Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow
One of my favorite parts of cutting new wood type is working with gifted printers and graphic designers on their special projects. One of the best joint ventures has been with Jennifer Farrell of Starshaped Press in Chicago. Jennifer is a friend of both my daughter and me. She has been on the Moore Wood Type Advisory Committee since I started four years ago.
When she and her daughter visited Columbus this summer, we spent some time planning about what new wood type designs we could work on together. She suggested a box set of snowflakes that she would design and I would cut in larger sizes with one of my pantographs and in smaller sizes with the laser I have access to.
We spent over a month working out the design problems and the limitations of actually cutting designs with a pantograph. She submitted eight designs that she created from actual photographs of snowflakes and settled on the six that we felt represented different variations that printers would like. We also decided to cut the set at 8 line and 10 line with the pantograph, and the exact same designs in 4 line and 6 line with the laser.
The deal was that I could make minor corrections to her designs to make them easier to cut on the pantograph. When I suggested changing the shape of one negative space to allow the pantograph tracer an easier path, she reluctantly agreed, but wanted to see an exact proof of what she had designed cut before I proceeded with my “Correction”. I am glad I did not make any changes to her beautiful designs.
I made laser cut patterns at 3 times the actual size so I could cut them at a 3:1 ratio out of ¼” Baltic Birch plywood. Once I had mounted them on ½ inch Baltic birch bases I did the pantograph math (It’s all about the math) and figured out what combination of cutters and tracers I would need.
As I cut all six test snowflakes I was amazed at how easily Jennifer’s designs would cut on a pantograph. Every curve, straight line and negative space was a wood type cutters dream. The finished snowflakes were beautiful. They needed no trimming or stamping, and allowed even the smallest .075” tracer to clear the tight spots.
When I visit colleges or book art centers to lecture on wood type design and the history of wood type, I always explain that William Page, one of the earliest wood type designers and producers, had always impressed me as someone who applied all of the limits and possibilities of tracer and cutter combinations into his designs.
Jennifer Farrell and her six “Snowflakes by Starshaped” designs followed Page’s design principals and artistry. I consider her to be in the very small group of gifted type designers who can mix beauty, design, and a true understanding of production techniques into wood type for the letterpress community.
I sent several boxes of our snowflakes to her studio in Chicago and she printed a beautiful poster for the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum 2014 Wayzgoose. I cut 240 six line snowflakes on square bases. It is always so nice to see the photos printers send me of how they are using the snowflakes.