Declaring my love for pigeons is not an easy task. It was not easy to accept it in the first place. But one day I looked back I realised that my friends were right, I have a thing for pigeons. And this thing has a name: Peristerophilia. (With the exception of labeorphilia – love of beer bottle labels, I believe this loveletter-philia to be unique in having a name, whether that is something good or not, well, I really can’t say).
Was this love for pigeons triggered by my grandfather’s love for pigeon keeping? Back in the 60s my grandfather, Bibiano, used to breed pigeons in the attic and participate in competitions that consisted in, basically, many good looking male pigeons (at least if you are a female-pigeon) trying to conquer the female pigeon in dispute, and of course, bring her back. Cachorro, my grandfather’s palomo, was a winner, irresistible for all pigeon-ladies and Bibiano’s reason to be proud.
In my mother’s family archive, an old box full of old pictures, ephemera and other artefacts, there is still a copy of Bibiano’s membership card of the Spanish federation of pigeon keeping (Federación Española de Colombicultura).*
A hardware store in Copacabana.
Love is a strong word, but I’ll admit I have a fondness for them. In truth, I grew up in Rio and I can’t say I ever paid much attention to this kind of acrylic signs. Now, having lived in London for almost a decade, whenever I visit I stay with family in an upper-class neighbourhood where they hardly exist. A few days ago I went to the grittier neighbourhood of Copacabana and had an almost Proustian experience as I found myself surrounded by these old signs; with their cheap plastic appearance and soft edges, they formed the typographic landscape of my childhood. Although I can’t say they are exactly beautiful, I suddenly found them oddly charming. They were the letterforms of local popular commerce in 1980s Rio, the letterforms of hardware stores, florists, barbers and fishmongers, cheap-looking and anonymous, often considered ugly and vulgar. Today they are slowly disappearing, and the city doesn’t mourn the loss.
I decided to write my love letter to them, in spite of all the mixed feelings about their aesthetic value, and tried to find out more. I daydreamed about finding an old factory with stacks of old acrylic letters in different styles, dusty and forgotten…
I stamped a love letter for you and I can still smell the ink on my fingers.
“I love you more than my own skin and even though you don’t love me the same way, you love me anyways, don’t you? And if you don’t, I’ll always have the hope that you do, and i’m satisfied with that. Love me a little. I adore you.”
― Frida Kahlo
As the renowned Louise Fili has said, “everything looks better on a tin”. Amongst all the little advertising items I collect, little tins are probably one of my favorites. It seems that nearly everything was packaged in these sturdy little boxes at one point, from laxatives to typewriter ribbons.
From the left: laxative, moth-deterrent, and two typewriter ribbons
I was not one of those stamp collector kids that inherit the hobby from their grandparents. I started collecting stamps (as well as riding a bike) while studying Graphic Design in Portugal.
Where I grew up there weren’t a lot of antiques fairs, at least I don’t recall going to any. While studying at University in Caldas da Rainha there was an antiques fair at the city park every second Sunday of the month, and it was there I came across this affordable hobby.
Some of the first stamps I bought.
From left to right stamps by: Heinz Schillinger (2), Hatem El Mekhi, Willem Henri Lucas, Anthon Beeke and Otto Treumann (2)
Henri Friedlaender designed the legendary Hadassah Hebrew typeface. While doing extensive research for an exhibition that included his work, I was lucky to get a glimpse of his design process. Until the revealing of his personal archive (donated to the Israel Museum), his design process was only known through an article he wrote with few rather “clean” images of sketches. In the museum’s basement, wearing cotton gloves, we were taking out item by item from large drawers. The Hadassah material was intriguing. So much was said about this typeface, so much guessing on the design process was done. And here we are, seeing traces of Friedlaender’s own way of designing.
From Friedlaener’s archive. Photo by Eli Pozner, the Israel Museum. This refers for all images in this post
For as long as I can remember I’ve enjoyed going to graveyards. Why? Because I’m a romantic at heart. You see, in my view, headstones are the final opportunity for the living to write a love letter to the deceased. Of course, the loved one didn’t carve the actual letters but I like to think that choices were made that allowed the individuals to put their personal stamp of pride and uniqueness on the headstone.
Ferndale Historic Cemetery in Ferndale, California
Last month I visited Warsaw, and Poland, for the first time. I was very excited and ready to feel inspired and surprised by its beauty and also by its letters, as there is no city without them. My love at first sight came from the typeface used in the road signs, known there as “Polskie Pismo Drogowe”. Oh my! so welcoming 😉