Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wood Type Redux

I made my second trip to Hamilton Wood Type Museum last weekend. It wasn't as fun and new as the first time I went but I'm still glad I made the trip. This time, there was a conference. The drive up was really nice. I took state highways so got to see the countryside more. On the way up through Illinois, I passed through a windmill farm. For some reason, those things fascinate me. I think it's their sheer enormity. The few times I've been anywhere close to a cruise ship, I've had the same reaction. They're just so big! The windmills just seem eerie, surreal, futuristic, foreign, and maybe even a little sinister. 

I stayed at the same kitschy Lighthouse Inn where I stayed before. When I checked in, they told me I'd been upgraded to a lakeside room. I didn't argue! I opened the window a crack so I could hear the waves even though it was a bit chilly outside.
Same sort of out of date slightly weird vibe. Check out the do not disturb sign.  Clean it up NOW, woman!

There were about 80 people at the conference and we were split up into 4 groups and attended 4 separate sessions. As always, I felt extremely shy and awkward around a bunch of people I didn't know. There were a couple of people who were nice to me because I'd met them at the workshop I went to in the summer but they're kind of big whigs in wood type (I know, small pond!) so they were in high demand. I just have such a hard time mingling and approaching people. So...most of the time, I was alone in the crowd. It was lonely at times. Especially the meals. People were friendly enough but had their own groups. Besides, they're all in the field and I'm an outlier since I just do it for fun! How weird is that?

I really enjoyed learning more about wood type and history, though. For people who aren't interested in Wood Type, it may not be so interesting but I thought it was great! One session was by a man from the Newberry Library in Chicago. One of the things that companies who made Wood Type did was create specimen books. These were basically the catalogs they sent to potential customers. Most of them were ok but not particularly artistic. 

One, however, was from a very high end company -- Wm. H. Page & Co. -- whose specimen book was basically an art book. The presenter showed images from this specimen book (of which there are very few and they're very expensive). Here's a blog (by one of the other presenters) where there's an image of one of the letters. An artist also used one of the blocks from the Page company and made prints for those of us attending to have. It's just beautiful!! There's a different block for every color and the artist had to run it through for each color and get it lined up just right. I'd love to have the equipment to play around with this stuff!  

Two of the presenters talked about the history of wood type in Italy. There's a museum in Italy that I would love, love, love to go to called Tipoteca Italiana. The presenter talked about the museum but also talked about the area of Italy it's in. So beautiful!! It's one of those situations where the community of people interested in this stuff is small enough that if I contacted him and let him know I had been at this conference, he would help me as a tourist. Man, that would be so fun...

There's a place in Nashville called Hatch Show Print where they've been doing wood type prints since 1879 and have had a resurgence as modern musicians have used them to print their posters. The guy that runs the place spoke at dinner and he was a major, major narcissist. Yuck. The place seems interesting but jeez, he was full of himself. 

One of the most interesting things about the conference was learning about a font and wood type that were specifically created for the Lushootseed language spoken by the Tulalip Tribes in the Northwest US and into British Columbia. Lushootseed was not a written language until it became less commonly spoken and the people wanted to develop a way to record it so it wouldn't be lost. An alphabet was developed but the tribes were having to use fonts already available like Times New Roman. Because these fonts were not specific to the language, they weren't entirely accurate and they didn't look very pretty which might discourage potential speakers - i.e., younger generations - to want to learn it/read it and to feel pride in it. 

Juliet Shen worked with the Hamilton Wood Type Museum to develop wood type from her font that could be used to educate Tulalip children in Lushootseed at a summer language camp (and beyond). Here's a story about it with some other links. Pretty neat.

If you're still reading, I'm sure your eyes have glazed over, but...the last thing I'll mention is that there was a faculty member from U of Texas who curates the Rob Roy Kelly Collection. The web site is really nice and gives some background about wood type with examples.  

On the way back home, I had a beautiful drive through the Wisconsin countryside on my way to see Maddy in Madison - I guess I can just call it Maddyson from here on out. As always, it was really fun to see her and spend time with her. We had lunch, shopped, went with her and her roommate Katie to the craft store and bead store so they could get some fun projects since neither of them has a car and can't get out for that kind of stuff often. Maddy's learning to crochet and Katie's learning how to knit. The drive home was very long and boring but I survived. It was worth it!

1 comment:

  1. Oh, man, that sounds like so much fun - I wish I could have gone then maybe you wouldn't have felt so lonely. I've gotten better than I used to be at those situations,(thanks US Army) but it's still better to be with someone you know. But even so, sounds like you learned a lot.

    I'm glad you're able to go do things like that - I am so ready to be in that place as well. Maybe next year I'll go with you!!