Alphabet Books

calligraphy

In seventh grade, I discovered calligraphy and spent time in the library at school studying the books they had and practiced my hand lettering. I’m sure that I could pick up a calligraphy pen now, after all of these years, and remember most of the strokes I memorized so long ago. But I did not spend 10,000 hours perfecting my technique, so I would hire a professional if I embarked on a project that required calligraphy! The discovery of this art form was the beginning of my interest in alphabets and letterforms.  

Alpha Beta, ..., edition of 25, $750

Alpha Beta, …, edition of 25, $750

About 10 or 12 years ago, I met Claudia Cohen at a Paper & Book Intensive which was held near Portland, OR. I’d heard of Claudia (who has bound books and made boxes for many prestigious clients) because she had bound a book for Dieu Donné, where I learned to make paper. She took the workshop I taught at PBI, and afterwards she encouraged me to create artists’ books featuring some my unique book structures. This, quite simply, was the way I began making artists’ books. It took me a few years to get going, and Alpha Beta, …  was my first alphabet book, and it shows off the shadow lantern structure that I developed for my book Paper Illuminated, teach frequently at workshops, and offer in three styles as one of my Playing With Paper Kits

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This structure features a Japanese hinge which allows the pages to flex in both directions, so that the book can be displayed in multiple ways. The font is called Arts & Crafts, and was designed by Dard Hunter, who was instrumental in the revival of hand papermaking in America.

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And Claudia made this box to show off the hinges.

Sound Blocks, open edition, $175

Sound Blocks, open edition, $175

My second alphabet book is called Sound Blocks. Sound Blocks is a set of five paper blocks in the shape of vowels, each one featuring a unique handmade paper. Each block is housed in a separate section of a cherry wood box, with a glass top that slides on and off. The blocks, which can be lined up, stacked or scattered, create a visual and tactile play on letters and language. I can envision these constructed very large out of metal, with children running in, around and through the shapes, and perhaps with a sound component playing the various sounds of each vowel.

Alpha Blocks, available in 4 colors, $75

Alpha Blocks, available in 4 colors, $75

My most recent alphabet book is called Alpha BlocksI discovered the font Block-Up in an old letraset catalog in 1985, when I was taking a class on letterforms as an exchange student in Germany and “translated” the two-dimensional rendering of the font into three dimensions to create Alpha Blocks. You can view a short youtube video of the alphabet in action here

Just as Artists’ Books are now a field and a medium, so are Alphabet Books. I’m creating a board on pinterest featuring some of my favorites. What is your favorite Alphabet Book? Please share a link in the comments section, and I’ll add it to my board. 

 

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I’m Helen Hiebert!

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