Caster Masters

I recently attended the American Typecasting Fellowship conference in the finger lakes region in upstate New York. If you think this is something that mainly attracts men over 70 you are completely right. Nevertheless, the number of women in attendance who are active in type casting more than doubled this year (~3) compared to 2014.

I’m very glad I got to know the awesome Jessie Reich for instance. She recently graduated from Wells College’s great book arts program and now works at the Bixler Letterfoundry in Skaneateles, NY, once a week running the Monotype Super Caster as well as her own letterpress and design practice Punky Press Studio.

Jessie Reich and Richard Kegler, co-organizers of the event.
Jessie Reich and Richard Kegler, co-organizers of the event
Jessie casting on the Super Caster, Michael Bixler watching.
Jessie casting on the Super Caster, Michael Bixler watching. Photos by the ATF on Facebook

There was this photo of Jessie casting with a handful of old men around her, appreciating a halved sort she just cast, in awe about how perfect it was, but, for the life of me, I can’t find that photo again.

I won’t give you a detailed run-down of the conference because Rebecca chronicled it perfectly. Rebecca Gilbert of Stumptown Printers and the C.C. Stern Foundry in Portland, OR, is a true trouper in the field and I was lucky to meet her at the 2014 conference already.

Rebecca, Greg Walters, Chris Chen, and Mark Sarigianis. Photo by Fritz Klinke
Rebecca, Greg Walters, Chris Chen, and Mark Sarigianis. Photo by Fritz Klinke

I heard about her and the foundry in 2011 when I, quite randomly, backed their Kickstarter campaign to restore an Orphan Annie, a Monotype sorts caster Rebecca is now casting on at the foundry. She “graduated” from Richard Hopkin’s Monotype University — like Jessie — as one of the few women, where students learn how to disassemble, reassemble, repair, and cast on Monotype casting machines. (There is also Skyline Type Foundry’s Thompson Tech in case you, too, want to learn and pick up type casting.) Here’s a good article with more about Rebecca.

And then there is the great Geri McCormick, making type as well, but from wood. Geri runs Virgin Wood Type out of her house and adjacent shop in Rochester, NY, for several years now, meanwhile so successfully that she has two employees now — Matt Rieck and James Grieshaber — cutting and finishing woodtype from historical patterns as well as new designs.

Geri McCormick and James Grieshaber of Virgin Woodtype
Geri and James in their shop, surrounded by boxes of patterns

Virgin Wood Type
Finishing a piece of Franklin Gothic at the kitchen table. Photo by Fritz Klinke

Geri’s Home mosaic in the garden

A very special bonus on our Rochester day was finally meeting Kris Holmes at the Cary Collection at RIT, here in conversations with Darrell Hyder (left), Jesse Marsolaise and Chuck Bigelow (right).

Kris Holmes in conversations with Darrell Hyder (left), Jesse Marsolaise and her husband Chuck Bigelow

And next time, we should talk about punchcutting and how it’s still done today by quite a few people, among them maybe the best — Nelly Gable.

Thoughts on the 7CIT

Este artículo está también disponible en español

The Congreso Internacional de Tipografía (International Congress of Typography & Type Design) takes place every two years in Spain, in the Eastern city of Valencia. It is a very special conference in our country because, in addition of being the first main event in type, it is the only one that covers typography and type design from three different perspectives: education, research and design. As a result, researchers, educators, students, graphic and type designers meet to exchange their knowledge and share common interests. In this occasion two Alphabettes members, Laura Meseguer and María Ramos, were in Valencia taking notes of every talk and have eagerly reported their experience in an informal conversation. Laura was not only an attendee but she also took part of the TypeCrit session helping novel type designers to develop their skills.

