Typographic pyrography is the latest technique to be mastered by designer and experimental typographer Craig Ward (opens in new tab). From 23 January, the results of his year-long exploration into the ancient art of decorating wood or other materials with burn marks will be on display at The Type Director’s Club gallery (opens in new tab) in Manhattan, New York.
Entitled PAGAN (opens in new tab), the show contrasts clean, classic typography with the organic anarchy of nature, marrying beautifully soldered slabs of wood with gold leaf and striking lettering. It makes for an impressive of work and marks Ward’s first solo show. The Computer Arts team caught up with him to find out more ahead of the official opening…
What can visitors expect from PAGAN?
Roughly a year's worth of brand new work in a whole new medium - typographic pyrography and gold leaf on slabs of wood.
Sounds interesting – where did the idea of Pagans and pyrography come from?
This was a completely self-initiated project, which I began thinking about over 18 months ago after a trip to Stonehenge. It struck me that I hadn't really paid any dues (in my work at least) to my English heritage and I became fascinated with Pagan culture and Old English texts from the 5th-12th centuries. The project combines the idea of Pagan tree worship with the fact that they wrote very little down, and throws the two together.
Tell us a bit about the pyrography side – how challenging was it to burn the typography into wood?
All of the type was applied by hand with a pyrography pen - basically a soldering iron with interchangeable nibs. Learning a whole new technique was difficult, and in addition it was painfully slow going - laborious even, particularly burning in the larger areas. I was tempted at one point to begin laser engraving, but I felt like that would have completely undermined the concept - it had to be done by hand to be worthwhile.
Did you use any software at all?
Very little software was used. I did set some of the type in Illustrator to arrive at my layouts and try different things but after that it was all done by hand.
What's your favourite piece on show in the exhibition?
I'm pretty proud of the whole set really, but I think my personal favourite is the Solstice piece - the letterforms contrast with the wood textures and voids really well. Plus it was one of the first ones I did.
For whatever reason, this is actually my first-ever solo show so it's particularly satisfying to see [the work] together and have control of the whole thing. Some friends - La Moutique (opens in new tab) - shot this short process video to publicise the show…
Where is it, when is it, who should go and will there be an entrance fee?
PAGAN will be on show in New York at The Type Directors Club gallery in Manhattan - 347 West 36th Street, Suite 603, NY, 10018. The official opening is on Thursday, 23 January at 7pm and it will be on show until early February and you can call ahead to check their hours on +1 212 633 8943. The open evening is public and everyone should go!
Words: Julia Sagar