It all began two or three years after I moved to the UK when I realised that I was living here in contradiction to my host country and not in harmony with it: (my) life was a cultural fight. It was frustrating. At some point, I decided to change the paradigm, embrace Britishness, stop fighting it and learn the culture of the country where I happily live. That journey of learning and embracing the Britishness included, unavoidably, British biscuits.
My first biscuits study, in the form of an Instagram hashtag: the Fig Roll, the Shortcake, the Garibaldi, the Duchy?, the Finger Cream, the Redcurrant Puffs, the Rich Tea Finger, the ‘fake’ Bourbon — Bourbons are never square!
When I first heard about Alphabettes, the name immediately had my attention. As an appreciator of all things punny, I was intrigued. I soon found out it was a place where both women and their opinions were encouraged, and they gathered to talk type. They had lived up to their pun.
While I was savouring this wonderful name and going through the website, I couldn’t help notice the potential for another wordplay. The Hindi word for Daughter is बेटी (beti). It sounds a lot like “bette”. I relished the idea of Alpha bette doubling as “Alpha daughter” in Greek/Hindi. To make it sound more like the plural “Bettes” I pluralised the Hindi word बेटी (beti) using English rules to make it बेटीस (betis). If you’ve spent extended periods of time with me, you might be aware that punning is a serious sport for me and I sometimes tend to go overboard which is why I sat on this pun for about two years. It took me a while and a bit of encouragement to go public with this idea. When I finally wrote to the Alphabettes they green-lit this multilingual pun idea for their header swiftly much to my delight and relief.
Some examples of playing with different tools.
Despite our political turmoil this year I was determined to stay focused on positivity and ultimately, the things I could control. A long season of learning more about lettering and type design has been one of my professional goals for some time now. I’ve always had an interest/love affair with letters but often find myself in a state of imposter syndrome with it. I focused on exploration, finding communities where I felt comfortable creating work and asking questions, and more importantly, I wanted to keep it relatively casual. I didn’t want to go back to this idea of not knowing what I was doing and feeling like it didn’t count as real lettering or type design.
I’m fortunate enough to work for a company that offers five days of creative renewal, and when I looked at the offerings, I jumped at the opportunity to take a couple of lettering workshops and a Type Design workshop co-lead by a fellow Alphabette, Lila Symons.
This past weekend, I made the most amazing brunch. I wish you could have seen it. But you didn’t. And you can’t. Well, you could if you looked at my Instagram, but imagine you couldn’t. (No cheating!) And also, imagine me after brunch: Sitting on my bed after my friend left, looking at the table (because, yes, I live in a studio apartment where the place that I sleep and the place that I entertain brunch guests are the same thing), stuffed and sleepy, debating whether to nap before or after the dishes…
I looked at the table with great satisfaction, basking in the glow of my impeccable culinary prowess and Grade A hostess skills. Foods that were once organized in straight lines and circles were now crooked and strewn—half on, half off the plate—mixed together, piles emaciated. Bread crusts pushed to the side of plates, crumbs proudly littered where our mouths had been. Cups coated with half-dried coffee and champagne, some with tiny pools at the bottom of the last sip we didn’t need.
If you had walked into the room and looked at the table without any prior knowledge of what had taken place before, you would have known a delicious brunch had happened there. Without ever having seen a scrap of food, the evidence would have given away that a feast had occurred, an experience, a moment that mattered. People were nourished and felt something and then went on with their lives. This is what the most important typographic memory of my year—Hell, probably of my entire career thus far—is like. Because although I can’t tell you about the project or any of its details, I can show you the table afterwards. I can tell you the story.
Diane von Arx, United States, 2002
The Grolier Club’s exhibition The Calligraphy Revival 1906–2016 (May 17 – July 29, 2017; 10am–5pm Mon–Sat; free admission) is a unique opportunity for anyone interested in applications of western letterforms to experience firsthand the breadth of calligraphy’s beauty as well as its utility. The exhibition, curated by Jerry Kelly, features works by a diverse range of calligraphers. It runs the gamut from art to design to handwriting and often defies categorization.
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
The grand view inside Sagrada Famíla
Of the many cities I’ve visited over the years, Barcelona never ceases to amaze me. It’s forever seared into my brain as the dream city of Art Nouveau — where I saw the celebrated 19th century architect Gaudí’s La Sagrada Família and realized the imagination has no limit. As a creative working in the commercial sector, I’m all too familiar with compromising great ideas by bits and pieces as they come to fruition. But Gaudí had an extraordinary ability to turn his dreams into reality.
Gaudí: The Peak of Modernisme
Like many, I view Barcelona as the city of Gaudí. With all its Modernisme influences, it’s a city full of dreamy Catalan Art Nouveau, of which Gaudí stands at the peak. As Martin Filler said in The New York Review of Books, Gaudí was one among an extraordinary generation of local architects who embraced Modernisme, the distinctive Catalan variant of Art Nouveau which drew heavily on the Romantic revivalist renaissance movement of mid-19th century Spain.
This post is about sharing my love for lettering on book covers that I’ve discovered and some collected over the last few years. That’s the easy part, but making a selection is quite hard, because there are lots of them I love. I hope you will enjoy it. I will start with two fabulous books I got in Warsaw.
‘artur conan doyle’, book cover by Andrzej Czeczot, 1959. ‘Niepokonane’ book cover by Aleksander Stefanowski, 1964.