María Ramos: Although it was the seventh edition of the conference, it has been my first time as an attendee. I have found especially interesting the diversity of the projects that were shown. The term “public”, in the sense of civic and social and related to museums, hospitals, civic spaces, but also to the press and its political influence, was the backbone of all presentations. ‘Global’, ‘social’, ‘inclusive’ and ‘activist’ were words used many times from different speakers. ‘Public typography,’ maybe it should be translated as ‘civic typography’ or ‘social typography’, is an ambiguous and complex topic that covers many angles and that was presented from different perspectives: public/social/civic space, media, education, activism, political communication and socio-cultural integration.

Laura Meseguer: This year, 2016, was the seventh time the conference has taken place. There were some changes to the usual programme that made for a great personal experience. The first of these were two TypeCrit sessions (I participated in one of them, together with Joancarles Casasín and Noe Blanco). The second innovation was the discussion panels, whose purpose was to give voice to those who wanted to share their views on several topics linked to typography. María and I participated in the work group related to commissions on custom type design.

Snapshot from the TypeCrit. Photo: Provi Morillas
Snapshot from the TypeCrit. Photo: Provi Morillas

LM: The opening talk by the anthropologist Manuel Delgado was one the key presentations for me. He is a specialist in creating collective identities in urban contexts, and in his talk he addressed the meaning of the term “public/civic”. His dialectic was so powerful that made us feel special and lucky of being there.

MR: Unfortunately I missed part of this first talk because I was flying that same day from the opposite corner of the peninsula. What I found when I got there was a full room and a captivated audience by Manuel Delgado’s words. It was definitely a promising first impression!

Manuel Delgado was introduced by Marisa Gallén. Photo: Provi Morillas
Manuel Delgado was introduced by Marisa Gallén. Photo: Provi Morillas

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Reflexiones sobre el 7CIT

This article is also available in English

El Congreso Internacional de Tipografía se celebra cada dos años en la ciudad de Valencia (España). Es una conferencia importante, porque además de ser el principal evento sobre tipografía en nuestro país, es el único que cubre la disciplina desde tres perspectivas distintas: la educación, la investigación y el diseño. Con motivo del evento, investigadores, profesores, estudiantes, profesionales del diseño gráfico y de la tipografía se reúnen para intercambiar conocimientos e intereses. En esta ocasión dos miembros de Alphabettes que estuvieron en Valencia, Laura Meseguer y María Ramos, han decidido compartir su experiencia a través de este blog con esta conversación informal. Laura, además de asistir al congreso, también formó parte del programa aconsejando a jóvenes diseñadores en sus proyectos tipográficos en una de las sesiones del TypeCrit.

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Greetings from London


The British have coined a (rather depressing) term for a vacation spent in the UK rather than travelling abroad: staycation. Last weekend I decided to make the most of my own “staycation” and, on a typical rainy and gloomy summer afternoon in London, I took the Victoria line up to its very end, all the way to Walthamstow, to finally visit God’s Own Junkyard.

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Greetings from Kolkata

I don’t want to play favorites with Indian scripts, but I have to admit that ever since I became interested in type, I particularly love Bengali letterforms. The Bengali (‘Bangla’) script is the writing system for the Bengali language, the seventh most-used language in the world and is primarily used in the Indian states of West Bengal, Tripura, and South Assam.

A few years ago, I had an opportunity to visit Kolkata, the capital city of West Bengal, known as ‘Calcutta’ during British colonization. Kolkata is feted for its art and cultural heritage, symbolic of both the bygone British era as well as the Bengali Renaissance. I associate a sense of romanticism with Kolkata, with its trams, the Howrah bridge, and Rabindranath Tagore’s poetry. However, Kolkata in person is simultaneously romantic and chaotic. This duality can be experienced not only in the visual landscape of city life but also through its letterforms. While many examples of elegant Bengali typography exist, the streets are also flooded with bold vernacular lettering on busses.


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Rush & Flow — Talking with Marina Chaccur

Nina, continuing the Den Haag theme (well, not anymore!) chose Marina to be our next interviewee. Honestly, one of the emails with five chosen questions I sent to Marina started with (quote:) “I want to be your friend!” I didn’t even care what she will think of me, proposing friendship out of the blue. In case you are wondering why I am sharing this with you, just read on and you will probably tell her this as well.

