Leaving a Mark: Ezhishin Interviews

Next month, the Type Directors Club will present Ezhishin, a conference focused on Native North American typography. From Friday November 11 – Sunday November 13, the virtual conference will feature the voices and work of Native North American type designers, lettering artists, design educators, printers, researchers, and more. This Q&A with four the Ezhishin presenters, Violet Duncan, Jessica Harjo, Monique Ortman, Sadie Red Wing, and Kathleen Sleboda, highlights some of their ways of working, recommended readings, and what leaving a mark means to them.

Violet Duncan

Violet Duncan is Plains Cree and Taino from Kehewin Cree Nation. Touring nationally and internationally since 1991, she has performed for audiences across the United States, Canada, and Europe through work as a Native American dancer, hoop dancer, choreographer, storyteller, and author. Violet is a former “Miss Indian World”, representing all Indigenous people of North America. After becoming a mother of 4 and seeing the need for Native representation in literature, she took it upon herself to author three award-winning children’s books: I am Native, When We Dance, and Lets Hoop Dance! She has recently joined the family of Penguin Random House with two new children’s books and a middle school novel coming out 2023/24. Violet is the Creative Director of Young Warriors, where she aims to create space for programming of Indigenous performance and practice.

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Workspacing, part 1

An inspiring workspace isn’t easy to create. And yet, after we get our act together and design a space that is right for us, we know that our work will be better. We will be more motivated, our mind will be clearer. This workspace will allow new ideas to flow and focus time to be cultivated.

When thinking of a type designer’s desk, we may have a few images in mind: the messy, crazy-artist desk with ink all over and paper flying around. But at the same time, we may imagine the ultra-organised designer where every file is cataloged in a neatly labeled folder, a huge monitor and the newest tech gadgets.

Out of pure curiosity and an unmet wish to be a fly on some Alphabette’s walls, I’ve set out to explore some of our workspaces.

Feel free to reach out to any of them, ask questions and share what you thought.

Let’s begin!
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Nunca dejes de pintar:
Una entrevista a Alina Kiliwa

To read this post in English, keep scrolling or go here.

Alina es una pequeña gran fuerza de la naturaleza. Su trabajo, como artista de la rotulación, se extiende a lo ancho y largo de su natal México.

Preserva la tradición del rótulo vernacular, típico del paisaje urbano de la Ciudad de México, combinándolo con mensajes poderosos que buscan la conciencia social o simplemente alegrar el día a día de los transeúntes que logran toparse con alguno de sus trabajos, pues los rótulos de Alina, van desde piezas personales hasta muros que coquetean con el graffiti.

El amor, el respeto y la igualdad son el tipo de temáticas que Alina considera básicas en nuestra sociedad y que busca plasmar en sus mensajes. Forma parte del movimiento Paste Up Morras, una comunidad de mujeres que pegan en las calles propaganda ilegal con temas como el feminismo, la igualdad y el respeto. Creada por y para mujeres que se sentían inseguras en el medio de street art o graffiti ilegal, prácticas estigmatizadas en nuestro país. Salir en grupo se ha convertido en una experiencia segura para sus integrantes y ha generado alrededor de esta actividad una comunidad de artistas, que se desarrollan con mayor seguridad y confianza. De la mano con esto, también ha creado un proyecto que aborda frases en apoyo a la mujer a partir de reflexiones propias y escuchando a otras mujeres hablar sobre los distintos tipos de discriminación que han sufrido. Así, las calles de nuestra ciudad se han ido llenando de expresiones que invitan a la reflexión, manifestando un sentido de unidad femenina, una bocanada de aire fresco en una sociedad donde los temas y políticas de igualdad y derechos para la mujer se mezclan día a día con la injusticia social, los feminicidios y la impunidad.

“Pretty woman is the one who fights” project coworked with @cuatrosiete and @ cristinamaya02 for the project @jovenesartesanos. Alina is in the middle.
Dedicated to the Triquis women of Juxtlahuaca, Oaxaca.

