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5th26 is a design studio that offers home décor and fashion objects.

Stories (Blog)

Patrick Kana

Brandon Tang

Patrick Kana

Location: Geneva, NY

Patrick Kana is a furniture designer born and raised on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  Having been trained by traditional furniture makers, sculptors, and contemporary designers, both stateside and overseas, he creates furniture and objects that blends sculptural form with honest, traditional methods.

After a special collaboration with 5th26 that was presented at 2017’s ICFF during New York Design Week, we sat down with Patrick to get some insight behind his work.

 

Tools of the trade.

Tools of the trade.

 

1. How do you begin your day at the studio?

I start my day with a quick inspection of my machinery and equipment and take a bit of time each morning to make sure everything is dialed in and running smoothly.  This early morning quiet time for me is crucial, as it guarantees my studio is in tip-top shape, and I can also make progress on the vintage machine restorations I use in the shop.  I’ll follow up with a little bit of time in the office, then get right to work on my current project.  This is always best with a hot cup of tea in hand.   


Patrick at his studio.

Patrick at his studio.

 

2. What made you become interested in wood?

I started working in wood as young kid with my father, building balsa-wood model airplanes and sailboats. Pinning strips of balsa-wood together as waiting for the glue dried was a great process for me, because I would always see tangible progress each time I worked.  The results were a direct function of commitment and concentration.  I loved that feeling. My parents always joked that when I was young that the question I most often asked was “what project can I do now?” 

Things got more serious when I took a series of wood carving classes in high school.  Not long after, I was doing more and more rigorous projects, still with my father—most notably my first guitar from scratch.  About a year later, I had begun my first long-term apprenticeship with a master luthier, and furniture designer.  I got hooked, and never looked back. 

 

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The details.

The details.

 

3. Tell us about your education and how it prepared you for your career.

Throughout my whole education, I’ve been fortunate to have parents who encouraged my siblings and I to pursue the things we truly loved.  While I studied architecture and sculpture at a liberal arts college, the core of my furniture-related education was multiple apprenticeships—working one on one alongside my mentors.  I spent the better part of an eighteen months apprenticing for Peter Dudley, master luthier and studio furniture maker in my hometown, and also nine months with Vicco von Voss, a German furniture maker and timber framer, from who I learned the process of harvesting and milling my own local lumber.  Shorter internships and workshops in different studios balanced things out.   I have been lucky to gain many friends along the way. 

 

4. What do you find most challenging and rewarding about working with wood?

 

Wood is an amazing material—there aren’t many woodworkers who go the extra mile to truly understand its own story or nuances.  The location the tree grew, the minerals it absorbed, the fast growing years and the slow growing years all give the wood a different character, and it is only discernible when you spend excessive amounts of time analyzing its life. 

 Everybody thinks of lumber as planks and a simple input commodity—we take an organic, expressive plant and saw it into flat boards that are stripped of the tree’s original character.  Instead, by harvesting my own lumber, I look to retain as much of the tree’s character during the milling and drying process, maximizing its original qualities. It is my chosen medium for expressing ideas, so my biggest challenge, or responsibility as I see it, is to give the material a fair and honorable representation. When I get it right—that’s when it is worth all the effort. 


 

 5. You are an experienced sailor. Does the nautical influences inspire your work?

 Having grown up around the water and sailed for as long as I can remember, it is absolutely a part of who I am.  While I don’t necessarily look directly to sailing for inspiration for my work, I think it is the softness of what surrounds me—wind, water, waves, patterns, and sensory experiences--that naturally feeds back into my visual vocabulary. 

 

6. You launched your own studio in May 2016 in addition to teaching, what has been the most challenging and rewarding thing about balancing the two?

 

Starting my own studio has been a dream of mine for many years.  The schedule is definitely the biggest challenge, going back and forth each day between studios where I also teach. Regardless, I gather a great deal of positive energy from my design and art students that I can then bring back to my shop.  

Similarly, I can bring my developments back into to the school setting and share them with eager students.  This two-way street has opened up a lot of opportunities, and since opening my private studio despite the challenges, I have been more productive than ever. 

 

7. What is the most important piece of advice you tell your students?

 Don’t settle for a “Plan B” when it comes to your career.  Find something you love, and fight for it. 

Patrick Kana x 5th26 “Madison" Chair” made of Birch.

Patrick Kana x 5th26 “Madison" Chair” made of Birch.

