“The goal for my work has been to cause a chuckle or at least a smirk from an audience.”
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself to begin with, and how you came about coming over from America to study post-grad Graphic Design at ECA?
I am originally from Minnesota (if you’ve seen the movie Fargo, I sound just like the main characters). My undergraduate degree was in graphic design and I worked for nine years as a graphic designer/editor for a small non-profit. I fell madly in love with the UK about ten years ago and thought that it was the perfect place to go back to school and unleash some new creative projects.
Your work at the degree show is very unique, and made me laugh a lot, I loved it! For anyone who hasn’t seen it, can you talk a bit about the (who fonted?) and Lively Letters projects?
Well thank you! The goal for my work has been to cause a chuckle or at least a smirk from an audience.
Both the Lively Letters book and (who fonted?) magazine were part of my masters theme which explored humour and typography. Within this theme I explored the human-like and personality filled characteristics of typography. Basically this involved me writing silly adventures and nonsense poetry about letters venturing off of the page and experiencing our human world. Some of my exploration was in print while other projects incorporated felt letters that I sewed and then featured in video or photographs. Earlier this year I created a brand for the felt letters called f+art (furneisen plus art). It’s all a bit of a merger between typography and Sesame Street for a slightly older audience (meaning toilet talking 8 year olds to immature thirty-somethings).
(who fonted?) was a project I designed for an International Society of Typographic Designers (ISTD) brief about fakery. The initial idea was inspired by the words fake, hoax and imitation in the ISTD Fakery brief. These words inspired thoughts for the creation of either a spoof book or magazine. I chose to design a spoof magazine. (who fonted?) looks at the different styles of typography as individual personalities and then gives life to these personalities via satirical and folly-filled writing. The difficulties of humans interacting with these personality-filled fonts and characters is also a theme of this magazine.
Along side the humour of (who fonted?) is a sneaky underlying appreciation of typography. Humour brings the reader in to this magazine where certain fonts and characters are given their own feature spread. A world is presented where type enthusiasts and comedians collide to laugh at the fun, but sometimes frustrating, world of typography. Both the writing and layout of this magazine was really fun and I was so happy to get a merit award from ISTD.
The Lively Letters book was my final masters project and was similar in theme to (who fonted?) in that it brought out the spicy personalities of letters. The writing in this book was purely nonsense poetry which I discovered during my last semester at ECA. I had been writing a lot of nonsensical blurbs throughout my masters but didn’t make the connection that it actually had a name until visiting the The Poetry Library here in Edinburgh. This book also incorporates some of the felt letters I had been making and I took a lot of photographs of them experiencing what I think is the most beautiful city on the planet: EDINBURGH! The book demonstrates how sometimes things go wrong and sometimes things go oh so right when letters start to act like humans.
Where do you draw your inspiration for these projects from?
Any books or publications that list different categories of type or the anatomy of type are very inspirational to my work. My favourite book is Rookledge’s Classic International Type Finder. To me, looking through this book is like viewing delicious cakes through a bakery window. Instead of my stomach gurgling, my funny bone gets a twitch’in and I think of all sorts of adventures and ill advised outings for different letters or entire fonts.
Sesame Street has also been a big influence to my work. I use to watch it religiously when I was little, along with the Muppet Show and Fraggle Rock. Felt really gets my creative juices flowing and I could sew for hours using this material.
Can you talk a little about the exhibition at the Red Door Gallery, and your letters of flight? This looked like it was quite a fun project! Do you make all these yourself?
This was my first exhibition in Edinburgh and was the first time I made felt letters.The brief with The Red Door Gallery was set by a classmate of mine and was open for participation by any of the Illustration or Graphics masters students. We could make any project around the theme of flight and I got the idea right away to make the b and two f’s with wings.I also wrote a poem that went with the letters:
There once were two F’s that liked to fly
They really could get quite high
Flips and turns filled their picas with glee
There wasn’t a letter they would rather B
This project was a real turning point in my masters study. I had originally picked humour in art and design as the theme for my masters study and had planned to make funny office and home products. I really struggled with ideas for this larger theme but found that ideas around humour and typography came to me very quickly. After this brief I officially changed my theme and with the great feedback I received from this exhibition, I began to sell my felt letters through The Red Door Gallery. They have been really supportive of my work all along.
This project eventually led to another exhibition which was at Main Point Books in Edinburgh and was called: What’s yellow, has letters and is covered in hair? Our exhibition of course! This time I teamed up with fellow classmate Emily Hair and we hung our colourful work throughout this wee bookshop. The owners of this bookshop were also really supportive of my work and commissioned the word “REREADS” in felt to be hung in their new store on Bread Street.
And last but not least, what aspirations and plans have you set yourself now you have graduated? Any advice for anyone thinking of going on to a post grad?
Since graduating I have been looking for a permanent position in the UK and also have been seeking work placements in Edinburgh. Unfortunately, with the changes in the post study work visa laws, I only have a limited amount of time to look for work in the UK. I do hope to have another exhibition in Edinburgh before I leave, if I do have to go back to America.
I have been so lucky to have had the opportunity to study at ECA and if I do go back to Minnesota, I will keep exhibiting and developing my work. I also worry that my quirky Minnesotan accent may be fading. Oh gosh! So a few more years recharge in the land of 10,000 lakes may be good for both the sound and silliness of my work.
My advice to anyone seeking a post grad is to thoroughly look at all of the options for schools and take a critical look at both the work and professors at each of the universities. Make a plan of action for what you want to get out of the experience but be flexible about your path changing.
Many thanks again to Kerstin for her time in answering our questions, and we wish her the best of luck! Check out her website at www.kerstinfurn.com for a look at more of her portfolio, or if you are interested in sourcing some of your very own Lively Letters, get in touch with the Red Door Gallery at email@example.com for further information and prices.Tweet
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