Thursday, October 11, 2007

Upper and lowercase


If I had my own way I would have become a graphic artist. Unfortunately, the college I attended did not view the applied arts as a valid art form, and when I graduated with a cobbled-together major in graphic arts I was essentially unequipped to enter the competitive New York design world. My self-taught PageMaker skills were no match for the fast-paced Quark requirements of most employers, and the discussion of a portfolio had never quite entered my educational curriculum.


Financially, I didn't have the luxury of continued education or training once college was over. We were freshly married, new to the city, and Todd was headed to graduate school: I needed a job immediately, and since publishing and book design were high on my list of interests, I found a job as an editor for a scientific publisher. That led to a position as an acquisitions editor with a new scientific imprint which somehow led to a job as an analyst on Wall Street which, well, never mind.

The point is, I love good graphic design, and I especially love typefaces and fonts. So now I read about them.


Right now I'm loving Thinking with Type, which is probably overdue at the library but I won't be giving it up soon. I'm fascinated by its exploration of the metamorphosis of fonts from the age of illuminated manuscripts through today's post-modern computer-generated fonts. It explains the classification of various typefaces and what those letterforms imply within the history of fonts. When selecting a font, graphic artists need to consider the history of a typeface as well as the formal qualities of that font. Frankly, I'm amazed that anyone can keep it all straight; there is so much information contained in each typeface.

Did you know that we refer to letters as upper case and lower case because of their location in the traditional typesetting drawers? (Oops, just lost some other crucial bit of memory with the gaining of this factoid. Ah well, it was worth it.)


I immediately thought of those uppercase and lowercase letters the other day when I found these old typesetting gridded drawers in our basement; apparently they held someone's knicknacks, since they were already wired to be hung when I retrieved them. They were immediately transferred to my new studio (ah yes, it's true. Photos to come!), where they now hold all my thread spools and bobbins.


I love the spectrum of colors above my sewing machine. The antique drawers aren't hanging on the wall yet, but I'm thrilled that the spools fit so nicely into the separate compartments, and I like to think of them as my own little typesetting drawers. Where my type never quite became the letters I anticipated in college, it instead transitioned into textiles somewhere along the twisty path my career has taken.


When I look at these photos I wonder if my uppercase letters are the neutral threads and my lowercase letters are the bright colors? Just a thought. Or maybe it's actually the reverse.

27 comments:

  1. What a perfect way to showcase your gorgeous letter trays. Plus they look way more interesting than the standard peg thread racks that everyone has -- myself included. :-)

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  2. amykatherine11:30 PM

    Have you seen the movie Helvetica? It's about the font and I think it's still playing at the IFC on 6th Ave at W. 3rd. I think you just might love it.

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  3. I'm dying to see Helvetica! Must set aside some time one of these days, it sound so good. Thanks!

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  4. Helvetica will be on DVD on November 6. Can't wait to watch it again and see what extras are on the disc.r00

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  5. brilliant! love the drawers and the color combos!

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  6. cindy1:47 AM

    I have always loved those drawers but could never find a use for them. I never imagined storing my thread. Love it!

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  7. I love the letter trays and the thread colors are so gorgeous.

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  8. abbyjane8:15 AM

    I have one of those drawers sitting empty in our home office. I am off now to fill it with thread! Thank you so much for the beautiful idea.

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  9. Loved the font story as well as the visually appealing display of threads. I also would have loved to study graphic design, but alas, it wasn't an option when I was in school. I'm a bit of a font geek and find myself reading books on fonts as well as analyzing the fonts when I see a great publication!

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  10. i've been wanting some letter trays for a while now
    love how you have displayed thread in them

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  11. Courtney8:59 AM

    wow, that is stunning. must find some of those. graphic designer here:)

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  12. Hi all! The display of spools is art within itself! Wow, I hadn't heard of Helvetica. I'll be sure to get it. I am a font geek from way back. When I was in grade school, I used to check out huge font books from the library and copy (not trace) them onto paper. I should have been a graphic design major myself, but my father wouldn't hear of that!

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  13. Oh that looks so nice. I have my thread stored that way now for years and love the easy assessibility!

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  14. Crystal10:22 AM

    I didn't know there were so many font geeks out there! I am not a graphic artist but would have been if I wasn't so pragmatic (business major, instead). My friends think I'm weird for being able to name so many typefaces when I see them.

    Here's a Helvetica turns 50 story:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/6638423.stm

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  15. That's how I store my thread as well. It's so nice to be able to see all the colors at once.

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  16. Whether upper or lower case, they weave beautiful words! How lovely.

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  17. ah, i have worked as a typographer and love type and everything to do with printing. i have so many old graphic design and type books. it's an addiction, but one not everyone has. one day i'll find an old press at an auction, and my life will be complete!

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  18. I hope that you get to go to design school sometime, but I also think that reading like you are about something you're passionate about is the best way to educate yourself.. the rule is that after 5 years you are a master. :)

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  19. Maitreya9:35 PM

    Type drawers are so neat.

    *is jealous*

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  20. Those drawers are just gorgeous. I share your fascination with graphic design, and also your luck in attending a college where actual application of arts was not too highly developed. It is inspiring to read your blog and see your work!

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  21. Anonymous2:59 PM

    I am totally amazed that you didn't have formal training in clothing and fashion design! For some reason I thought you were a graduate of FIT? If you aren't a graduate of a formal fashion arts program, then kudos to you for all the self-teaching you've done! Good for you--you are very talented.

    Cara

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  22. Cara, I did eventually go back to school at FIT for fashion design. At that point I was able to continue my education and was less interested in pursuing graphic arts as a career. So if I had been able to work as a graphic designer right out of school, who knows whether I would have done the fashion thing? I suspect I still would have found my way to where I am today. You never can tell, can you?

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  23. monica9:46 AM

    how beautiful. I've been on the look out for some of these for ages...

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  24. Thanks for the book mention. I'm a lover of typefaces and fonts as well. I'll be looking for that book at amazon.

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  25. Wow, just saw your "thread racks" I have done the same thing! We had two drawers that we brought back when we moved from the UK and have been sitting for many years. I hadn't thought of putting the bobbins there as well, thanks!

    ...prone to earthquakes here on the big island though, so well see how they fare!

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  26. What fun! Right now all my type cases are holding type. I do do graphic design - and I wish I'd done fine art also - well and Archaeology... but anyway - I bought a letterpress 7 mos ago and LOVE IT!!

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