 

8. What inspires your work? 

 This is an exciting time for ceramics, with social media having a tremendous effect on the popularity of handmade objects. Sometimes I think this trend is more focused on design and less on craftsmanship.  When I was first learning ceramics I was taught to focus first on my technique, then once it was mastered, to find my own unique voice.  The modern world sometimes works in reverse, where artists are designing objects based on trends rather than through mastery of their craft. 

    

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For more of Patrick’s work click here

Favourite Room

Brandon Tang

BY: KRISTINA LJUBANOVIC  PHOTO: CHRISTINNE MUSCHI  SPECIAL TO THE GLOBE AND MAIL

BY: KRISTINA LJUBANOVIC

PHOTO: CHRISTINNE MUSCHI

SPECIAL TO THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Minoosh Taheri and Hughes Brassard spent five years in Montreal’s hip Plateau neighbourhood before packing up for Pointe-Saint-Charles, part of the city’s southwest borough that’s adjacent to the Lachine Canal. “Hughes knew he liked this neighbourhood, but when I came I really fell in love,” Taheri says. Its proximity to Atwater market, the downtown core and their respective workplaces – Taheri is a fashion designer and Brassard is a news producer for the CBC – were definite advantages, but not the only ones. The couple, who travel extensively, value diversity in all its forms, cultural and socioeconomic. “There’s a lot of different families with different backgrounds and we really liked that,” she says.

Although the location was locked down, it took some time to find the house of their dreams. “We didn’t want to compromise,” she says. “We had a beautiful condo in the Plateau and we wanted to do something better.”

And they did. The house, built in 1885, is full of history and perfect for entertaining, which the pair loves to do. They enlisted the help of friend and designer Brandon Tang of New York-based studio 5th26 for styling and decor. “We decided room by room what to do,” Taheri says. “We don’t have kids, we have a lot of gatherings, we travel a lot, so we wanted the house to really represent who we are and our lifestyle.”

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That meant opening up the space, introducing modern finishes and a black-and-white colour scheme, while still respecting the original features of the house, such as the wood beams and floor, which they sanded and stained. “We wanted to create a new modern place, but keep certain things that are the soul of the house,” says Taheri.

The kitchen’s the first space encountered upon entering and it’s clean and cozy at once. “We really wanted to create an area where people can sit, have discussions, share and eat,” she says. “It’s an area that everybody wants to hang out in” and, critically for her, a space where the cook is not separated from the conversation.

Slick, reflective black cabinetry hides glassware and below-counter shelves store dishes, so the couple have plenty of space to display sentimental items that double as conversation starters. A framed still from the film Reservoir Dogs was a gift to Brassard, in lieu of payment, for an early gig directing music videos. “I kept it all these years,” he says. “I’m proud of him for how far he came, in his career and where he is in life. So, it’s a reminder,” Taheri says. “It’s a very good movie, too,” Brassard adds.

A cookbook is a memento, too, of Taheri’s childhood and a beloved aunt, who gifted it to her upon a return visit to Iran last year. “I cook and entertain [myself] now, but I have my aunt in my mind. It’s like carrying a legacy,” she says.

Another gift, this one from the house’s previous owner, is a century-old swatch of wallpaper, along with a bill of sale for unspecified professional services rendered in the amount of $9.75, in the year 1907. The floral print, tattered and worn, is just as alive with shades of red, coral and green as it must have been when originally installed. It’s now proudly framed and displayed against contemporary subway tile in the couple’s kitchen – past and present living together harmoniously.

Case in point: One of the oldest neighbourhoods in Montreal, Pointe-Saint-Charles has a rich built fabric and a strong sense of growing community. “The buildings are old, but then young people are moving here, and I find it very interesting,” Taheri says.

According to the couple, it might just be the city’s best-kept secret. “It’s amazing that a neighbourhood that close to downtown is still like it is right now,” Brassard says. “There’s something special about this place that people don’t know.”

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Bebe Federmann

Brandon Tang

Bebe Federmann

Location: New York, NY

 

New York based ceramist Bebe Federmann and owner of SoulVesselDesigns is also an instructor at BKLYN clay in Brooklyn, Mud Sweat & Tears in Hell’s Kitchen and an Associate Artist at Brickhouse Ceramics on Long Island City. The artist collaborated with 5th26 on a few special pieces for the home, including tea cups, vases and trays in sepia tones. The process took months of research and collaboration before finalizing each design.

