They ramble on about em dashes and ligatures and kerning. Their anatomically twisted ideas of arms, legs, spines and shoulders could tempt you to throw your own body off a glyph. They are typography freaks (aka graphic designers) and I’ve had the great pleasure – and equal frustration – of knowing a few in my working years.
But until I saw Kim Brill’s recent works in cast glass from her Pilchuck residency last summer, I know I never adequately appreciated the passion at the core of a designer’s relationship to type.
Brill, who found a love of typography at seventeen and an eventual career in advertising, writes about her path to glass and the impact of the PAiR program at Pilchuck:
“A short, straight line can be drawn from my work as a designer to the glass art I’m now working on. Before I was invited to the Pilchuck Professional Artists’ Residency, I’d been ruminating on combining typography with glass, but without a very clear sense of how I might do that. I went to Pilchuck with a half-baked idea about paying homage to type designers by constructing small sculptures with imagery embedded in them.”
“It was invaluable to get insights and ideas from other artists and I learned something every day at our round table discussions. Several ‘aha!’ moments presented themselves and those led me directly to the work I’ve made since then, which is both similar to and different from the idea I went with.”
“The Residency was a safe, warm home where every artist was invested in helping every other person there. The creative energy crackled every day. People were incredibly generous, sharing their knowledge, ideas, techniques and experience. My work took an enormous leap in the months that followed.”
Brill gives credit to others in the group for her own progress, especially to fellow resident, Steve Immerman “for suggesting that I give thought to ink on paper. That was an idea that sharpened my thinking and brought me to the work I’m doing now”
But the emotion that resonates in the work could only have incubated in the soul of a die-hard type-lover, someone for whom every SMS has got to be a sharp stake in the eye.
“Our culture is losing the tangible in everyday written and printed communications. Email is replacing letters and postcards. Online banking is replacing cash and checkbooks. Expedience is paramount and anyone can publish anything to the world without ever committing a thought to paper.
“The craft of fine typography and thoughtful hand lettering are casualties of this digital shift. And along with the disappearance of the written, printed word has come a cheapening of language (CU@8!), and generations of young people who can’t spell or write.”
For Brill, her fellow residents and the idyllic setting of a kiln studio in the woods of Washington State was clearly the perfect retreat from the unnerving assault of the “the digital shift”- and a powerful catalyst to take her work to a remarkable new level.
To “…Touch The Words”, don’t miss the MoNA show in March!