Typographers, educators, designers, and type enthusiasts from around the world gathered at the annual ATypI conference this past week. Hosted by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University from October 10-14, this year marks ATypI’s first meeting in Asia. The five day conference includes daily presentations and workshops on a variety of topics surrounding typography–with this year’s special interest on multilingual issues. One worshop that was especially popular was the Zi Wut: Chinese-English Blingual Letterpress Demo Workshop.
Zi Wut is a tiny letterpress shop located in an old industrial warehouse in the Kowloon district. Zi, means word, and Wut means alive. If read backwards, Wut Zi translates to moveable type. The founders of Zi Wut have made it their mission to use the newly aquired shop as a “preservation and rejuvination of letterpress in Hong Kong.” They plan to use the space to promote the dying art form of Chinese letterpress to students and the design community by holding workshops and hosting exhibitions throughout the year. This ATypI event was the first time the shop was open to the public.
The bilingual letterpress workshop, held a week ago from Thursday, shed light on the commonalities and differences between Chinese and Latin letterpressing. Surprisinlgy, there is more in common than one would expect. Below is a snapshot from the workshop.
Conference attendees from Chicago, London, New York, New Zealand, Palo Alto, Soeul, and Taiwan–to name a few–gather in this tiny room as founder of Zi Wut, Marsha Lui, describes the history of the shop and how she came upon this complete set of Kai-Shu lead type displayed on the right wall.
Kai Shu, is a calligraphic typeface commonly used in business cards, invoices, legal forms, and other utilitarian printed pieces. It’s typically not used as body text as the legibility becomes compromised. This invoice is set in Kai Shu by Han-chi Tong for his Tai Chi Printing Company. Mr. Tong sold his lead type collection, along with his printing press, to Zi Wut when he recently retired. The shrinking demand for his craft and high rent forced him to close down his business which began in the early 90′s.
Successful, groundbreaking design is more than a mere sum of different parts. It is a synergy of inspiration, fierce dedication, vision, and hard work. Christopher Jenner, head of the multidisciplinary design studio that epitomizes these qualities. We asked him to tell us what drives his process, and discovered that for him, successful design includes a methodical and in-depth analysis of his clients needs, a philosophical approach to the role of design, the nature of fabrication, and even Buddhist practice.
Sherin Wing: You’ve just launched a new furniture collection. What were the inspirations and was this always a part of your design vision?
Christopher Janner: Absolutely, I’m a bit of a style fascist so the idea of designing and making collections which clients could purchase and use to style their own homes was extremely appealing. The ability to help define the ways people appreciate materials, form, structure, craftsmanship, and technology (key themes in our work) is super attractive. I’m very intrigued by this concept of good and bad taste, how does one define it and what are the parameters whereby one decides if something is good or bad, is it about style or taste? It’s very easy to have good taste, it’s dictated to us all the time but style is something else, it’s an ability to create with what you have – similar to making a great meal with what’s left in the fridge.
L’Artisan Parfumeur, Paris, image courtesy Christopher Jenner
I presented the Swell collection at the worst possible time in global economic history – I was conscious of this from the start, this financial crisis has been going on for years. I took all the capital I had, and put my reputations on the line. I’m a risk taker and I passionately believe that by taking calculated risks and pushing yourself to the limit it is possible to achieve extraordinary things.
SW: You say the line contains elements of childhood playfulness combined with design features that hearken English motifs. And then there are the decidedly futuristic themes. How do these elements combine to creative a comprehensive narrative?
CJ: Complexity lies at the heart of my work, (more…)
NextFab Studio bills itself as “a membership-based, high-tech workshop and prototyping center– Philadelphia’s “gym for innovators.” Members (individuals, companies, institutions) will be able to build their own 3D printers, for example, in the brand new facility underway in Southwest Center City, generating anything from a new human ear to a model chocolate cityscape.
At 21,000 square feet, a former custom ironwork shop run by traditional craftsmen is being converted into dynamic space for sophisticated machinery, a chem lab, a microlab, laser engravers, vehicle lift, forklift, 14 foot ceilings, classrooms, large photo/video studio, private studios and more– a paradise for inventor/techno-geeks.
But, if you’re just a regular person with a dream, professional staffers (artists, designers, engineers) will train you to safely use that imposing machine over there–the one you never heard of–so you can realize your own project.