Now that the collection is complete and campaign shot by Christian Larsen, we sit down with Bebe to learn more about her, what she thinks of ceramics in our modern age, and is chemistry really important? (pun intended).

 

1. How do you begin your day at the studio?

 I usually start the day by getting my hands in some clay.  I have a small studio space, so I am either working with clay or glazing. I usually don't do both on the same day, in an effort to keep my studio clean, and things from getting contaminated. 

Bebe Federmann

Bebe Federmann

 

2. How did you become a ceramic artist?

 One day I randomly walked into a bead shop with an idea to make a necklace, I saw a brochure for a local pottery studio, immediately left the store, and signed up for my first class. That was 19 years ago.  I never would've thought that it could turn into a career, but within a few years I was the assistant manager at that same studio and taught classes.  Things have just grown since then.

Photo: BKLYN Clay Studios.  

 

3. Working with clay involves years of experience to develop technique. How long have you been working with clay and how did you develop your technique and style? Did you have a mentor or were you self-taught?

 I have been working with clay for 19 years. My first teacher at a local studio was Randy Blume.  She not only taught me everything I wanted to know, but also eventually made me her assistant.  She encouraged me to take workshops, talk, and meet with other ceramic artists within the community, and to read everything I could get my hands on.  This was before the days of the Internet when the only way to learn was hands-on, not by watching videos or periscope.  I went to every workshop I could and was able to learn from some of the most well regarded artists in my field: Jack Troy, Nick Joerling, Michael Kline...the list goes on and on. 

 

 

4. What do you find most challenging and rewarding about working with clay?

 Clay is an amazing medium to work with.  It is very forgiving and you are only limited by your own imagination.  Firing your creations is a whole different story, and where most of the problems occur.  My motto has always been, "the kiln has the final say".  An error in firing can be devastating (it takes a lot of labor, and a lot of clay, to fill a whole kiln load), but sometimes things go better than expected and that is pure joy.

 Unloading a kiln and seeing finished pieces for the first time is always exciting, no matter how many times you do it!

 

 5. You develop and mix your own glazes. Can you tell us how the process works? Are some colors more difficult than others?

 What most people don't realize is that there is a lot of chemistry involved in the glazing making process.  You need to know how each ingredient will respond to heat, atmosphere, and the other ingredients. Commercial glazes are very popular these days since they are already formulated perfectly for specific firing techniques, but to me that’s cheating.  I think that learning about glazes and learning about different firing techniques is part of the process. I also think there is a little bit of mad scientist and pyromaniac mixed in with being a potter.

Glaze trials for 5th26.

 

6. What inspires your work? 

 I'm inspired by the things I see everyday and by history; Japanese ceramics in particular. There has always been such a respect for the clay and the craft of pottery making.  

 

7. How was your collaboration with 5th26 different from other collaborations you’ve worked on in the past?

 When I've worked on other collaborations I've usually felt like I was given a specific project, without as much room for creativity.  Working with Brandon was a true collaboration, where both our ideas and dialog continually lead us in new directions with the project.  This was the first project of its kind I've worked on, and the most fulfilling.  

5th26 x Bebe Federmann

5th26 x Bebe Federmann

 

8. As an experienced artist, what do you think about the current breadth of work out there today?  

 This is an exciting time for ceramics, with social media having a tremendous effect on the popularity of handmade objects. Sometimes I think this trend is more focused on design and less on craftsmanship.  When I was first learning ceramics I was taught to focus first on my technique, then once it was mastered, to find my own unique voice.  The modern world sometimes works in reverse, where artists are designing objects based on trends rather than through mastery of their craft. 

 

9. You live and work in New York City. What do you love most and least about it?

 I love the energy of the city!  A couple of years ago I started splitting my time between Brooklyn and Long Island.  Having a studio in the suburbs allows for greater creativity with glazing and firing, where you need more space, and better ventilation. I love having both a "country" life and a "city" life. There’s nothing quite like escaping an urban environment every once in awhile, and just sitting and watching the ocean waves.    

 

 

Christian Larsen

Brandon Tang

New York based photographer Christian Larsen shot our collection of jewelry, objects and furniture in a series of tableaus.

Collaborating with his wife, jewelry designer Vanessa Fatton, Christian combines contrast and perspective to capture images which are pure and minimal, echoing a Scandinavian and Japanese spirit.  After the shoot, we caught up with Christian to find out where he'd like to travel next and what is his favorite travel souvenir.

