When the world thinks “typographic sculpture,” the paradigm is Robert Indiana’s “Love.” When I think of the most playful and eccentric typographic sculptures, June Corley’s work comes immediately to mind. She creates typographic creatures building, in part, on the personality evoked by each letterform (mostly metal sign and wood types) into characters with character. She still enjoys doing art direction and graphic design when given the opportunity, but lately most of her creativity goes into sculptures.
About the more than 140 she’s made since 2012, Corley writes:
1. My 30-year collection of vintage sign letters and letterpress wood type.2. My love to “play with type” as a graphic designer.3. The visual concepting skills I learned as an advertising art director.4. My attraction to and huge collection of found objects that resemble faces.5. My STRONG desire to create with my hands as well as my head. …”
When did you start making creatures out of type forms, and why?
I started making them after moving from Atlanta to a small cabin in Loachapoka, AL. I had no room to display my huge collection of old signage letters and what-nots, and as they were all scattered about on top of each other, I begin to see possibilities of combining them to become something else. I put together some letters and created a dozen sculptures, took photos, and made small booklets to give to friends for Christmas. I received lots of compliments, and a book ended up in the hands of a curator for a local gallery. She asked if I could make more for a show. … I made 30 and haven’t stopped making them since.
Creating with old signage letters and type forms satisfies my inner graphic designer, but most importantly, it gives me a parameter to work with … maybe more of a challenge and sometimes a bit limiting, but I’d probably go nuts if I could create with ANY and ALL discarded objects.
How do you acquire your raw materials, which appear to come from signs, wood type and other wonderfully rare sources?
I had a huge collection of used signage letters that I started finding in Atlanta salvage yards in the early 1980s. Most of those letters were used in my first year or two of creating sculptures, so now I have to hunt for them … at antique fairs, neon sign companies (they toss the old ones when replacing new signs) and many other places, even eBay. …
Also, since my childhood I’ve been attracted to found objects that look like faces. … I still am and now have a massive “face” collection. Many end up on my sculptures, and some of the letters themselves (‘A’s, ‘R’s, ‘O’s) make wonderful faces.
Your Flickr page is rich with imagery—who and how excited is your audience?
I’m not sure … I have lots of repeat buyers. The American Craft Council shows are always huge self-esteem boosters; I love to listen to the comments and see all the smiles. I find people in design or art related fields are attracted to them most. And I love it that sometimes children see the letters and numbers in my sculptures before their parents do. (I haven’t really marketed my sculptures, have never contacted magazines, creative publications or even galleries … I know, not good.)
What do you call your sculptures?
“Typographic sculptures” seems to be the overall description used, but it feels a little stiff at times. As for titles, mostly I name each sculpture with the letters or numbers used in creating it. Doing that also helps people look for the letters in the sculpture when they see them in the title. I make a lot of nondescript creatures, and I really prefer not to say it’s a cat or dog or whatever; I’d like the audience see what they want to see.
What’s on the horizon?
I have about a dozen sculptures “assembled but not put together” on my shop floor (how I work—I stand over them) and I’ll be finishing some of those for an Auburn University alumni art show I’ll be in this August. And maybe for an upcoming show in October. I’ll keep creating smaller sculptures, making them more detailed, finer, exact … but at the same time I want to do larger, more “loose” sculptures, which brings me to … I’m VERY excited about my acquisition of more than 60 medium to large (5 feet!) old neon sign letters last April. I want to create larger sculptures that can go outside, and also plan to make tables and other functional objects with the letters … maybe even use one as a bridge over a creek that goes around the cabin.
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