Friday, 15 August 2014

letterpress signage for Cultural Hotspots project

For it's inaugural year, an initiative called Cultural Hotspots will be featuring the south area of Scarborough by celebrating culture, art and community. I was invited by craft maven Kalpna Patel to participate in her window installation project "Please Come Again" which transforms an unconventional space and brings it to life through the lost art of visual merchandising and striking displays.

Say Yes and Ask Questions Later
If you aren't familiar with Kalpna's work, get to know it - it's inspiring. I was both honoured and scared straight when she asked if I would create an installation. I loved the idea of this gallery of storefronts coming to an area that hasn't ever been mined for art installations before. I'm always griping about living so far out east from the downtown core where all the cool stuff happens. So the opportunity to do something that I've never done (and have always wanted to), and the chance to work with an ace in her field, and bringing some craft to an area nearby are all the reasons why I jumped in with both feet. 

The Big Idea
The storefront that I was assigned to isn't really a store. It's the Crossroads Business Improvement Area office. What these folks essentially do is market, promote and revitalize businesses in the area, which in this case is between Victoria Park Avenue and Warden Avenue. Kalpna came up with the concept of creatively displaying names of businesses along that strip. It was a simple and effective idea that gave both purpose and meaning to its storefront.
The Process
As a letterpress artist, I was excited to execute the vision. For this project, I knew I had to get type that was larger than what I owned. It's not often that I get to work on things larger than 5x7", so this was a treat. I selected various fonts with serifs and a  gothic trade and sizes between an inch and a half to 3 inches in height for visual interest. The primary press used was the Morgan Line-O-Scribe flatbed which has a bed size of 14x22". For the smaller signs, I used the Mini Showcard press. This was all very fitting because these antique machines were originally used by small shop owners to print temporary point-of-sale signs. The business names that were printed were, for the most part, selected at random. Other names, Kalpna and I just really liked the sound of regardless of the business type and its current state of operation.
The Community Notice Board
The BIA asked if I could help address their promotional flyers situation. Up until the installation, they would tape announcements of events to their windows for passer-bys to read. But it looked plain, scattered and a little untidy. I decided to create a notice board disguised as another piece of storefront signage. It's simply a corkboard covered in felt and "Crossroads of the Danforth" hand-painted in a fashion reminiscent of old-school signage. The board is now prominently showcased with the dual purpose of either displaying the business name or a collection of flyers neatly arranged.

Big Ups
This project was a hell of a lot of fun to work on. I only have big hugs and thanks to give to Kalpna for trusting me to see it through. She was a huge help in the actual installation. I brought the supplies but she brought the know-how.
My hope is that people who come upon the window stop, look, read, wonder and smile. The display will be up for a month, so if you are in the area (or even if you're not), have a look-see and please do check out the other window installations created by fellow artists. Each of them are truly unique and a sight to behold!

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