The photographer, self portrait for "Journeys In A Room"    www.christianlarsenphoto.com   Instagram  @beforemyeye

The photographer, self portrait for "Journeys In A Room"

 www.christianlarsenphoto.com

Instagram @beforemyeye

 

1.    How do you begin your day at the studio?

Simply and with an open mind….coffee helps too.

 

2.    What inspires you as a photographer?

I know it sounds cliché, but everything inspires me. A scene in a movie, a walk in my neighborhood, a conversation, being on the subway. For me it’s all about tuning into and focus on being inspired, to truly look at what’s around you; I believe that no matter the situation you can always find something that will inspire you, even when life turns sad or negative.

 

3.    What is the most rewarding part of your work?

Working with creative people to produce new and interesting ways of perceiving our world visually.

 

4.    5TH26’s founder and designer Brandon Tang was drawn to your work taken during your travels and has a portrait of a tribesman you took on a trip to Mozambique in his studio. How does traveling influence your work?

Traveling inspires my work immensely! There is an unlimited trove of inspiration to be found when embarking on a journey and moving makes you perceive things in a new light.

Like my fellow Dane and author Hans Christian Andersen said, “....To travel is to live.”  

Mozambique tribesman, 2012

Mozambique tribesman, 2012

 

5.    The 5TH26 collection is made up of various home décor objects created by different artisans and in different materials and forms.  With each piece being so individual from each other, how did you approach the shoot in order to give a clear and curated point of view?

I tried to observe the contrast between the individual pieces and play with the juxtaposition of the materials, for example the lacquered trays with the organically shaped vases etc.  And choosing the stark, graphic white environment elevates the products and makes their features stand out. 

Using mostly daylight for the main pictures, also adds a great mood to the shots.

Christian Larsen for 5th26. 

Christian Larsen for 5th26. 

 

6.    Originally from Denmark, and now a New Yorker, what do you like the most and the least about the city?

Most: The amazing energy.

Least: How that energy can negatively affect people.
 

 

7.    As a seasoned traveler, can you share with us:

Favorite city to visit?

So many to choose from, but have to say Tokyo is always a city that gives so much on so many levels. Paris is a close second.

 

Furthest place you traveled?

Jack’s Camp by The Makgadikgadi salt pan in the Kalahari desert in Botswana! The journey to reach the camp involved planes, trains and automobile extravaganza that took two and a half day from New York.

But standing on the salt pan, the silence so deafening you could hear your own blood rushing through your head, was nothing short of a life altering experience. well worth the long haul.

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Where do you want to go next?

Again, so many to choose from, but have been eyeing Jordan; want to see Petra (the famous rose-red city carved into stone walls) before it’s too late. 

Petra, Jordan 

Petra, Jordan 

 

Favorite souvenir you picked up while traveling and why? 

During a job in Kenya, we stayed in a coastal city called Lamù. One day I stumbled onto a carpenters shop, who build and restored the local Dhow’s (traditional one masted sailing boat). The Dhow has a ornamented board on each side of the bow, a beautiful and colorful piece of local craftsmanship. It functions as a safeguard for the fishing boats and its crew, bringing good luck and fruitful harvest at sea. I gravitated towards one that was in the back of the store and asked if I could purchase it, the carpenter was very reluctant, but after a long persuasive conversation and explanation that I was from a nautical country myself, the carpenter agreed to sell it to me.

But the lucky charm came with instructions; the carpenter told me it was imperative that I positioned the board over the entryway of my house or apartment, because it was said it would allow good fortune to pass through the entry and safeguard the home from any evil or wrong doing individuals. To this day it hangs over my doorway in my apartment in Brooklyn, which has been kept safe ever since (knock on wood)!

Kenyan Dhow

Kenyan Dhow

 

Checker Throw

Brandon Tang

In 2004, I traveled across Western Turkey from Istanbul, South to Bodrum then North through Cappadocia in the Anatolian mountains. It was before starting college and before the beginning of my career.

Throughout my trip I noticed beautifully woven fabric that the locals took to the beach or worn as a shawl. I later found out that they were called Pestemals, a traditional towel made of the softest Turkish cotton.  In our latest collaboration, the studio has developed its own version of the traditional Pestemal, larger in size with a pattern that is recognized and used throughout history and by all cultures, the check.