She is full of energy. This energy is present in every line Marina wrote, makes it feel like she is talking to us, telling some of the “behind the scenes” stories. She was so engaged in writing the most whole answers, no ego or vanity involved.
Now, I am not sure what I should advise you to drink while reading the interview. As you will see few lines down, Marina offers some flavorful choices. Either way, I know you will enjoy what she has to say.

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Greetings from the Pacific Coast Highway

Last September, after getting laid off from my job, I did what every American is programmed to do in times of existential crisis — hit the open road. Unsure of my future, I decided to drive south from my San Francisco home to visit friends in Los Angeles. I had plenty of time before starting my next chapter, so I decided to take the scenic route: California Highway 1, on the stretches known as the Cabrillo Highway and the Pacific Coast Highway.

For nature, go to Big Sur. For some fantastic vintage signage, keep heading south on the PCH.

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Greetings from Newburgh, NY

It’s no surprise that we type folk like hanging out in old cemeteries but it’s an extra treat when these cemeteries include the memorials of long-deceased type heroes. I’ve always known that Frederic and Bertha Goudy lived and worked in nearby Marlboro, New York. This excellent silent film on Type Culture shows Fred Goudy at Deepdene, their home and workshop. The Goudys’ workshop, an 18th century mill, burned down in 1939 (along with many of his type designs and fonts) and the home was torn down in the 70s, so there’s not much left to see on the Old Post Road property. However, I recently discovered this blog post from the Marlboro Free Library. Part of the library’s Goudy collection includes a photo of a memorial tablet in Newburgh, a small city on the Hudson river that has seen better times (but is trying hard to make a comeback). Although this probably requires some confirmation, according to this 1986 newspaper article, Fred and Bertha’s “mingled ashes” are buried beneath. Wow!

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Greetings from Poland

In 2012, I was invited to a wedding of my Polish friends and while there, I very quickly realized two things: the Poles really are experts in singing, dancing, drinking, and eating; and that areas in western Poland were formerly German. I discovered the former with the wedding itself and the latter while walking through the small village »Gryfów Śląski« the next day. There, I stumbled across German ghost signage in combination with a Polish street sign and I was instantly transported back to pre-war times.


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Greetings from Südtirol

As already stated elsewhere, I’m very lucky to live in a part of the Europe where the rest of Europe goes on holiday. As such, I recommend you come and see it for yourself, so I will not spoil your future experience of it with photos of stunning landscapes that do not do them justice. Okay, just one.

Greetings from Suedtirol

Schlern, a beautiful rock in the Dolomites.

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Greetings from Santiago

When ‘Santiago’ is mentioned, many will first think of Chile; however, this Santiago is located in northwestern Spain. Santiago de Compostela has an official population of less than 100,000 inhabitants and is known internationally as one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in the world. In 1985 the old town was declared a World Heritage Site and, in 1987, the “Camino” was named the First European Cultural Itinerary by the Council of Europe. There are numerous books written in numerous languages regarding the ‘Camino de Santiago’, so I will refrain from images of the cathedral and other tourist traps.

Signage, an important element of urban landscapes, becomes a particularly interesting topic with regard to environments where the protection of historical buildings is a must. In Santiago, a 2012 sign regulation defines the size, placement, and other features. There is no typographic requirement although it is mentioned that the design must be well-integrated into the historical environment. A better control is needed as many commercial signs infringe the rules and some have just been abandoned. (If we really want to preserve our artistic-historical heritage, we should care a bit more about its maintenance.)

Some old structures for hanging signs in historical builidings stay there even when they don't a function anymore, metal arrows that seem to be leading to nowhere
Some structures, formerly for hanging signs, remain even when they lack a function creating metal arrows that seem to be point nowhere.

