In 2004, P22 Type Foundry, the successful Buffalo-based type design company led by local designer and Western New York Book Arts Center co-founder Richard Kegler, acquired a 117-year-old type foundry based in British Columbia.
The legendary Lanston Type Company, which once employed the pre-eminent type designer Frederic Goudy, had by that time firmly entered the digital age. But among its former designers, the company's historical dedication to the handmade metal type that gradually fell out of use by the middle of the 20th century, had not disappeared entirely.
In the process of bringing Lanston under the P22 umbrella, Kegler came across Jim Rimmer, a former Lanston designer and illustrator who remained committed to the laborious and painstaking process of creating typefaces by hand. "Making Faces," Kegler's 45-minute documentary about Rimmer's work, grew out of the pair's brief and productive artistic kinship.
The film, which Kegler shot across eight days while visiting Rimmer in his studio outside Vancouver, will screen at 7 tonight in Squeaky Wheel. It documents the process of creating a new metal typeface from scratch. Though that prospect might strike boredom into the hearts of some potential viewers, Kegler's approach and Rimmer's personality add up to a film that gets to the heart of the deep human drive to create.
"Most typefaces are made on the computer, but they originated with techniques going back 500 years to Gutenberg, of pretty meticulous, painstaking techniques that have such very subtle nuances," Kegler said. "I often use in comparison, the slow food movement. Yeah, you can go through a McDonald's drive-thru or you could cultivate some heirloom tomatoes. All the attention to detail really has a certain quality that you just can't quantify with a bottom line."
Since the film was first released in 2009 (Rimmer died, of cancer, the following year) Kegler has toured it around the world to venues large and small. The reaction, he said, has been universally positive.
"Some of the most interested people were people who had no background in graphic arts or type, they just came out to see the documentary," Kegler said.
"They thought it was going to be super-technical and geeky, but it turned out that there was kind of a universal appeal of just the idea of what motivates somebody to make something with their hands."
"Making Faces" and Q&A with filmmaker Richard Kegler
WHEN: 7 tonight
WHERE: Squeaky Wheel, 712 Main St.
TICKETS: $5 to $7
INFO: 884-7212 or www.squeaky.org