Brandon Tang

Founder


Nestled in the Aegean region of Turkey, near the ancient Greek ruins of Laodicea on the Lycus, our Checker throw is made by artisans who continue the traditional art of weaving, where skills are passed down through the generations. We caught up with Nergis Altun and Kaan Osmancik, the newest generation of artisans keeping these skills alive to ask a few questions, and what sets Turkish cotton apart from other cottons.

 

Nergis Altun & Kaan Osmancik

Location: Turkey

 

 1.   You are based in Istanbul, but where are the throws made?

 All of our pieces are made in a small village outside Denizli, located in the Aegean region of Turkey.  The area is known for the ancient Greek ruins of Laodicea on the Lycus. In the 1st century B.C. it was a center for textiles, and today the city of Denizli has a large textile industry.

Laodicea on the Lycus.

Laodicea on the Lycus.

 

2.   How did you become involved in weaving?

 We are proud of our heritage and culture. Weaving has a long tradition and the artistic skills continue to be passed down from father to son. Turkey (Anatolia or Asia Minor as its known historically) has a rich history to draw from, and textiles were the starting point for us. 

 

3.   Where do you get your yarns from and how are they treated?

 We only use Turkish cotton, which is known for its quality. The cotton is grown in the Eastern Mediterranean region of Turkey where the climate is sunny with very little rain, which is the perfect environment for growing cotton. The yarns are then finished and dyed in Denizli without any chemical treatment.

A Turkish cotton field.

A Turkish cotton field.

A farmer inspecting the harvested cotton.

A farmer inspecting the harvested cotton.

Turkish cotton being sold on the market.

Turkish cotton being sold on the market.

 

 4. What are the qualities of Turkish Cotton compared to other cottons?

Turkish cotton has long and narrow fibers which gives a higher thread count per square inch. It also has a natural shine, is very absorbent and incredibly soft. Because of these natural qualities, it undergoes less chemical treatment than other cottons.

Checker throw in Ivory/White.

Checker throw in Ivory/White.

 

 5.   The loom is vital in creating these beautiful throws. Can you tell us more about the looms you use?

 We have three kinds of looms and we use all of them to give different effects and touches. We have wooden handlooms that have been used for centuries in Turkey; these looms have been passed down through the generations, hence the origin of the word, “heirloom”. The second looms are vintage from the 1940s, and the third are Swiss made automatic looms manufactured between 1975 and 1985 called Sulzer Looms.

A traditional handloom.

A traditional handloom.

1970s Swiss Sulzer loom.

1970s Swiss Sulzer loom.

 

 6.   You collaborated with 5TH26 in creating an oversized throw. How was the experience and what were the challenges?

 The experience was great and we learned a lot from each other. Brandon has a clear vision of what he wants, and was very involved in the process. He is knowledgable about the loom which makes it easier for us to speak the same technical language.

The samples took a lot of time to develop because even though the classic checker pattern is simple, it is difficult to guarantee that each square's measurement is exact because of the hand and mechanic process it takes to make each piece. Furthermore, the size of the throw is custom for 5TH26 so it was hard to control how the fibers will react. As a result, we had to establish tolerance for each square, so actually no two pieces are alike!

5th26 checker throw in Ivory/White.

5th26 checker throw in Ivory/White.

Checker detail. Due to the nature of the looming process, tolerance was given to each square's measurement.

Checker detail. Due to the nature of the looming process, tolerance was given to each square's measurement.

 

 7.   What do you find most challenging and rewarding about working with textiles?

 Rather than perceiving it as a job or a business, we accept is as an art form. We want to keep Turkey’s traditional craft alive and be able to modernize and take it forward. To achieve this gives us energy and great reward.

 

 8.   What inspires you and your work?

 We are inspired by nature. The texture of leaves or the form of a plant can inspire us. Also, all details of life: a good film, a trip to a historical city, or travel somewhere with scenic beauty can motivate and inspire us.

 

 9. You live and work in Istanbul, one of the most beautiful, cultural and exotic countries in the world. Can you tell us what you like the most and least about it?

 In recent years, Istanbul has become a metropolis rather than a city. The population has over 15 million inhabitants. Because it’s so vast, we feel that it lacks nature and green spaces. Having said that, Istanbul has the Bosphorus and when we see and feel the water it re-charges us.

The energy of Istanbul is like no other. It is the only city that rests on two continents and each side, whether Asia or Europe has a different energy.

Istanbul's Sultan Ahmed Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque overlooking the Bosphorus.  Photo: Rayan M.

