Caldwell was prolific! She wrote as Taylor Caldwell, Marcus Holland, Max Reiner and J Miriam Reback! She published more than 60 historical and religious-themed novels. Her first novel, The Romance of Atlantis, was written when she was 12, and was published about 60 years later. Her stories have been praised for being intricate and suspenseful, and there is even a Taylor Caldwell Appreciation Society. But it seems that not everyone approved of her career choice. Her father sent her to work in a bindery as a more suitable activity; in the 1930s there was a public stir when it became known that ‘Taylor Caldwell’ was not a man, as was presumed; and in the 1940s Time magazine reported that her husband burned 140 of her unpublished manuscripts. Seems nothing could stop her writing, though, and good for her! Despite all this it’s the book jacket I like. This one dates from 1951—dramatic illustration, hand-crafted typography.
Here is another of those book jackets I was given a while ago. This one appeals to me for its title script—which I’m guessing was done by the illustrator, Herbert Ryman—not only because of its obvious handwritten appearance, but it was published in 1955, long before the proliferation of script fonts. Thomas B Costain was a Canadian journalist, reporter, writer and editor who turned into a bestselling author of historical novels in his 50s. I was quite interested to read about Costain’s life and career, but Herbert Ryman proved even more engaging! He was an artist and illustrator whose considerable body of work includes watercolours of the Californian coast, the wonderful Ringling Brothers Circus posters, designs for attractions at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, and a long association with Walt Disney. He art directed Fantasia and other animated features and drew the first illustrations of the theme park that become Disneyland.
Some time ago I was given a couple of adhesive street signs, and ever since I have been looking for an opportunity to use them. All I knew was that I wanted to use the ‘green’ section of the sign Greenswood Lane, in conjunction with some astroturf, in an artists’ book. Finally the idea took shape and a deadline presented itself, and I am pleased to say that my book made it as a finalist in the 2017 GreenWay Art Prize. The book is digitally printed on fine art paper, 7-hole pamphlet stitched, and sits in a black box lined with astroturf, the street sign used as the title on the front. Text fragments are taken from descriptions of common NSW eucalypt, wattle, grevillea and hakea species, found in the discarded pages of an out-of-print botanical encyclopaedia.
A big thankyou to everyone who visited my table at Volume 2017 Another Art Book Fair at Artspace in Woolloomooloo this weekend. It was a busy and rewarding three days, and while it was great to show (and even sell!) some of my artists’ books, it was the conversation, interaction and exchange of ideas that made it a worthwhile experience. When I make books I work alone in my studio, and apart from occasionally singing along to whatever music I have playing, I can spend days without saying much. This morning I am hoarse from those hours of chatting, so today I’m planning to sit around and do not much of anything while I segue from loud Volume to daily life volume.