This past Thursday (the seventh day of the seventh month) was the ILSSA (Impractical Labor in the Service of the Speculative Arts) Festival to Plead for Skills. Here is the description of the event from the ILSSA site:
This summer, on the 7th day of the 7th month, ILSSA will celebrate its own version of The Festival to Plead for Skills. The festival is derived from the Chinese holiday of Qi Xi and the Japanese festival of Tanabata, in which celebrants wish for the betterment of their own craftsmanship. Instead of wishing, the ILSSA festival will be a holiday of practicing.

We hereby invite all ILSSA Members to observe this holiday by making small objects as iterations of their practice. The objects should be no larger than 2 inches in any dimension, and should be the natural result of practicing a skill: using a tool, trying a method, honing a technique. Conceive of this project as something you can complete entirely on July 7th. We imagine Impractical Laborers across the land, practicing together in observance of the holiday.

For this year’s festival (my first) I decided that I wanted to combine my practice with some hands-on research in type design. So I set up a series of 2” x 2” pieces of cover weight paper, each with a letter (laser)printed on it. I chose 5 different letters, in caps & lowercase, from three different typefaces (we were making 30 objects this year) that I wanted to study up close. The typefaces were: Palatino Linotype (my old favorite), Lucida Console (a weird san-serif face that I enjoy), and Matthew Carter’s Georgia (so that I could compare a serifed text face for the screen/web with one for print/book). After they were printed I delaminated each of them, carefully tracing their form. It was extremely satisfying to focus my attention on all the little details and to carry that attention through the actual cutting. This was probably some of the most accurate cutting I’ve done in a while. Something about focus, I suppose.

This was a good and fun event, as it was personal and solitary (every participant chose what they wanted to do) as well as social (we all practiced together, and everybody gets one of each object). Every studio a networked node of production, independent and in concert.

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