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Wood type at ATypI 2009

Though not as abundant as the wood type offerings from TypeCon 2009, attendees of this week’s ATypI conference, Typ09: The Heart of the Letter in Mexico City will have the chance to attend at least one wood type related event.

On Monday, October 26 (that’s tomorrow!) from 4:35–4:55 PM, Professor David Shields from the previously mentioned Rob Roy Kelly American Wood Type Collection will present Engaging Abundance: Physical Research & the Rob Roy Kelly American Wood Type Collection:

The goal of cataloging the Rob Roy Kelly American Wood Type Collection is to expand upon the historical information previously collected. Central to my research is physical engagement of production processes, providing direct knowledge of the type forms. Investigating wood type blocks directly, reveal unique planing patterns produced during manufacturing, providing a strategy to identify manufacturers of un-stamped wood type. Through this engagement, I have been able to chart the impact the tools themselves had on driving the derivation of styles throughout the 19th century, and investigate the impact wood type manufacturing processes might have on contemporary digital type production.

When I visited the Rob Roy Kelly Collection almost exactly one year ago, I saw some of the preliminary work David was doing in relation to this topic, where he was printing and examining the sawblade marks from milling on the back of type to see if there were any patterns that might help in providing extra information.

Back prints

Comparison of milling patterns from the back of wood type at the Rob Roy Kelly American Wood Type Collection.

I’ll be attending the talk, short as it is, and hope to report back here afterwards with a summary.

The following day, Tuesday, Oct 27, from 4:20–4:40 PM, Dr Catherine Dixon (senior lecturer at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design and curator of the bi-annual letterpress conference at St Bride Library) and Henrique Nardi (founder of Tipocracia) will present Lambe-lambe Letters: Grafica Fidalga, São Paulo:

Lambe-lambe (literally ‘lick-lick’) is a vernacular printing tradition once popular for promoting theatre and spectacle in Brazil. Long in decline the city of São Paulo still boasts a working lambe-lambe printshop, Grafica Fidalga. Here is found a rich history of hand-generated letterforms carved as wooden blocks used to print vibrant poster series. While the persuasive aesthetic of these posters and the nostalgia of Grafica Fidalga has been celebrated by some, this presentation sets out a fuller account of the remarkable process underpinning the work, the joy of documenting it through hands-on engagement and the filmed and printed results of this collaboration…

Grafica Fidalga has seen quite a bit of coverage in the design press recently, including a cover for Creative Review, so it will be interesting to see what other information Dixon and Nardi have to share about the decidedly rough and ready print shop.

Cover of the Jan 2009 issue of "Creative Review", designed by Grafica Fidalga

Cover of the Jan 2009 issue of "Creative Review", designed by Grafica Fidalga

Other than that, conference attendees have the opportunity to experience a genre of wood type printing in Mexico City (though not officially part of the conference) that is less prevalent in other parts of the world: promotional posters for “lucha libre” Mexican wrestling events. One of the largest wood type lock-ups I’ve ever seen was for such a poster at the Sensational!: Mexican Street Graphics exhibition that came through MassArt back in 2007.

huge  wood type lock-up

Large wood type forme for a lucha libre poster in the "Sensational!: Mexican Street Graphics" exhibition at MassArt, October 2007

lucha libre posters

Lucha libre posters in the "Sensational!: Mexican Street Graphics" exhibition at MassArt, October 2007