I love some kitschy bullshit.Alexa Edgerton
Every year, when 36 Days of Type rolls around, I’m giddy with excitement for the stellar lettering work that will inevitably flood my Instagram feed. I always discover new artists doing innovative and exciting things with type that stop me dead in my scroll. This past iteration of the online challenge, which ran from mid-April to mid-May, was no exception, with one artist in particular taking the cake …
Pun absolutely intended.
Alexa Edgerton is a brand designer and lettering artist, but those who came upon her work through 36 Days of Type, like me, might initially have thought she was a baker. That’s because the letters she created for the challenge look like delicious letter-shaped cakes fresh out of a whimsical bakery from a fairytale. Edgerton made four letters (A, L, E, and X), each built by hand using styrofoam, paint, and spackle.
My sweet tooth activated, I reached out to Edgerton to learn more about this project and her broader personal design ethos.
How did you first get into hand lettering? What’s your lettering origin story?
Like a lot of my fellow lettering artists, I’ve been excited about drawing letters since a really young age. I spent a lot of time with my grandparents as a kid, and they really pushed the idea of having good handwriting. Most kids would have probably hated practicing cursive, but I was stoked on it, and eventually started experimenting with calligraphy for fun. My love for drawing and calligraphy just naturally led to messing around with lettering.
Did you go to art school to hone your craft or are you self taught?
I went to college at Kendall College of Art & Design, majoring in graphic design. I experimented a bit with lettering in school after being inspired by artists who were resurging its popularity at the time. However, I’d say I really dove into it about five years ago, after years of admiring others’ work.
How would you describe your artistic aesthetic?
I’m really inspired by vintage ephemera and ornamentation. I definitely draw a healthy dose of filigree, and I’ve always been fascinated with decorative design whether it’s in print, fashion, or architecture. I love things that are beautiful just for the sake of it—that someone took years of practice to create. I’m definitely a “more is more” person.
So that, but like, made by a person who doesn’t take themselves too seriously. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Like many, I first came upon your work through your incredible cake letter series featured on 36 Days of Type. Where did the idea for that series come from? What was the execution process like? Are you planning on taking that concept further in any way?
I stumbled on a video of someone making a fake cake online and found the whole process fascinating— which, honestly, is kind of a miracle considering my aversion to crafting. However, I love some kitschy bullshit, and when 36 Days of Type came around, it dawned on me that I could make a fake cake in the shape of a letter. As anyone who has participated in 36 Days of Type will know, it is a ton of work. Having partaken twice before, I didn’t think I had time to draw a letter every day, so I decided to use it as an excuse to try something new.
In the end, I made four letters and spent an arm and a leg on props and spackle, but it was worth it.Alexa Edgerton
Originally, I only planned on making one cake. Somehow, I thought it would be easier than drawing. This was incredibly naive because the process of making each cake took about three days. I had to design and cut the letter from styrofoam, mix paint with spackle and cover the cake, wait for that to dry, and then design and decorate the rest of the cake— all while learning to use piping bags.
I have a background in set styling and thought it would be fun to style a tea party-inspired photo to bring the whole idea to life. I thrifted a bunch of fun props and shot the entire thing in my backyard with my husband. To my surprise, the photo was featured on the 36 Days of Type Instagram and kinda’ blew up, so I committed to doing a few more. In the end, I made four letters and spent an arm and a leg on props and spackle, but it was worth it.
Not sure if the project will continue in this form, as I already have cakes filling my office, but it did open up my eyes to the possibilities of physical lettering and including photo art direction in my lettering work.
On your website you say you have “a passion for creating things by hand.” In an industry that’s becoming increasingly digital, how do you keep the hand craft of lettering alive? Why do you think that’s so important?
Personally, I find design that feels like a human touched it increasingly compelling. With the current demands for brands to be constantly creating in order to maintain relevance online and the rise in the use of AI replacing traditional art, it feels nice to see something that looks hand-crafted. There’s always something more captivating in something perfectly imperfect.
I spent many years as a young designer creating pixel perfect designs that started and ended on the computer, didn’t contain one iota of feeling, and just existed for the sake of making rich men more money. I don’t think that kind of design stands out, or feels meaningful.Alexa Edgerton
In my client work, I aim to include something that’s been drawn, painted, collaged, or at bare minimum, started from a sketch, just to give each brand a little bit of soul. I spent many years as a young designer creating pixel perfect designs that started and ended on the computer, didn’t contain one iota of feeling, and just existed for the sake of making rich men more money. I don’t think that kind of design stands out, or feels meaningful. At least not for me.