A friend from London, UK, writes: “I noticed Station number X had a pair of dice (the Romans were gambling for Christ’s clothes) but that Gill did not have the correct configuration of the numbers on the die. Gill did not know that the opposite sides of the dice always add up to seven. Five is opposite to two, six is opposite to one, and four is opposite three. Ooops. The curse of the sub-editor strikes again.”
I was recently contacted by a guy seeking some initial tuition in learning how to letter-carve. As I was nearby I called in to see him and ran through a few basics. As I was there I realised how important it is to master the following:
Proper preparation of the letters – spacing and shape. Need to draw on paper first and then transfer to the surface of the stone.
Need to keep stem widths even throughout
Attention to terminals
Close attention to characteristics of each letterform.
Build/make yourself a frame so can cut standing – not hunched over a bench.
Happy to answer questions – and also browse the blog for other entries on letter-carving.
A wonderful day was experienced last week. Here is one comment:
‘What a wonderful, creative and inspiring day we had at the one day Inner Workshop run by John Pitt out at Mossgrove B&B – a perfect setting for such an occasion.
I would highly recommend this day for anyone interested in learning about sculpture and creative arts…the hands-on approach was great and John bought with him a wealth of talent and knowledge that he loved to share with all of us. I can’t wait for the next one.’
5 October 2015
For those who live in Australia, and more specifically Northern NSW, please note I will be running a one-day workshop The Inner Artist on 1 October 2015.
This workshop – being held at Dorrigo, home of the wonderful Don Dorrigo Gazette, the last newspaper still printed letterpress in Australia, (see here for post about the press) – is not about lettering (though no doubt that will crop up in conversation) but about connecting with your creative self.
I will start with some exercises to loosen your inner self, before moving on to introductory 3D work. The afternoon session will be devoted to carving a piece in soft stone.
If you’d like more information write to me through this page or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The cost is $120.
The workshop is being held at the delightful and peaceful gardens of Mossgrove B&B in North Dorrigo. Morning and afternoon tea provided – BYO lunch for a tranquil picnic in the lovely gardens of Mossgrove.
Looking through my collection of typography today I came across these images, included in Portfolio Three by The Rampant Lions Press, Cambridge, England, dated 1982. I have written about Will and Sebastian Carter many times throughout the life of this blog so please hit the search key to find out more, or send me an email. Enjoy your weekend. (This was a regular feature of the blog – the last entry can be found here.)
Two images leapt out at me today while browsing typography now, the next wave (North Light Books, 1994 pbk edition). The first one of machine-generated stone carving (naturally, being a stone carver); the second a font called Prototype, this because the illustration stated it was an amalgam of other typefaces including Perpetua and Bembo.
At the time I did not note the connection and it was only a few moments ago when reading Brnbrook’s entry in Typography, when who how (Konemann, 1998) that I came to realise he was behind both.
Thanks Jonathan and merry christmas /happy new year (if you celebrate that is).
People still remain fascinated by Gill. WordPress stats reveal the posts I have written about him are the most frequently visited. As many of you know I abhor the man Eric Gill after years spent in shameful admiration of his letter carving. Were EG alive today he would face prosecution for, among other offences, child sexual abuse and incest.
That aside, recently I had an email from Louis-Jack Horton-Stephens who is making a film about two Gills – one typographers have heard, the other a guy by the name of Jack who climbed the stones his namesake carved.
Louis-Jack writes: ‘The film is a visual essay entitled ‘Gill & Gill‘ that explores humanity’s relationship with stone by juxtaposing two masters of their craft: one of rock climbing, the other of letter cutting. The film looks at the way these two very different practices, united by a common material, share basic principles such as: creativity, problem solving, dedication, muscle memory and balance. Through this unusual comparison I believe that we can come to better understand the artistry in both crafts, and in so doing reflect on humanity’s relationship with the material world.’
Louis-Jack is seeking funds to make and complete his film. If you are interested in knowing more please follow this link
It is rare for individuals who carve lettering to be remembered. I have carved a number of public inscriptions in the UK and I doubt anyone in a thousand years time will pause to reflect on the hand behind the cut. I would not expect otherwise. So I was taken aback when browsing Alan Bartram’s indispensable Lettering on Architecture (one of two books that should be on the bookshelf of any serious student of lettering – the other is Nicolete Gray’s A History of Lettering – see here for an earlier post on her) of the revelation that certain monumental inscriptions in Roman can be identified with one Luca Horfei and Matheo de Meli, in or around the late 16th century. Now I would like to write more on these characters, and Nicolete Gray gives a hint as to where to find further information – none other than James Mosley. For those who have not stumbled across that name before take note. He was librarian of the famous St Bride printing library in central London for many decades (until 2000) and what he didn’t know about printing history could…well, it could be written on the back of a postage stamp. He is a legend and I remember visiting that library when I was working in Fleet Street and being awed by the great man’s presence. Of Mosley, and this is a digression, a long one, I quote from Bulletin 32 [page 19] of the Printing Historical Society that I happen to have to hand: ‘After lunch, the company reassembled for James Mosley’s “Morris and the ‘Rugged’ School of Typography”. The most invigorating and original of the day’s offerings, this included a particularly fine and telling sequence of slides and [unscripted] commentary bringing to life an apparently neglected context of Kelmscott typography lying in some of the freehand drawn lettering of its period.’ You get my drift. Anyhow, regarding further commentary on Horfei and de Meli, that can be found in Mosley’s 1964 article ‘Trajan Revived’ printed in Alphabet. However, Gray offers a glimpse when she writes that Horfei followed the style of the writing master, G.F. Cresci, and designed ‘much of the lettering connected with the great town planning works in Rome inaugurated by Pope Sixtus V (1585-90)’ [p.147]. The illustrations below show: Luca Pacioli B; a B based on Trajan from Cresci (1570); and lettering designed by Horfei and cut by de Meli (1588).
On a recent trip to the Granite Belt of Queensland (Australia) I stumbled across this in the pavement of the town of Stanthorpe. Clearly a builder of an adjoining property had no understanding, or love, of lettering. It reminded me of the time I carved a foundation stone to an architect’s instructions for an Oxford college. The stone (sandstone) was octagonal to fit in a paved area. I delivered the piece on time, was paid promptly and added the images to my portfolio. A month or so later the architect rang. ‘John,’ he said, ‘there’s a problem’. Immediately I thought perhaps I had made an error in some name on the stone, or the date of commemoration was wrong. But no. ‘The bloody builder decided that because the shape in the pavement was different to the size of the stone he would cut the stone to fit. It’s a disaster.’
The outcome was that I was commissioned (and paid) to produce a second stone. It was never as good as the first – letter carving is a one-off. Otherwise be a printer.
Paper, handmade, has long been an interest, and I recently made some, using 50 per cent Paper Tree Bark (native to Australia) and 50 per cent recycled newsprint, as an experiment. I then poured the mash into a frame on top of a piece of carved lettering to produce the image below in reverse. It’s a work in progress.
It’s been a while since I carved but once learnt… This was a scrap piece of roofing slate I had lying around the studio (it is 32cm by 45cm), hence the holes. The first image shows work in progress – the second complete. The text comes from a Navajo chant and continues for some verses.