Gradually, then Suddenly

Suddenly, exponential curves (and the flattening of them) are on everybody’s mind. So it came to mind to make a print with one. Letterpress, being based on grids and right angles and straight lines, does not easily lend itself to curves of any kind. You can use pieces of type that have curves, or carve a block, or you can try try to approximate the curve you want out of type ornaments, or you can bend a piece of brass rule to the curve you want. None of these really worked for what I wanted to do, so I set about building an approximation of an exponential curve using many straight pieces of brass rule, placed at gradually increasing slopes–and then carefully wedging them all in place together using spacing.

It’s a little sloppy, but conveys the point. Someday I might revisit this basic idea with more mathematical precision. Letterpress ought to work well for that since all the pieces are in precise regular sizes.

Once I had this the way I wanted it, I started thinking about text to go with it. This is such a strange time we are all in right now. It seems like everything changed very suddenly, but we can look back and see things have been building to this for months. It called to mind a famous passage from Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises:

“How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked.
“Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually, then suddenly.”

Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

And there we have it.

I fear, though, that we are still in the gradually part of the curve. Hang in there everyone, probably lots more change to come.

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Washboard Press