Damn everything but the circus


This week I find myself in Portland. I’m here for a week of friendship and video games and weird art projects by lovely strangers that intimidate and inspire me both—I’m here for XOXO.

Last week though I headed to the Letterform Archive for an excellent talk on the subject of wood type by Stephen Coles, the Editorial Director & Associate Curator of the Archive. Throughout the hour long event I caught myself whispering aloud under my breath in wonder as Stephen showed wood type specimens from 19th century London and broadside newspapers with a dizzying array of eclectic letters. I can only imagine how annoyed my neighbors were with gasps of “holy shit!”, “gadzooks!”, and an collection of nonsense Britishisms that will go left unrecorded here.

If you’re unfamiliar with Coles’ work then it’s difficult to know where to begin. We should probably start with Typographica, which is best known for collecting reviews from the type design community and letting everyone write about their favorite typeface release of the year. It’s an endless compendium of great writing and peculiar typographic finds.

Stephen also works on Fonts in Use which is another archive but where you can search for a typeface and see how it’s used in magazines, books, posters, album covers, and websites. Whole evenings of mine have been whisked away as I get lost in entry after entry and fall down a rabbit hole of beautiful letters.

[ 25 minutes pass ]

Dammit, not again! Through Fonts In Use I just stumbled upon this wonderful creature: Woodkit, a typeface by David Jonathan Ross that’s inspired by wood type and letter blocks where you can mix and match styles from this curious assortment:

This reminds me that during his talk, Stephen mentioned the work of Corita Kent and her book Damn Everything but the Circus. Her work is proud, electric, and striking.

The title of her book is a reference to a poem by E.E. Cummings that I had never heard before and I don’t believe there could be a better summary of this here newsletter that I’m trying to write:

Damn everything but the circus! ...damn everything that is grim, dull, motionless, unrisking, inward turning, damn everything that won’t get into the circle, that won’t enjoy. That won’t throw it’s heart into the tension, surprise, fear and delight of the circus, the round world, the full existence...

Until next week!

✌️ Robin