In this newsletter:
*** Changes
*** New in the Shop
*** Currently working on...
*** Easter in Wellington
*** A Word about Typography

Meanwhile, the world has changed, the USA have got a new president and New Zealand, alas, a new government, and this is a very long overdue October newsletter. But since I had grandly announced in my last that this newsletter would come in a brand new format, I could not very well send it out before I had actually finished redesigning it!

For the last month or so, I have immersed myself in the joys of Cascading Style Sheets. The results you can see here – make sure to check out my new home page as well! Obviously, this is just the barest tip of the iceberg, but at least I have a design, and can now focus on thoroughly updating the content and structure of this site. Work will certainly be carrying on past Christmas. Oh, and if you were looking for something and can’t find it any more, the old Asni site is here.

photo: kakakawa leaves next to my house photo: a view from my window photo: young blackberry leaf in my garden

New in the Shop

The really good news is that the New Zealand dollar exchange rates, which have been abysmal for most of last year, have evened out a bit so I’ll be able to put the prices down on some of my products just in time for Christmas – “Travels in Middle-earth” is now available for € 15 instead of 16.50, and the older CDs will be € 14.50.

So, if you’re starting to fret about your Christmas shopping, have a look in my shop – I am told that harp music CDs make the 100% perfect Christmas present! And mine have got such beautiful covers, too. Do order yours soon – shipping times from New Zealand are a bit unpredictable, especially at this time of year. Besides, I am going to take my Christmas holidays early this year and will roam the internet-less wild spaces of the South Island for a while from the last week of November, so shop service will be interrupted for a few weeks until mid-December. Orders should be in by 21 November if you want to make sure to receive your order in time for Christmas.

I have also finally gotten around to designing that Middle Earth New Zealand photo calendar I have been going on about since last year. It features photos of Lord of the Rings film locations throughout New Zealand. I’ve decided to use the very fine print service at DeviantArt, for that seemed to be the best way to go about it. Have a look at the rest of my gallery, too – all images are available as prints, and some as greeting cards. If you put in your order before 12 November you can take advantage of Deviantart’s seasonal greeting card special. There will be no interruption to this service while I am away down south.

Speaking of calendars, my friend and fellow illustrator cum 3D artist Stephanie Noverraz, from Switzerland, is a very great fan of fantasy author Robin Hobb – so much so that she has produced her own Robin Hobb calendar featuring some very fine illustrations inspired by the Six Duchies. I think it’s a great idea, and the images are gorgeous. I am planning to order one myself. There’s something to be said for buying things you need to buy anyway (such as calendars and Christmas cards) from artists of your personal acquaintance (as long as you actually like their work). :-)

photo:another view from my garden photo: shadowplay photo: fuzzy kawa leaves

Currently working on...

I’ve been happy as a clam spending my days sitting quietly at home with my Macbook designing websites – I can even sit outside in the sunshine and work, if the glare is not too bright. Some of the results you can see right here in these pages. The other day I went to a talk at the Hutt Chamber of Commerce, and came away with a commission to build a site for a local construction business. That was time well spent! If all goes well the site should be up by the time I write my next newsletter. And then there is the next project waiting in the wings – it will be a busy Christmas for me.

I am becoming cautious with predictions though – it seems to be one of the quirky realities of web design (or most computer based design, as a rule) that everything always takes at least twice as long as anticipated. And I really don’t know where this whole year has gone! The other day I was surprised to find an email from the lady who organizes the Medieval Fair in Levin, where I have been performing regularly, once a year, for the past few years – is it that time of the year already? The Manakau Medieval Market is the one gig I intend to continue, so if you’re eager to see me play harp in the future, it will be your best bet to mark the date down now – the market will be held at the showgrounds in Levin on 14 February 2009, from morning til about 4 pm. That’s Valentine’s Day! How sweet.

I should also humbly rectify my statement about having my CD launch staunchly ignored by the Wellington media. A friend pointed out to me that the Dominion Post had actually featured the show as their “pick of the week”, complete with photo and a short article! How cool is that. I’ll post the article here by way of apology to the Dom Post arts team (I assiduously keep sending this newsletter to their editor…) – and besides, it’s kind of gratifying to see myself in the paper. The photo sure looks good!

Asni's show is pick of the week in Wellington's Dominion Post

On the downside, I just had news that my application for funding to do a show at the Wellington Fringe Festival in February was one of 38 received, and one of five turned down… so I see no point in going through with the show. I really have better things to do than investing weeks of unpaid work and a stack of money out of my own (or rather, my parent’s) pocket to organize a show that no one is interested in, just so that the powers that be can go ranting on about Wellington’s wonderful cultural and international buzz (International? My a…). All I can do is offer, and I have offered till the cows come home. The next person that comes along and tells me not to waste such a beautiful talent, I’ll knock them over the head. You have been warned.

