- BC Games
Reflections of Typography shows at West Van gallery
Scavenging through booths at a flea market, Nicholas Purcell found a treasure — a vintage typography set in a metal box.
The ornate letters in a collection of 60 or so designs have been worn down, stained with blue and black ink.
Intrigued by the old letter blocks, the woodworker created his newest collection of handmade furniture around the set.
Purcell worked in graphic design before he became an artist and woodworker and used to design letters before computers took over.
His “functional artwork” can be seen in Reflections of Typography at the Bellevue Gallery in Dundarave until mid-July.
Quoin, his favourite piece, is a sleek desk made form a single plank of English Ripple Sycamore. A drawer, in darker Ripple Western Maple, has silver-plated type pieces as hardware for each lid.
“I would expect people to use this,” Purcell says of Quoin, which doubles as a piece of art and a usable desk. “It might not necessarily be practical if there are little kids around, but it’s functional, not purely for art’s sake.
“I want to design pieces that are so beautiful that they border on art.”
He takes a similar approach to the other work at the exhibit.
Take Copperplate, a low-sitting coffee table handmade from Macassar Ebony and Swiss Pear with a copper plate that can be moved along the top.
It’s a statement piece for any sitting room but also doubles as a functional table, complete with a magazine rack disguised on one side and, of course, an embedded vintage type piece.
“Copper is extremely expensive right now,” says the woodworker, explaining why the metal isn’t used more often.
Purcell always had a passion for woodworking but knew graphic design was a practical career choice. But 13 years ago he decided to follow his calling and moved his family to an English village to learn from David Charlesworth, a master furniture maker. After training for a year, he returned to Canada to start his new career.
“I’m very careful with my usage of wood. This wood was a small leftover bundle,” he says, pointing to the coffee table he praises as environmentally friendly. “I want to make pieces that aren’t disposable, that people want to keep.”
His largest piece, The Malala Table/ Hugs and Stitches, has special meaning to Purcell. He made it in honour of Malala Yousafzai, a 15-year-old activist from Pakistan who was shot in the head while fighting for access to education for girls. Two splits in the large Big Leaf Maple slab caught Purcell’s attention. He inlaid X and O bronze letters, the “hugs and stitches,” to mend the slits.
“There is often so much tension in wood that it splits,” he explains, looking at the longest split in the shape of a lightning bolt. The Xs and Os represent Malala’s recovery after the brazen attack.
A portion of money from the sale will be donated to Ratanak International, a Canadian organization that supports children overseas.
Reflections of Typography is at the Bellevue Gallery (2475 Bellevue Ave., West Vancouver) until mid-July.