It is always very sad when we lose words, not just because we can’t remember what to say in a conversation, but when the very words themselves seem to have lost their value. It was noted that a children’s dictionary decided to leave out words which it judged to have ‘lack of use’. These very words conjure up images in our memories – of collecting blackberries from brambles, of threading a piece of string through a conker, of pigs pannaging for acorns in the New Forest, of a lark ascending, of holly and ivy in the Christmas carol, of a sea of bluebells swaying in the wind. All these words have been removed from this dictionary. To mark their loss, the Lettering Arts Trust exhibited a number of beautiful letter-cut artworks at their gallery in Snape Matings in 2019. They also produced a wonderfully designed, exquisitely illustrated catalogue to accompany this.
The ingenuity of the letter cutters, demonstrating also their craftsmanship, is shown in this piece by the great Tom Perkins. With his distinctive letter-forms, the letters R and U nestle under their respective preceding Cs, and the letter O is replaced by a gentle opening crocus but still retaining the letter-form.
Hazel is often used for weaving and basketry and here Emi Gordon has woven the strokes of the letters so that they interlace and overlap, with a gently twisted crossbar to the letter A and an elegant flourish at the end. The selection of the paint colour for the letters is particularly appropriate.
The delicacy of hazel is in sharp contrast to Gillian Forbes’ piece, with the network of pointed leaves sitting like hands cradling the gilded conkers. The style of lettering seems particularly apt and the way in which the leaves have been cut outlines their shape in the top left-hand corner.
Occasionally, the letters themselves aren’t really necessary to convey meaning and shape. Here the word pasture is suggested in a field of pasture. Let your eyes blur a little to work out the shapes – they are there! Phil Surey’s work certainly gives new meaning to ‘pastures new’!
And very graphically, here a little boy is fishing for minnows, sitting on a deck which is supported by the very word. Gentle reeds blowing in the wind add movement to the piece and point the way to the boy, his float bobbing colourfully on the water. A very evocative piece by Stuart Buckle.
The exhibition is on at the Lettering Arts Trust at Snape Matings, Suffolk IP17 1SP from 15th March to 26th May 2019 and is well worth a visit. The catalogue is available from their website.