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alphabets, books

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  • Jill Littlewood
    Making Books Monthly from Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord skgaylord@makingbooks.com http://www.makingbooks.com delivered on or near the tenth of each month
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 10, 2005
      Making Books Monthly
      from Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord
      delivered on or near the tenth of each month


      "Letters are symbols that turn matter into spirit."
      Alphonse de Lamartine


      July: Letters and Type

      July is summer and vacation for many. I am taking a bit of a vacation from the norm in this July newsletter and indulging myself is something book related but not about books. On the Books Arts List (info on how to subscribe below), there was a posting about the commencement address by Steve Jobs, founder of Apple Computer, at Stanford University. It is a moving statement of his experience and philosophy of life and I highly recommend reading it. One of his main points is that you can't understand the way the experiences in your life will connect until later. He refers specifically to his experience taking a calligraphy class at Reed College and its impact on the quality of typography in computers.

      "Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.

      None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, its likely that no personal computer would have them."

      To read the full text of his speech, go to

      This all reminded me that my first entry into the world of visual art was calligraphy. I spent about eight years as a serious practitioner doing both commercial and creative work. For years I was deeply in love with the form of letters. In addition to letters on paper, I put them on my clothes, my kitchen tiles and dishes with the help of a potter friend, and made them in the sand when I went to the beach. For this issue, I've gathered some websites to increase awareness of the form of letters for both adults and children.

      For Children

      Found Alphabets

      The point of these is not learning the alphabet, although that can certainly be accomplished as well, but to increase children's sensitivity to the actual form and construction of letters.

      The Butterfly Alphabet
      While not the first person to think of finding and photographing letters in nature and the landscape by any means, Kjell Sandved, who created a poster of letters photographed on butterfly wings, has done a lot to bring the idea to a wider audience. You can find his story here (scroll past the images to get to the story part):

      The Alphabet by Abba Richman has beautiful black and white photos of the 26 letters found mostly in the urban landscape.

      He has also made one of color photos.

      For a found alphabet of pastels and watercolors from the urban landscape, check out Stephen T. Johnson's Alphabet City, a Caldecott Honor Book published by Penguin Putnam.

      Bembo's Zoo is an alphabet book by deVicq de Crumptich. An abedecary of animals is created from the font Bembo. You can see a delightful animated version at

      Letters from Natural Materials
      This site has information about designing fonts from natural materials at the AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Artists) Design Camp in Minnesota. Take a look- the pictures will inspire you. You can download free fonts but I think it is more interesting to think about having children design their own letters with natural materials. Groups of children could work together to design an alphabet or individual children could make nameplates by gluing twigs, seed pods, and flowers to a stiff surface. If you use fresh materials, you could photograph them and use the photos in bookmaking. Try an index card accordion found at http://www.makingbooks.com/indexcard.html using stiff narrow paper for the accordion and poster board or cut up cereal boxes for the pages. Glue the materials directly on to make letters or photograph letters of natural materials and glue the photos onto the accordion.

      If you or your children are interested in improving handwriting or just having fun writing, I recommend looking into Italic handwriting which is based on calligraphic forms. The best source is a series by Barbara Getty and Inga Dubay. http://www.cep.pdx.edu/titles/italic_series/faq.htm


      Information About Typography, Calligraphy, and Letterform for Adults

      Counter Space (The interior spaces of letters are called counters.)
      For an introduction to typography, including the anatomy of a letter and classification as well as a timeline, go to

      A Brief History of Type

      The Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists guild has a couple of informative pages on calligraphy. When you get to the bottom of page on, go to the information on the history of the roman alphabet for a more detailed description of the changes in letterform through the ages.

      A brief visual history of calligraphic forms can be found at

      Calligraphy Links: For an extensive listing of calligraphy links, go to

      Calligraphy, Lettering, and Artist Books, curated by Cecelia
      A site from Australia with lots of limnks including a Calligraphic and book Arts Worldwide Travel Guide


      Reed College and Connections

      I have a very removed connection to Reed College and calligraphy. One of the most influential calligraphy classes I took was a week-long workshop at a 1982 conference in Philadelphia with Jaki Svaren, author of the wonderful book Written Letters, who had studied with Lloyd Reynolds who was the key person responsible for calligraphy at Reed College. Other students of Lloyd Reynolds at Reed, in addition to Jaki and Steve Jobs, were the Beat poets Gary Snyder, Lew Welch, and Philip Whalen. My mentor, Jenny Hunter Groat, also studied with Lloyd Reynolds, as well as the authors of the series on Italic handwriting for children mentioned above.

