What's Inside BLAG (Better Letters Magazine) Issue 02?

A taste of the adventures in sign painting inside Issue 02 of BLAG (Better Letters Magazine).

Pile of magazines on paving slabs.
BLAG (Better Letters Magazine) Issue 02.

Subscribers around the world are now enjoying Issue 02 of BLAG (Better Letters Magazine). There is currently limited stock available in the online shop.

With work and stories from 15 different countries, our adventures in sign painting continue to have an international focus, and here I'm excited to share a little of what's inside BLAG 02. I've also included a short film from my day at the printers, watching the magazine coming off the press...

The Cover Story

The cover references a feature about the sign painting collective, This Is My Costume, and their 'Renegade Writing' producing faux fascia signs in London. I'd been aware of their work since about 2014, and it was lovely to finally get the story into print after eight years bouncing the idea around.

Magazine cover with masthead and photos of men jumping over a fence and some onepainting a sign.
Front and back cover of BLAG (Better Letters Magazine) Issue 02.

Looking Back

In addition to the articles and features focusing on contemporary adventures in sign painting, each issue of BLAG also has some regular historical columns. 'Ye Olde Sign Shoppe' tells the story of a sign painter from the past, and in Issue 02 this is the prize-winning T.L. Hamlyn firm in Devon, England.

The focus of the second 'Ghost Sign Corner' is a palimpsest for Newman's in Melbourne, Australia, and 'Inside Letterform Archive' shares a stunning collection of antique French sign painter portfolios. Alice Mazzilli then continues her adventures in writing with an 'Interowriting' column on logographic and logosyllabic writing systems.

On the Brush

The 'On the Brush' section of the magazine shares interesting and inspiring work from sign painters around the world. BLAG 02 has 15 of these from Belgium, Ireland, New Zealand, Spain, the UK and USA. The accompanying texts discuss sources of inspiration, techniques and materials used, and different elements found in the final pieces.

Magazine spread with photos and accompanying texts.
Opening spread from the 'On the Brush' section of BLAG 02.
Work for 'On the Brush', and projects more widely, can be submitted using the online form, or via email to sam@bl.ag. Please include notes on the project that can help inform readers, and a variety of print-quality photos to illustrate the piece.
Sign Painting and Lettering Projects
Sign painting and lettering projects from around the world.
More projects at bl.ag online.

Land of the Rising Signs

The second main feature is a look at the contemporary sign painting scene in Japan. Following an introductory text, the piece then profiles eight Japanese sign painters working in the country today. It is written by Peter Liedberg, a Swede living in Tokyo since 2015, and host of the 2019 Big in Japan Letterheads meet.

Tokyo Letterheads: Now Bigger in Japan
Review of Tokyo Letterheads, the first international meet in Asia.
Review of the 2019 Big in Japan Letterheads meet.

Letterheads and Walldogs

The regular 'Meet the Letterheads' pages feature highlights from events held last year. These were the Signwriting Festival at Carters Steam Fair, and the international meet in Helsinki. The magazine also has a page about the Walldogs event in The Dalles.

Magazine spread showing photos and text from sign painting events.
'Meet the Letterheads' in BLAG 02, featuring the events at Carters Steam Fair and Helsinki.
Letterheads Meets on Better Letters Magazine
Reviews, photo galleries, and films of Letterheads meets.
More Letterheads meets at bl.ag online.

Mini-Features

The regular 'Lettering Location' piece takes a look around the neon and other delights to be found at London's God's Own Junkyard. There's also a piece about Mike Meyer's enormous floor mural in Chicago, and Alex Kurunis' photographic adventures in sign painting from Mexico. (See also Bryan Yonki's piece on the lost painted signs in Mexico City.)

Gustavo Ferrari's 'Secrets of Fileteado Porteño' column is a step-by-step how-to for painting the various types of flags found in the vernacular artform from Buenos Aires, and Matthew Rechs explores the issue of fairness in his 'How to Business' piece.

BLAG (Better Letters Magazine) is sent to subscribers at the Blagger level and above twice each year, in the summer and the winter. Subscription options also include full access to all the articles at bl.ag online, and keep the whole initiative free of advertising and annoying popups.

Alphabet

The centre spread of each issue is a custom alphabet painted by Rob Cooper. In BLAG 02 he was working with a #4 Mack 179 lettering brush to paint the letters, numerals, and punctuation marks for his Freestyle alphabet.

Painted letters R–Y and a number of punctuation marks.
Detail from Rob Cooper's Freestyle alphabet in BLAG 02.

Book Club

Five books feature, with a deep dive into Fernanda Martins' Letras Q Flutuam (Letters Afloat). This tells the story of a characteristic sign painting style found in Belém, Brazil, close to the Amazonian river system, and those that produce it. The other titles in BLAG 02 are: Frisso's Risso; Barbara Enright and Carla Hackett's Brush Lettering Zines; Alfredo Genovese's El ABC del Fileteado Porteño; and David Kynaston's comic-cum-instructional guide Magnus and the Roman Letters.

Man painting Tuscan lettering on a boat.
Zé Augusto at work in Brazil from the book Letras Q Flutuam (Letters Afloat) in BLAG 02. Photo: Nailana Thiely.

Sundries

Sundries are defined as 'various items not important enough to be mentioned individually', which is perhaps an insult to some of the cool and eclectic things on the final pages of BLAG (Better Letters Magazine). Issue 02 features: cartoons; 'Wise Words' on the importance of measuring twice and cutting once; a culinary spelling mistake; brush magic; and some highlights from Syl Ehr's book Signpainters Don't Read Signs.

Signpainters Don’t Read Signs by Syl Ehr
Signpainters Don’t Read Signs (1957) by Syl Ehr published as a digital download in seven parts.
Download Signpainters Don't Read Signs by Syl Ehr.

Thank You

BLAG (Better Letters Magazine) was my crazy idea about this time last year to get a magazine about sign painting into print. I have to pinch myself each time I get to hold one, and that unreal feeling is only made possible due to the funding from subscribers, patrons, and sponsors.

Thank you for your faith in me and this initiative. I can't wait to open the pages of Issue 03 this summer, and to share news of even more to come from BLAG in 2023. If you're not signed up already, then what are you waiting for?

Magazine spread.
bl.ag online highlights, and thanks from Issue 02 of BLAG (Better Letters Magazine).

The magazine is far from a one-man-show, and it is a pleasure to collaborate with so many brilliant people on each issue. Over 50 names appear on the BLAG 02 contributors list, and, behind the scenes, there is the team that sees the magazine through to publication each time: Jenna Homen on sub-editing; Utile Studio on design; SYL L'Art Gráfic on print; and Ra & Olly on distribution. Fonts in Use are Aktiv Grotesk by Dalton Maag and Utile by Sibylle Hagmann from Kontour.

At the Printers

If you've made it this far, then here's a short film from my day at the printers seeing the pages of BLAG 02 coming off the presses. Thank you to José at SYL L'Art Gráfic for permission to film, and Samir Khayi and Miguel Ángel Rodriguez for agreeing to appear. The film was shot by Alberto Martinez and Edgar Gonzalez, edited by Alberto Martinez, with the lettering and animations by Utile Studio.

The Making of BLAG (Better Letters Magazine) Issue 02 on Vimeo.

Thanks again. All good things, Sam

bl.ag / sam@bl.ag / @betterletters