Istanbul's Sultan Ahmed Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque overlooking the Bosphorus.

Photo: Rayan M.

 

 

 

 

 

Huseyin Artik

Brandon Tang

Hüseyin Artik

Location: Eskisehir, Turkey

 

Designed in New York and handmade in Turkey by ceramicist Hüseyin Artik, 5TH26’s first vase collection of oblong, asymmetric and bud shaped vases are made using traditional techniques with a modern sensibility.  After a few months of finishing up the collection, we caught up with Hüseyin in his light filled studio on how he developed his technique and what he finds most challenging and rewarding when working with clay.

 

 

 

 

 

How do you begin the day at the studio?

First I make myself a cup of coffee. After that, I prepare the studio, review my notes, and sketches before starting the day. 

 

How did you become a ceramic artist?

I studied fine art with a special focus on studio ceramics.

Working with clay involves years of experience to develop technique. How long have you been making ceramics for, and how did you develop your technique?

I have worked with clay for nine years and there are a lot of ways one can make ceramics. My preference is to use the potter’s wheel, which takes a lot of practice and patience. When beginning on a new piece I spend eight to ten hours a day over a long period getting familiar with the clay and how it reacts to the form I am developing. In doing so, it strengthens the bond between the material and myself. Eventually, technique comes naturally from intuition and touch. I allow my hands to connect with the clay as it forms with the motion of the wheel.

 

What do you find most challenging and rewarding about working with clay?

There are a lot of surprises when working with clay and moments when you cannot go back. It takes time to finish each piece and you cannot expect it to be exactly as you imagined. There are a many steps and processes involved in making a piece: the clay dries, it shrinks, then there is firing, more shrinkage and finally glazing and glaze firing. Each step involves the piece to go through an evolution and it becomes different from start to finish. Not knowing what finally comes out of the kiln can be both challenging and rewarding.

 

Ceramics have been a part of our culture for thousands of years. Having such a history, how do you like to work with the material? 

The potter’s wheel is a primitive technique with a long history, which I respect.  I like to use this technique when working because I feel more connected to each piece and the clay. Because each piece is handmade, sometimes you can you can see my hand print on the pieces.

 

What inspires you and your work?

Clay lives, breathes, and it talks to you. Humanity began with clay and we all end up as clay so I try not to use glaze as often as I can so when you touch a piece you can feel its rawness and life.

 

Your collaboration with 5TH26 involved creating new shapes such as asymmetric and oblong vases. What was your process in creating the collection for 5TH26?

 The techniques remained the same, as each vase is wheel thrown and hand shaped. However, the finishing process was different because I had to give each piece its flattened imprint for the asymmetric vase while the clay was still malleable. The oblong vases was first hand shaped and then finalized after many prototypes were created to get the right proportion and form. In order to replicate, I create a slip cast that allows for production. However, even with a cast, each piece still requires hand finishes which makes each piece unique.  

 

This was your first collaboration outside your work. How was your experience?

It was a great experience. Brandon and I share a common aesthetic and respect for the material so it allowed for mutual understanding and artistic interpretation. 

 

You live and work in Eskisehir, Turkey a beautiful city on the banks of the Porsuk River. Can you tell us what you like the most and least about it?

Eskisehir is a European heritage city that is rich is history and culture. There are two universities here so it has a large student population that makes the city feel young. The area was home to the ancient civilizations of the Hittite and Phrygian. In Greek mythology, King Midas lived in the Phrygian city of Pessinus. Even though we have a Mediterranean climate, winters in Eskisehir can be very cold.

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     H   üseyin Artik        

Hüseyin Artik

 

GT Sectra Font

Brandon Tang

Sectra-2.png
GT Sectra is a serif typeface combining the calligraphic influence of the broad nib pen with the sharpness of the scalpel knife.

GT Sectra is a serif typeface combining the calligraphic influence of the broad nib pen with the sharpness of the scalpel knife.

rich based design studios Moiré and Grilli Type took years to develop and design GT Display Sectra, 5th26's logo typeface.  

In an increasingly digital and searchable world, we spoke with Grilli Type’s co-founder Theirry Blancpain on his design process, what inspires him and how the best way to create something new is to look at something old.

GT Sectra

GT Sectra

Grilli Type's founders Theirry Blancpain & Noël Leu

Grilli Type's founders Theirry Blancpain & Noël Leu

How did you get involved in typeface design?