      For an appreciation of calligraphy at Reed College and the spirit of Lloyd Reynolds and his successor Bob Palladino and a lament for its demise, visit

      For a keynote talk by Barbara Helen Berger, author and illustrator of two of my favorite children''s books Grandfather Twilight and When Sun Rose, and her connection to Lloyd Reynolds and the power of his calligraphy class on the direction of her life, go to

      For information about subscribing to the Book Arts List mentioned above, go to


      Get ready for the coming school year with projects from Getting To Know You: Books That Celebrate Who You Are and What You Care About

      * All About Me
      Younger students will enjoy writing about themselves in this four page accordion flap book. The flap begins a sentence which is completed when the flap is lifted.
      * Who Am I?
      In this interactive book, readers try to guess Who Am I? as overlapping pages of facts are opened to reveal the answer.
      * Name Acrostic Poem
      A hanging book made with strips of heavy paper, yarn, and beads is the perfect home for an acrostic name poem.
      * Everybody Is A Star
      Everybody Is A Star opens like a star that can be hung from the ceiling. Star patterns are included for the pages.

      Available only from the makingbooks.com Bookstore at http://www.makingbooks.com/bookstore.html


      Workshop News
      Wampanoag History and Culture through Hands-on
      Curriculum and Community Explorations
      Children's Museum
      Boston, MA
      July 25-July 29, 2005
      I'll be contributing some bookmaking projects to this wonderful immersion in Wampanoag culture. I've done the program for the past two years including the trips to Wampanoag tribal lands in Mashpee and Aquinnah, Martha's Vineyard and I highly recommend it. For more information, contact Judy Battat at
      battat@... or visit http://www.bostonkids.org/educators/professional.html

      Pop-up Books Across the Curriculum
      Center for Global Studies
      Framingham State College
      Framingham, MA
      Saturday, October 29
      Inspire students to write and research with exciting three-dimensional formats to display their work. In this hands-on workshop, you'll learn how to construct Museum Books, which close like a book and open to form a structure that is like a building with four rooms, in both small and large sizes as well as more traditional book structures with pop-ups. For more information, contact Sue Dargan at sdargan@...

      I am booking Student, Teacher, and Family Workshops for the next school year. Contact me to schedule a visit to your school at skgaylord@.... Information about School Visits is available on the website: http://www.makingbooks.com/schoolvisits.html


      Art News:

      The Spirit Books are included in this summer's issue of Fiberarts Magazine.and in the Web Exclusive Gallery at http://www.fiberartsmagazine.com/back_issues/SU_05/sampling.asp

      Spirit Book #13: Hope Offering will be in an exhibition called Containers/ Contained at the Target Gallery in the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, Virginia. The juror was Twylene Moyer, Managing Editor, Sculpture Magazine.

      Coming in the fall:
      The Spirit Book Series
      Carney Gallery
      Regis College
      Weston, MA
      October 23-December 18, 2005
      Opening Reception: October 23, 2:30-4:30
      Special Viewing (a chance to meet the artist and handle the books): November 20, 2:30-4:30

      Spirit Book DVD
      Susan will be releasing a documentary on DVD showing the genesis and completion of Spirit Book #50. As she guides the viewer through the process of making the final book, she reveals her thoughts, approach, and methods. Careful attention to detail and close-up filming of the Spirit Books provide an opportunity to see and understand the pieces as never before. The DVD includes a slide show and an in-depth catalog. With its emphasis on process, it will be an excellent tool for art teachers.
      Available October 2005, $35.


      If you enjoy Making Books Monthly, please forward it to
      friends and colleagues. It comes to you once a month, on or near the tenth,
      from educator, author, and artist Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord

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      reply to this message with unsubscribe in the subject line.

      ©2005 Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord

      Making Books Monthly
      from Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord

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