Yorklyn Stencil Project

Yorklyn Stencil Project

Yorklyn Stencil started as a collaboration to create ceramic clocks with our friends at Heath Ceramics.

Design a clock face—easy, right? Just take twelve numbers, put them in order, arrange them in a circle, and you’re done. Due to some inconvenient mathematical rules, however, three of those twelve numbers have two digits, and if you put them in the right order, those three two-digit numbers form a naturally unbalanced layout by all appearing in the upper left quadrant of the circle. Dammit. So then you start printing out full-sized proofs of the clock face; hang them up all over the studio; stare, squint and curse at them; then convince Ken Barber that his original drawings were indeed not perfect, at least for this application, and have him delicately fatten up the numbers in the lower right quadrant to achieve the visual balance we all want in our clock faces (and in our lives for that matter). After more proofing, staring, squinting, cursing, and redrawing, we finally arrive at a satisfying symmetry that we can pass off to the folks at Heath Ceramics to make clocks. Phew, job’s done, let’s move on to the next thing.

Not so fast. In our make-believe world of graphic design, we often forget that staring at pixels, fiddling with digital vectors and magnetically fusing carbon particles to paper do not reflect reality. Those dreamy little breaks and high-contrast strokes that made our eyes so happy proved to be nightmare to Heath’s ceramicists because they kept breaking in the firing process. So Ken went back to the drawing board once again to gradually fatten up the most delicate strokes until we were able to bridge the gap between what we thought was perfect and what the limitations of the medium would allow.

In the midst of the clock project, we decided to take over the vacant space underneath our studio and convert it into a gallery that we could keep clean and periodically visit to chin stroke some of the stuff we made. Those stencil numbers we made for the Heath clocks were still burned into our brains from staring at them so much, so we decided to celebrate the new space by using them to paint our street address on the building. Then we thought that if we were going to have a House gallery, then we had to brand it somehow. A working typeface is always helpful for branding projects, so Ken drew a bunch of letters to go with the original stencil numbers. Ken had also preserved all of the iterations from the clock-casting debacle, so he used those variations as a basis for three different size masters, using the original, most delicate strokes for the version to be used at large sizes (in the unlikely event that someone might do something silly like paint them on the side of a building).