Walthamstow is …

As an easy exercise, that is not really to do with typography, I want to ask people of Walthamstow to complete the following sentence (in one word)…

“Walthamstow is …”

I think that as it is a neutral question, it would elicit some interesting responses

After the riots throughout London, an art project in Peckham , asked people to write love letters to their area.

“Dr Martin Farr, a contemporary historian at Newcastle university, says it is not the first time Post-it notes have been used in this way, pointing to their use after 9/11 and the 2004 tsunami.

“New media seemed to facilitate or characterise the rioting, what struck me is writing notes is very old media, it’s as if it’s a restatement of community identity.

“It’s also an old-fashioned, a human way of seeing handwriting – with smileys and exclamation marks – so is different to new media which is technically consistent. Post-it notes are also very photogenic, they are appealing – from a distance they are almost like an impressionist painting of a garden – so they are an engaging way of communicating,” he says.”

In a similar vein, I am asking the people of Walthamstow to reflect on the area. Slightly differently, I don’t want everything to be positive. Maybe people feel like the area is becoming too gentrified, or too unfriendly. By restricting it to one word (and knowing that some people might write more) it asks people to consider their word rather than writing a letter.

Be encouraging people to write them, they are engaging with a pen and paper, something we as a society we are doing less of, especially over the last year. The participants will be making shapes with their pens to imbue meaning in their lines.

The activity will become a tapestry on the wall of the exhibition to create a fluttering canvas and something from which I can reflect on what people have written and what it says about Walthamstow.

At the end of the exhibition, I will collect all the post it notes and scan them in (a labour of love) to create a new artwork. The words can be extracted and analysed, and the notes shown on the website.


Easter: Glyph submission

This submission is from Jess for the glyph workshop:

She wanted to go for a minimalist look and chose the following features. She lives near Blackhorse Road, and so included a black horse and the construction work cranes that are next to the station. There is an old building that was a music venue on the corner that has a bold striped colour scheme. She loves to walk around the area, particularly the Wetlands, so drew a flower. As Walthamstow is her home, she has put a little house tucked away in the top left and one of her cats in the right. She loves the community spirit in the past year so has a rainbow in the shadow. Great work, Jess!

Community Activities live

AREA SUrvey 

I devised the first activity of Stowe Framework and detailed the results of the first alpha test here. In the Area Survey, the participants are asked to take a short walk around an area of E17 and take photographs of typography (or lettering, as I described it) and remember where they took them. When they returned home, they choose five examples of lettering, mark the examples’ positions on a map of Walthamstow and answer some questions. One purpose of the activity was to add more examples to the photo archive. More than that, the underlying motive is to enable the participants to start thinking about how they undertake the challenge. In asking them to submit only five examples to me, they curate their experience rather than unthinkingly responding.

I have copied out the questions with my reasons for asking:

Looking at your photos, did you start to favour certain types of lettering? Can you guess why that might have been?

Here, I want the participants to notice patterns about their preferences and a reason for their bias. For example, a couple of remaining ghost signs feature advertisements for printing presses and typewriters, and the owner of a local publisher might find these fascinating. I intend these to lead to further qualitative research between myself and the participant.

Did you stick to a route, or did you let yourself wander? Did anything draw you off your expected route? What was it?

I am curious about the participant’s mindset: do they start with a rigid plan, or do they wander? How they react to unexpected stimuli? The questions are deliberately broken down into easy clauses to allow comprehension by many people.

Did you find the lettering you were expecting? What surprised you?

Like the questions above, I want to understand the participant’s preconceptions and if they are open to being challenged.

What do you think the lettering tells you about the area you surveyed? What kind of lettering would you like to see more of in E17?

Now, I am eliciting their opinion of what the lettering says about their area rather than speculating, and giving them a chance to shape the area in the future.