Some time back I read Diggers, Hatters & Whores by Steven Eldred-Gigg—a historic reference to the New Zealand gold rushes in the 1850s. There’s something really fascinating and actually unbelievable about the daily hardships of the people living in NZ during those times.
A friend of mine and I often joke about our hatred of wearing a scratchy woolen jersey next to our skin. The joke would normally progress by each of us suggesting ideas of how this scenario could possibly be made worse. Which eventually would escalate into ridiculous things like, “getting sand poured down your back”, “honey from a sandwich gets smeared on the neck of your jersey”, “your jersey is soaking wet, and you happen to be under a car trying to change the oil”. So I sit here with a cup of tea, thinking of those men and woman in their woolen undergarments, itching away in their search for gold and a better life. How awful.
During that time I had Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian on my bedside table and I had exchanged my 8hrs sleep for the HBO series Dead Wood. It seemed the dirt of the gold diggers eventually got under my nails and I felt the need to create something to fulfill my fascination of the old. I decided to cobble together a typeface which I based the on an few early NZ stamps. Though these were dated a while after the gold rushes, they were still relatively reflective of the type style of the time. They are incredibly beautiful things. I really admire the craft and skill that had gone into creating those illustrations. The printing method at the time passed a sheet of stone through a press to squeeze out the artist’s intended vision onto some porous sheet of paper. And the way the ink sits on bleeds on the paper gives the final print a human quality.
The lettering on the stamps were drawn specifically for that purpose. It wasn’t a ‘font’ as such. I would consider the lettering part of the illustration. The hand drawn nature of the lettering created some wonderful irregularities and some over exaggerated features which I have tried to capture in some form. It is a work in progress and in time I hope to develop and refine it into usable display face.
Below is my take at digitising the letterforms from the stamp. I’ve loosely titled the typeface ‘Kereru’. The thought being that the lumbering bird was no stranger to the NZ postal service and was clearly up to the task once again.
Pigeons at work.