I may be chronically running late with stuff, but I have by no means been idle. Last month, in a last-ditch sleepless-weekend meet-the-deadline effort, I managed to submit a music video for the annual “Handle the Jandal” contest organized by Radio Active – the track is “The Butterfly” from my Travels in Middle-earth CD, remixed somewhat with my new friend Garageband. The video did not make the finals (122 submissions, 15 finalists: not to make that cut, with my first ever music video, I can live with) – but I am actually intensely pleased with it. Particularly considering that I did the whole thing from scratch, 3D models and all, in just over three days and sleepless nights! I have always had images, shapes, colours running in my head when I hear or play music. It’s a great thing to finally have a way to get them out of my head for your eyes to see (and hopefully, enjoy). I don’t have to win any contests.

still from Asni's music video still from Asni's music video still from Asni's music video

Easter in Wellington

My social life has also picked up considerably ever since I’ve attended that PACE seminar for unemployed artists in September. I was sorely tempted to call this newsletter “Happy Easter” – for, being fed up with having to celebrate Easter when it’s Thanksgiving, and Thanksgiving when it’s Easter, this year I’ve decided to put Easter back in spring where it belongs. For us Southerners, Easter Sunday was (or ought to have been) on 19 October, the first Sunday after full moon after the spring equinox.

I prepared a grand traditional Asni Easter brunch – complete with Pas’ha and Yellow Bread and Blini and all the traditional Russian cookery my mother used to do for the occasion (remember? I’m from Estonia on my mother’s side?) and invited all my fellow PACE artists over to eat all that stuff. After all the preparations, I somehow managed to oversleep my alarm, so I completely embarrassed myself by still being in my pyjamas when the first person arrived, but in the end we enjoyed ourselves greatly, ate like hobbits, and finished the afternoon off by watching each other’s movies. It’s nice to be part of an artist community again (where even opening the door in your pyjamas can be forgiven). Here is a photo of the Easter table, which was a bit of a work of art in its own right - notice that I even sourced some birch twigs? This one is for my mum.

Asni's Russian Easter table Image of Asni's Easter brunch

A Word about Typography

Since this is officially my first Asni: Multimedia Art & Design newsletter, I really ought to stop talking about harps, and start talking about design instead. So, I would like to say a few words about the man who created the letters which I have used, and never properly acknowledged, for most of the text portions in my Travels in Middle-earth CD booklet, as well as my posters and flyers, media releases and stationery.

The font is called Folks, and I had found and mindlessly downloaded it from – making sure it was free for use, of course. (If you don’t know, pay a visit now! It is typographer’s heaven, or pretty close). I liked it because it seemed to have just the right combination of sleek readability, a modern look with a slight flavouring of the old fashioned, and a dash of Art Nouveau, which I thought was the perfect combination for my Middle-earth project (Middle-earth is not Middle Ages, and I have never liked the idea of simply using a very old looking font. Who knows what the hobbits wrote like!)

One day, idly curious, I clicked on the link that led from the Dafont download to the font creator’s website. Manfred Klein, as it turns out, was born and bred in Berlin (fancy that), where he began his typesetter’s apprenticeship just after the war – an old fashioned trade apprenticeship where he was taught things that typesetters in Germany had been taught ever since Gutenberg’s days. He worked as a print designer for many years, and was one of the first people in Germany (or anywhere) to grasp the potential of the Macintosh computer for the future of typesetting (and design in general). That was back in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s, when, as I well remember, lots of people in Germany liked to think that computers were just a passing fad. He has been designing digital fonts since the 1990s, at a rate of up to two fonts a day, or so it appears – and I believe it, looking at the vast collection of fonts and dingbats which are available for download on his website, Fonteria.

Some of the fonts are simply elegant, useful and eminently readable. Others are playful, quirky, highly ornamental. There’s the Cat’s Alphabet for instance, or this one called Eat My Hat. A lot of them remind me of some of the typographic traditions I grew up with – and it’s probably not an accident I felt mysteriously attracted to that Folks font. Weird how some of the influences you suck up with your mother’s milk somehow manifest themselves later in life at completely unexpected moments. There are letters that seem to be inspired by kid’s alphabet blocks and oldfashioned „learn to read“ books, with funny faces and hands and feet poking out here and there. Some types are quite Art Noveau, some make me think of the bibliophile editions of the Insel Verlag I used so much to like to buy as a teenager.

photo: bamboo sunset photo: evening view from my workplace photo: sunset colours in my garden

Another enormous body of Manfred Klein’s work has been the conversion of a vast number of historical fonts and scripts into a digital format. A fantastic resource for any designer with a historical bend (such as myself)! Looking for a script from the time of Charlemagne, or lettering from a medieval Irish Missale? A Renaissance Italian type, or an 18th century German one? Or letters that recreate the feel of late 19th century advertising? Look no further.

This includes what has got to be the world’s largest collection of digital fraktur fonts - also known, quite wrongly, as Old German letters. Fraktur fonts are one of the many things that have been, through no fault of their own, discredited by their association with the Nazis - which in this case is particularly ironic because the Nazi party actually issued a decree to ban the further use of fraktur, in 1941. Now they have fallen almost completely out of use, and few people can read them fluently any more. It’s sad really, for they are quite graceful, and they are a big part of the history of typesetting and bookmaking, particularly in Germany and other Northern and Eastern European countries. Well, thanks to Manfred Klein’s efforts, we can go and use them again any time we feel like. Maybe one day they will stop tasting of Drittes Reich.

Have a look at Manfred Klein’s personal site – this is typography as fine art (the site is in German, but that won’t bother some of you, and for the rest, the images are quite easy to understand).

Fonteria website with lots and lots of downloadable fonts – free for personal, charity and even business use though if any money is being generated Manfred Klein asks you to make a donation to a charity – he suggests Doctors without Borders. I think that’s an excellent way to go about it! Once I break even with my CDs, I’ll start deducing some money for that purpose. Promise made!

Lastly, here is an interesting interview with the man, where he talks about his background and working methods at length (available in German and English translation).

Arohanui, from Asni