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Welcome to rachelsays... The blog of Rachel Lewis, containing my thoughts and musings on illustration, design, fashion, music, cakey-bakey goodness, culture and things that I generally find cool. There's also a good chance my own illustration work will pop up on here.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Daily Ampersand Project

Since leaving Uni I haven't really started any new projects. I've done lots of drawing here and there but now I think it's time to embark on something with weight and that has structure, and is something I can do everyday and stick to it.

This idea originally started as a Font Book - I wanted to create a small handmade book which included all 26 letters, handdrawn, from 26 of my favourite/most interesting looking fonts. I still may do that, one day. But last night it came to me (I always think of stuff at night, gift and a curse) that this might be more interesting if it just focussed on one letterform - my favourite of which is the Ampersand.* Has been ever since I discovered it in year 5 or something - all my prose at school was filled with '& then jack & jill went to the shops & they met sam & sue', which of course is terrible grammar, improper use of the ampersand, and would mean I got red circles all over my stories. But I loved writing that letter so much! So swirly. I was the only one out of my friends who could do it without it going fat and lopsided.

*I also really like the letter Y a lot, it was a tough call.

So I thought about it, and there are so many crazy variations of ampersands in all the typefaces that I could fill a whole book of them. So this is the plan...

  • Every day, draw one ampersand. They will be hand drawn/traced from an actual real font, or taken from a photograph of any ampersands I find in the real world, or they will be designed by me.
  • I have given myself no limitations on the medium - pencil, biro, collage, paint, stencil, anything.
  • My limitations are that I must not use a computer to create the ampersands, save for scanning the finished piece in.
  • They are going straight into a nice new clean moleskine sketchbook, not a handmade book, which is slightly smaller than A4 - no drawing on a seperate piece of paper and sticking in. Unless it's a collage piece.
  • Every day I will scan it in and post it on this blog.
  • I am setting a target of 30 ampersands - 30 days, starting from today (15th October). If I want I might do more, but no less than 30.
The History of the Ampersand: Taken from wikipedia, click here for more.

The symbol is a ligature of the letters in et, Latin for "and".

The word ampersand is a corruption of the phrase "and pe eminti and", meaning "and [the symbol which] plus this [is] and". The Scots and Scottish English name for & is epershand, derived from "et per se and", with the same meaning. Traditionally, in English-speaking schools when reciting the alphabet, any letter that could also be used as a word in itself ("A," "I," "&" and, at one point, "O") was preceded by the Latin expression "pe eminti" (Latin for "plus this"). Also, it was common practice to add at the end of the alphabet the "&" sign, pronounced "and". Thus, the recitation of the alphabet would end in: "X, Y, Z and per se and." This last phrase was routinely slurred to "ampersand" and the term crept into common English usage by around 1742.

The modern italic type ampersand is a kind of et-ligature that goes back to the cursive scripts developed during the renaissance. After the advent of printing in Europe in 1455, printers made extensive use of both the italic and Roman ampersands. Since the ampersand's roots go back to Roman times, many languages that use a variation of the Latin alphabet make use of it.

I find that quite interesting, I had never really thought of where it came from. While researching this project, I wanted to see if anyone else out there had done anything similar to this; I didn't want to recreate a project that had already been done. There are a few ampersand projects out there but none exactly like this.

Existing Ampersand Projects I have found:

Students from Bath Spa Uni took part in a project to design their own ampersands. They then screen printed them onto t-shirts and took photos. They look pretty damn awesome if you ask me! This was found at an Ampersand Blog,

That blog is great for anything to do with ampersands - tattoos, photos, user designed ones, lots of great stuff. And the ampersand they have at the top of the site is one of my favourites - Baskerville 169 Italic, or a variation on that:

Which may just be my first ampersand of the project - kicking things off in a flamboyant way :)

The last project I found is by M.Finley Designs, a final year american uni project where the ampersands will be screenprinted. Sounds like a really great project; there's no images of it on that site, but on his Flickr Page there's a good selection:

An important part is what to call this project. I tried to think of a really exciting name, and very nearly called it The 27th Letter Project. (It's on wikipedia - apparently the ampersand is known as the 27th letter of the alphabet) But I thought, that's a bit ambiguous, so I've gone for The Daily Ampersand Project. I might change it, it feels a bit dull.

So i've started my first one - i'm off to an interview and visit my grandparents so I will finish it tonight and post it here. They will all have the 'daily ampersand project' tag.

1 comment:

Sian Louise said...

I can't remember if you have seen this blog.

Also found this website a while ago!
Good luck with the project - it's looking really good so far.