NextFab is strongly committed to community outreach. They want manufacturing and innovation to be accessible to all. NextFab may become its own bulwark against the erosion of American manufacturing.
NextFab president and founder Evan Malone, Ph. D., speculates that, “We’re on the verge of a new way of working.” He envisions an agile, freelance manufacturing force that isn’t tied to rigid organizational structure or place. Mobile manpower and skills would coalesce around a range of complex challenges from urban planning to product design.
To better understand NextFab‘s back-to-hands-on manufacturing mission, one person’s journey from sketchpad to finished product provides insight.
Michael d’Amato took the NextFab plunge this year, developing and testing a prototype for his new “Fluid Ribbon Chair”. His project was initiated at the original, much smaller NextFab Studio next to the University of Pennsylvania campus. He’s looking forward to starting small scale manufacturing at the new NextFab Studio when it opens this fall. Here’s our conversation:
“Fluid Ribbon Chair – sketch pad to finished product”
It had been five minutes and still I could hardly breathe. The Alps were right there, outside the airplane’s windows and they were spectacular. When I finally resumed breathing—the turbulence also played a role in my bated breath—it occurred to me that here we were, three Americans setting siege upon Italy in hopes of staking some claim in the Mecca of Design. And like Hannibal, the African General, before us who crossed these same mountains, we hoped our journey would prove fruitful.
The pace of Milan is Southern, to say the least. People move fastest when they’re trying to make it to the head of the queue to place an order for lunch or espresso. Ladies walk their dogs—often times neglecting to scoop the poop—at a leisurely pace, even the wind seems to turn corners with care. It was Milan for certain, but it felt like home, after being gone for a while.
Upon arriving we dropped our luggage at our hotel in the Navigli District, a quaint little area with a hip/underground vibe, and with no time to rest, descended into the Milan metro. Everything shined with an awe-striking glow; reality hadn’t quite set in: We were really on our way to stake our claim as bona-fide Designers, at the Salone Satelllite. (more…)
I first came across Dutch Small’s collection of mid-century modern furniture on Fab.com. When I learned how successful the e-retailer has gown in the past few years, I wanted know how furniture—the kind of product that needs to be experienced (or so I thought)–can enjoy the successes recorded by Fab.com. So I asked the brains and power behind Forma Revivo, about the milestones that have lead to his success, his thoughts about selling excellent modern design at retail (not long ago such furnishings were available only through showrooms that cater to the design trades), his grandfather, and Elvis. With his new gallery about to open in Houston in May, I felt it was time for Dutch to share the secrets of his success.
Susan S. Szenasy: Dutch, I read that your interest in mid-century modern furniture began when you worked as a conservator. What was the first piece you fell in love with and why?
Dutch Small: I was raised in a creative environment by skilled conservators and successful artists. My mom is an accomplished carpenter. My grandfather did masterful furniture conservation work for Elvis. My grandmother did beautiful trompe l’oeil and worked for decades to perfect her gilding skills. I didn’t realize the value of being reared in an environment with very high skill, standards, and unmatched artistic integrity until about four months after I started working in the business full time. We found a desk by James Mont on which the original, very intimidating silver leaf finish was destroyed. Fortunately we work with modern design where restoration, if done well, does not diminish the value of an important work. I launched into the restoration and meticulously recreated the finish, sent the piece to auction, and at $20k, outsold any previous Mont desk. I fell in love with the piece as I took two years of decoding and tirelessly recreating to get the finish right! Its results at auction were affirmation that the skills I brought to the table were sufficient to satisfy the most discriminating collectors at the most influential modern design auction house. (more…)
It seemed like the millionth time that something decided to go awry with one of our pieces. This time it was the fiberglass laminate—it was delaminating. The previous layers had gone onto the mold of our fiberglass lounge, which we had named Shell, without a single hiccup, and we had assumed that the final layers would go on just as smoothly. But being new to the vacuum-form laminating process, we weren’t entirely sure what was wrong. Was there a leak in the bag? Did we apply enough resin to the sheets of glass?
We really needed the process to work, because we had only two more weeks before our entire collection of furniture and accessories would be crated and shipped to Italy. Shell, so named because of the way the piece cradles its occupant, would be the piece de resistance for our debut at Milan’s Salone Satellite, the premier contemporary design forum for young talent.
The Salone was only four weeks away. After six straight weeks of 20-hour days, the journey was beginning to take its toll. It was all because of Alejandro . This all started because of him.