I started designing simple geometric typefaces in the years before I attended design school, and then at school I met like-minded friends. There was no formal type-design training available, so we started what we jokingly called a self-help group. Every Friday we sat together and showed each other what weve been working on.

GT Sectra is a modern font with geometric lines, yet it was inspired by calligraphy which is more historic. Where do you get your inspiration from and does it often involve opposite forces?

At Grilli Type, we release the type design from a group of friends. GT Sectra was designed by Marc Kappeler and Dominik Huber from Zurich-based design studio Moiré, as well as Grilli Type co-founder Noël Leu. I note this because every person works differently, and we all complement each other in our work and our views.

For GT Sectra itself, it was a case of working on the design again and again over the span of about three years. During those years it was already in use in the long-form journalism magazine Reportagen, also designed by Moiré, and its profile and concept came into focus over that time. Seeing it in use, in print, allows you to see which things work and which dont, and so it slowly took shape and became more and more what we released to the public. But generally speaking, we are always interested in marrying concept and form into an overall interesting package. Form alone is often boring, and concept alone isnt design yet. Developing a concept and finding the right form for it is the interesting part.

Everyday we are exposed to visual language, from the products we use to the world around us. Do they influence your work?

Surely we are all influenced by the things around us. Generally I am more interested in older things, as looking at too much contemporary work by others just leads to an eternal feedback loop that seems quite superficial to me.

How long does it take to create a new typeface and what does the process involve?

Typefaces take a long, long time to bring to the level we want to have them at. GT Sectra took about three years of on-and-off work by three people. Another upcoming release, planned for 2016, started its first incarnation in 2008. Other designs are a bit faster, but it always takes thousands of hours of work to create the now nearly thousand characters that are required to support a wide array of languages, and to bring the design to a level that satisfies us.

Your fonts and typefaces have been used in various printed publications including OFFWAYS Magazine, Reportage and GQ. With and increase in digital apps that allow content to be viewed with a swipe or click, do you think there will be a need for more unique typefaces in the future or is the demand generated by print content first?

Of course reproduction of type plays a role in how it functions, but we are not primarily concerned with that in the design of our typefaces. The typefaces are tools, and their usage is either well done or not. Luckily we have a large number of great customers who create amazing work with our typefaces  in print and on screen. 

What can a brands chosen logo or typeface tells us about it?

Design influences and steers our perception of content. In the case of a brand, many things come together, and need to be congruent: the design needs to fit the actual voice of the brand, the people behind it, the company and how it communicates with its customers. All of those things need to fit for a great brand, not just the typeface. But of course its a start.

You live and work in Zurich. Can you tell us what you like the most and least about it?

Zurich is an incredibly green city, with about 40% of the city’s area being parks and forests. I never appreciated that until I traveled more. For its size its a very culturally rich city, with lots of concerts and exhibitions going on, but its still a small city compared to cities like Tokyo, London, or New York.

GT Sectra used in OFFWAYS Magazine. Photo by  Nils Laengner

GT Sectra used in OFFWAYS Magazine. Photo by Nils Laengner

Stone Carving by Matthew Johnson

Stone Carving by Matthew Johnson

Photos: GrilliType

Logo

Brandon Tang

The 5th26 logo took over six months and over fifty variations to design.

The starting point was the crossing of Fifth Avenue and Twenty Sixth Street, which gives the studio its name. These cross streets occupy an area in the North Madison Square District or NoMad as it is called today. The neighborhood’s Neo-Classical, Moorish Revival, and Beaux-Arts architecture have inspired artists, photographers and travelers alike. 

Eliott Erwitt, Flatiron Building 1969  

Eliott Erwitt, Flatiron Building 1969  

Between the 1870s to the 1930s it was the social and commercial center of New York. The area was home to major hotels, clubs and commercial buildings including the iconic Flatiron Building.

Given the rich historic context of the location, the logo had to be simple, visual and modern. Numbers were used instead of words to minimize horizontal space, while a stylized slash helped to create a subtle separation between the two locales but at the same time bind them.

Once the draft design was finalized, various typefaces were explored. After many months of trials and research, Founder & Designer Brandon Tang chose GT Sectra for the brand's logo.

Designed by Zurich based Marc Kappeler and Dominik Huber of Moiré, and Grilli Type’s Noël Leu and Thierry Blancpain, GT Sectra is a contemporary typeface inspired by "combining the calligraphy of the broad nib pen with the sharpness of the scalpel knife".