OLD IS NEW: Wooden type
Type, typography and timber are some passions I have and when I first saw wooden type, I wanted to touch, feel and work with it but unfortunately it was a framed art piece hanging on a wall… so that wasn’t going to happen straight away.
The timber passion stems from my youth and working with it, under the guidance of my father who at that time was a Builder/cabinet maker, who went on to design and plan homes for other builders, hence the timber and design sense.
It’s hard to explain the timber thing and those who work with it will all have differing reasons for the passion. My thought is that we have cut this beautiful living treasure down and I have the ability and privilege to work, smell, feel and nurture it along the journey to something of beauty again…I don’t think timber ever dies. I am still enjoying timber and type today and creating different things… could be a logo or a chook shed.
The images showing the timber blocks are the start and finished name plaque for a cottage in the south island of New Zealand. It is a Maori name “NOAIA” which inspired my design thinking for the type. I sketched the type, then refined it many times before cutting it out of paper and adhering it to the timber as a guide to chisel to… loved doing it.
More recently my wooden type adventure took me to Design College Australia where I was invited to critique student’s work, but before doing so I was guided to an area that they had created into a fully functional letterpress and type printshop, that housed some of the most beautiful printing devices I have seen in the flesh. Absolutely mind boggling, where to look next? The printing machines, the wooden type, drawer upon drawer, or the examples of the letterpress work that lined the walls.
Clint Harvey from DesignCollege Australia is a type and print enthusiast to say the least and has collected an amazing array of materials, fonts in wood and lead, machines, inks, paper and type specimen books that you can’t jump over.
It was not long after that day that I was invited again but this day was even more fun, I was invited to attend a hands on letterpress and typography workshop. Clint asked a specialist typographer Wayne Thompson[Type Designer from Australian Type Foundry in Newcastle NSW] and myself, helped by a handful of the students, to a day of typesetting and printing, looking and learning. It was a day where the old was made new again, where we took the old wood fonts, built the formes and printed Letterpress, a brand new image onto beautiful virgin paper…stunning results.
So some forty years on from me seeing that wooden type framed and hanging on that wall, I finally have had a play with it. This experience is made available to you, by Clint and the College doing workshop Saturdays. To find out how you can make the old, new again phone the college and make a date. Design College Australia 3257 3499.
For centuries East Asia used Woodenblocks for the printing of text, images and patterns on cloth and paper. It is believed that China is where the process originated, there is a piece of printed cloth dating back to 220. If you are into the history, have a look at Hamilton Wood type and Printing Museum. woodtype.org
The invention of printing is generally conceded to be one of the defining inventions for the advancement of civilization. Gutenberg’s movable type printing press about 1450 AD is often cited as the single greatest invention for world civilization.
An important event for the Eastern world that took place during the Tang (618-906) dynasty was the invention of printing, possibly between the 4th and 7th century AD.