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Alphabettes in News – July 2016

The Alphabettes are taking a small break from their travels to bring you news from July. We hope to back with monthly updates from this month; wish us luck!

Tribute to Rosemary Sassoon during the 7º Congreso Internacional de Tipografía
At 7º Congreso Internacional de Tipografía held in Valencia (Spain), tribute was paid to Rosemary Sassoon, who is best known for designing the Sassoon series of typefaces specifically for children.

Alphabettes at 6th International Conference on Typography & Visual Communication (ICTVC)
At the 6th International Conference on Typography & Visual Communication (ICTVC), which was held in Thessaloniki (Greece), Liron Lavi Turkenich presented a talk on the subject Latinised Hebrew, Radical anecdotes in search for solutions, and also joined Laura Meseguer, Luisa Baeta, Bianca Berning, Alessia Mazzarella for a panel discussion on Collaborative practices in typeface design.

Panelists for “Collaborative practices in typeface design” (from L to R): Liron, Alessia, Bianca, Luisa and Laura
Panelists for “Collaborative practices in typeface design” (from L to R): Liron, Alessia, Bianca, Luisa and Laura (photo by Julián Moncada)

10 Years of Type Together
At ICTVC in Thessaloniki, Type Together, which was founded by Veronika Burian and José Scaglione in 2006, celebrated its tenth anniversary.

Type Together 10th Anniversary Party

Julia Sysmäläinen at Creative Mornings Berlin
In the July edition of Creative Mornings Berlin, Julia Sysmäläinen spoke about her work on Study Buddhism, an educational platform for everyone who is interested in Buddhism. Watch the video here.

Mary Catherine Pflug joins MyFonts
Starting at the end of July, Mary Catherine Pflug has joined MyFonts in the capacity of Foundry Support Specialist.

Alphabettes at Type@Paris
Alice Savoie
taught at the 2016 edition of the Type@Paris programme, while Alexandra Korolkova, spoke along with Bernard Brechet, at one of the open evening talks.

2016 Beatrice Warde Scholarship awarded to Ania Wieluńska
Ania Wieluńska
from the Academy of Fine Arts, Warsaw, was awarded the 2016 Beatrice Warde Scholarship. This year’s certificate was designed by Victoria Rushton.

Ania Wieluńska (center), winner of the 2016 Beatrice Warde Scholarship
Ania Wieluńska (center), winner of the 2016 Beatrice Warde Scholarship (photo courtesy TDC)

Martina Flor interviewed by 99U
Martina Flor, whose new book Lust auf Lettering was recently published, was interviewed by 99U about her work and business. You can also read more about how she went about creating this book here.

Viktoriya Grabowska speaks at Berlin Typostammtisch
Viktoriya Grabowska, who is a type designer and teacher from Poland, presented her work at the latest Berlin Typostammtisch.

Alphabettes at Berlin Type School (BTS) Away Days 2016
Berlin Type School (BTS) Away Days 2016, organized by Dan Reynolds, Martina Flor, Benedikt Bramböck and Jenny Baese boasted of many female speakers including Catherine Dixon, Bianca Berning, Anita Kühnel, Alisa Nowak, Sol Matas, Lisa Fischbach and Martina Flor. In addition, Andrea Vacovská put up an exhibition titled Movie Titles Typography: Opening Credits in Czechoslovak movies 1945—1993, and Petra Dočekalová exhibited material related to her master’s thesis, a revival of traditional Czech sign painting styles.

Sibylle Hagmann interviewed by Perpetual Beta
Perpetual Beta, the blog for the MFA in Graphic Design Program at Vermont College of Fine Arts, interviewed Sibylle Hagman about her work, design education and criticism.

Greetings from Goa

It can be quite the cliché to mention the cultural diversity in a country as large as India, but sometimes, the obvious deserves repeating, especially when it can be supplemented with photographs of beautiful shop signs and house nameplates. In order to demonstrate this, I invite you to join me in Goa, the smallest of India’s twenty-nine states, well-known for its beaches, parties and electronic music festivals.

