Looking back: 26 Words

- Martin Lee

Our collaborative projects have always been at the heart of 26. The archive of those projects does sit proudly on our website, and can be accessed by members at any time, but we thought it would be a good idea to use the newsletter to bring some of the classic projects more actively into the light. So this is the first in an occasional series highlighting some of the golden oldies.

26 Words ran in 2013 and was a collaboration with The Letter Exchange, a wonderful like-minded organisation of lettering artists. Writers were randomly paired with artists to form 26 collaborative partnerships. At the start of the project, each pair then chose a word to represent each letter of the alphabet, by inserting a knife into the correct alphabetical section of the Shorter Oxford dictionary for their letter. As a result, we ended up with a gloriously bizarre collection of words, from ‘acidulate’ to ‘zaffre’, via well-known words like ‘hearse’ and ‘wave’, and frankly obscure ones like ‘qag’ and ‘naviculoid’. It was then up to each pair to interpret their word as they saw fit, with the constraint only being that they’d have to be of a suitable size to be exhibited at the Free Word Centre in Farringdon Road, London. 

The diversity of work was joyful. A couple of the final images are reproduced here, as examples of the superb work that was created. There was also a permanent record of the project, in the shape of the project book. We still have copies for sale of this book, and in a desire to a) give a real member benefit and b) bring some of our previous projects to a wider audience, we’re offering this book now for half its original price  The book also includes the creation stories – accounts from both the writer and artist as to how their final piece came to be. These are warm and lively insights into the collaborations, and a testament to how two heads are always more creative than one.

Click here to go through to the 26 Words microsite and spend much more time looking through the project archive. Or visit our shop to buy your very own copy of the book.

– Martin Lee

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