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Graphic memory & transferable drawers — Talking with Elena Veguillas

After a long break, we are returning with the interview series. I am well aware that life is busy and that you probably feel like there is much to do in all areas in life. It’s rare to see someone focusing only on one thing, and structuring the days with a single repeating activity. It is the combination of different activities that make our lives unique and interesting, and so very often, we clearly see how one action in our days affects the other in a big pile of, well, life.

Elena’s name pops up whenever someone mentions writing, research, design, and publishing. She is a woman of many traits that made me fascinated by how in reality this works for her.

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Soundtracks & comfort zones — Talking with Luisa Baeta

It has been about 20 months since the last interview in this series was published. Since then, many things have happened & a lot has changed. Returning to this format is incredibly comforting to me. The familiar structure, the visual glimpse into one woman’s life, the personal questions that get such honest replies.

Luisa is a person you want to both hear and read. You don’t want to miss a word, since they are all clear and make you think. Walking with her on the streets of Thessaloniki some years ago, I was lucky to find a friend so soon after meeting in person for the first time. The ease and sincerity of her thoughts are very much apparent in this interview. I urge you to find few quiet moments to read, drink something relaxing (hot chocolate? something stronger perhaps?) and let it sink in slowly, along with this interview.

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Expanding on Infini, with Sandrine Nugue

Sometimes, parts of what you write for a specific article gets left on the editing room floor. Those bits might be the most interesting parts, that simply don’t necessarily fit perfectly into the story. Sometimes it’s the predefined word count which is forcing one to leave it out. But the interest stays, and the will to dive deeper into the thoughts and process behind one typeface does not leave. This is the story of Sandrine Nugue’s Infini, a typeface she designed after winning a commission from CNAP (National Center of Visual Arts) in France, and is available for free, to everyone.

I followed up with Sandrine and asked more questions, based on her original replies. This typeface is so nicely explained, with the process shared and great images, that I encourage every reader to take a quick journey into a typeface that is both here and there, present and past, serious and lively.

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Letters in Letters
A chat with Carolyn Porter

If you have been following my interview series here on the blog, you might already know that there is a well-defined structure for those conversations. Today, I want to share an interview done in a different way. It will be quicker, a bit more friendly and not any less personal. Carolyn recently published a typeface and a book, and those two were good enough reasons to sit down and enjoy a virtual conversation about the process.

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“Tu castigo será verme feliz” — Talking with Carga Máxima

An interview with Azucena del Carmen Cabezas León from the Carga Máxima studio at ATypI São Paulo, October 2015


We interviewed Azucena León during the ATypI conference in São Paulo in October 2015, when the Alphabettes blog was barely in its first weeks of life. Azucena and her partner, Alinder Espada, had a stall in the conference market place, where she was composing and selling lettering posters. What immediately caught our attention was the bold, fluorescent and immediate hand lettering, with strong messages distilled from the Peruvian version of Cumbia, the popular music of Colombia. The messages combined references to music, ‘la novela’ (soap opera), but mostly, a sense of pure drama: tu castigo será verme feliz [your punishment will be seeing me happy], el buen amante nunca se enamora [the good lover never falls in love], no se gana pero se goza [you can’t win, but enjoy it anyway], está prohibido estar triste [sadness is not allowed], se sufre pero se aprende [you suffer but you learn] and so on. It was not easy to find a free slot during her busy day, as every ATypI attendee wanted one of her posters. Continue reading

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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Lifelines & Bright Lights — Talking With Nina Stössinger

In our last interview, Sol chose Nina Stössinger to be the next interviewee. The research and work that is done in the background for this series is truly joyful. But, it’s impossible to compress ​everything I have learned about each interviewee into five questions. I am trying to show a glimpse of the many things each inspiring lady is doing and thinking, and in Nina’s case it was a huge challenge.

The timing of publishing this works perfectly with the week’s events, and Nina herself fits well into conference discussions and talks. When I first met Nina, it was a one-way meeting. I was watching her give a talk at Ampersand conference, and despite the disappointing gender ratio of speakers, I was thrilled to hear another great female speaker. I had much to ask, and her precise answers will surely leave you wanting to read more. So get yourself a sweet or savory treat, preferably of a kind that you can refill your bowl with, and read on:
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