Unlike the majority of the country, the state of Goa wasn’t a colony of the British. The Portuguese arrived here in the early 1500s and Goa remained under their control till 1961 when it was annexed by India after military action. Interestingly, it was 1556 in Goa that the first printing press from the West arrived in India. Over 450 years of Portuguese rule has left its mark here and it is easy to spot in the architecture and lettering, especially in neighbourhoods like Fontainhas, an old Latin Quarter in the state capital Panjim.

Archbishop’s House Continue reading “Greetings from Goa”

Greetings from Haifa

How is it possible that it’s August again??? This summer, we wanted you to travel with us (for free!) around the world and enjoy some typographic curiosities we have around us (check out this map by Indra). Those posts will be scattered throughout the month, marked with a passport stamp on the first image for quicker spotting. This is a perfect excuse for a tomato juice! Here we go:

Scripts don’t live in a void. They live together, interlaced, in Israel’s urban environment: Hebrew, Arabic and English. Each script is affected by surrounding scripts, which in turn influences them back, a symbiotic relationship. Examining trilingual signage in Haifa provides an opportunity to discover meaning among the different alphabets; an additional benefit is that it is a good excuse to show some of what surrounds me in my hometown.


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My 2¢

Over the past 10 days, we’ve traveled around the world to learn more about the design of coins, banknotes and money-related artifacts. While we strayed a bit from entirely type-specific content, the series connects visual culture, personal stories and collective experiences in some [hopefully] interesting ways. In case you missed any of the posts, we have conveniently gathered them all here.

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That’ll be 20 John Hudsons, please

Speaking of traveling the world and looking at money —
a few months ago, several of us attended the fantastic Typofest conference in Bulgaria organized by Krista Radoeva and Boril Karaivanov. Several, but apparently there were even more type colleagues present than we knew would be coming. Maria Doreuli spotted him first while we were still in Sofia …

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My 2¢: From Hendecagonal to Round

For a brief spell in the 90s, I fancied myself as a coin collector. The interest didn’t last too long, but I did end up with a few old Indian coins that I still like, including a 1945 pice that has a hole punched in the middle. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I was in primary school, but I was very fond of coins with interesting shapes, like the 1p, 10p and 20p coins. There is little wonder then that my all-time favourite coin was the ₹2 one—it was a hendecagonal (or an 11-sided polygon), and I saw it and used it everyday.

Coins of denomination 1 pice (1945), 1p (1965), 10p (1986), 20p (1987) and ₹2 (2000)

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My 2¢: No Pockets in a Shroud?

In Hong Kong, I have seen several small stores selling colourful replica of contemporary luxury made by paper, spread all over the mega city. Mimicked handbags of must-have brands, smartphones and even favourite dishes of Hong Kong dining are artfully recreated, and sold to be offered to ancestors by burning the paper artefacts. From time to time, I observed people burning the offerings in metal barrels at the backstreets.

A small store for paper offerings at Sheung Wan, Hong Kong.
A small store for paper offerings at Sheung Wan, Hong Kong.

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My 2¢: Cuba’s 2 Currencies

My 2¢ is less about the design of these two Cuban banknotes than about what they represent.

As a US-dwelling Canadian who has wanted to visit Cuba for many years, I finally made the trip there from Toronto in early 2015 — ironically, just after the announcement of the normalization of relations with the US.

Cuba is a striking and remarkable place in so many ways. But one of the things that struck me most upon arriving there was the discovery that since 1994 Cuba has had two parallel currencies: the Cuban Peso (CUP), which is used for trade among Cubans; and the Convertible Cuban Peso (CUC), which is used by visitors to the country and for international trade, and is pegged to the US dollar. So 1 CUC equals 1 USD — and 1 CUC equals approximately 25 CUP.

A 3-peso note from the international, convertible Cuban currency, the CUC.
A 10-peso note from the local Cuban currency, the CUP.

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