If you've previously read Paris Parfait, you're no doubt aware of my obsession for typefaces and fonts. I could happily live in a typeface foundry, with an abundance of old printers' tables and trays filled with metal type; the pungent aroma of printer's ink in the air.
It probably has something to do with my newspaper background, cemented with my first visit to the Putlizer-Prize winning newspaper the Arkansas Gazette, where I watched freshly-printed newspapers fly off the press.
Sadly, the Gazette was bought by Gannett Newspapers, whose inept management proved the demise of the "oldest newspaper west of the Mississippi." Bill Clinton then ran his 1992 presidential campaign from the Gazette's elegant office building.
Alas, those days are over, both for newspapers and for typeface foundries. Today typeface design is more high-tech, once initial graphic design stages are complete. But the wooden letters or metal type blocks remain. I often buy them at brocantes or flea markets.
Last month I sold some huge zinc letters, worried I'd never find a proper place for them (plus, they were taking up a lot of space). But a few favourites remain, including a 1920s French cherry-picker's basket of assorted wooden letters (pictured). I also have three giant red metal letters spelling the word "ART" and four big wooden letters from a French restaurant that I alternate to spell "DARE" or "READ."
Last year when my lovely friend Di Overton referred me to Kent & London and their beautiful oak alphabet drawers, I fell head over heels. Even a waiting list didn't deter my enthusiasm. Recently Kent & London's charming owner and master craftsman Luke Ellis (aided by his friend Lloyd Hobbard-Mitchell) actually hand-delivered the chest, driving from Whistable, England to Paris! Such superb service, plus I got to hear Luke talk about his inspiration for the alphabet drawers and its rich patina resembling old typeface letters.
Meanwhile Lloyd is about to abandon his life in England in favor of rather exotic diving adventures in Egypt and Spain. I'm looking forward to following his exploits in his new blog The Meandering Gullbad Nogbee.
I'm using Kent & London's photograph for this post, as due to space constraints, the chest is temporarily in a back room; not exactly the proper setting. Am planning to giving it pride of place in Amsterdam. The alphabet drawers are perfect for holding photography equipment and photo cds. Thank you, Luke (and to my dear husband, who graciously considered the alphabet drawers as my Valentine's present).
Kent & London's hand-crafted alphabet drawers.