As I began envisioning Ombré Gallery, it was important to me that I support local artists and businesses whenever and wherever possible. While this gallery focuses on contemporary art jewelry, art and design touches aspects of our lives many do not give regular consideration. Whether it's the cabinetmaker designing a dovetail joint on a drawer in a jewelry display or a glassblower annealing a wine glass from which you will toast at one of our exhibition openings, there is an artisan behind the object. This time, I was simply looking for signage for the gallery's window.
I took a walk around Cincinnati's neighborhoods like Over-the-Rhine, Oakley, Hyde Park, Walnut Hills, and Mt. Lookout to see what local shops and galleries were using on their windows. Vinyl was the lettering most often chosen to identify their stores. It is an affordable and easy solution as well as something that could be quickly ordered and made via the computer. However, my windows were calling for something else, but I didn't know what! I remembered seeing this bold, beautiful, and bright lettering that caught my eye at M5 Espresso, a coffee shop in Hyde Park. So, I went to speak to the owner and found out that they hired artist, Nicholas Moegly, who hand painted their windows. Hand paint! Now this sounds like something I can get behind! It turns out, that it was more than just painting, it is a technique called hand-lettering.
Moegly is an artist, graphic designer, hand-letterer, and illustrator and a native to Cincinnati. He worked directly with graphic designer and the creator of the Ombré Gallery's logo, Andrea McLearen, to bring the brand's identity to life on the windows. McLearen is a graduate of Ohio University and also a Cincinnati native. She graphically captured my vision and connection to Mid-century modernist jeweler Margaret De Patta and lapidary Francis Sperisen's opticut gemstones for our gallery's iconic pattern. Moegly expressed this graphic by using one type of a hand-lettering technique called water-guilding with 23K gold leaf sheets. It wasn't lost on me that the gold has a wonderful refractive quality - as was the intention of DePatta and Sperisen's opticuts.
Moegly advised that, "hand-lettering can be traced all the way back to King Tuts' tomb." Hand-lettering for storefronts originated in England and then was brought over to America when people immigrated here to New York, Chicago, San Francisco, etc. There is currently a revitalization of the technique and artists like Moegly are great advocates for this pastime. The technique requires layering of gold leaf sheets or using powdered gold and then applying a gelatin to set. Sitting on his artist stool and with his guilders tip in hand, Moegly painstakingly smoothed away rough edges to perfection, step by step.
After a few days of watching Moegly's art in action, I have a deeper appreciation for sign painting. The beauty of hand-lettering is that it ages well over time. Vinyl lettering, fades and cracks and needs to be replaced every few years. Like so many things in our lives, design can sometimes have a built in obsolescence. Perhaps this gallery was able to bypass such a turn...at least for our windows.
We look forward to seeing everyone walk through our doors on November 25th for our opening.