Workshop: Breaking Borders – A Collective Arabic Stencil Workshop with Lara Captan

Kufic is the oldest Arabic script and is deeply rooted in the Islam. Still it is unclear to this day how calligraphers and professional copyists exactly wrote it. Based on this question, participants of this workshop were asked to interpret the Kufic letterforms and in the end create stencils out of it.

TYPO-Berlin-2016-05-13-SebastianWeiß-Monotype-_X4A7667© Sebastian Weiß / Monotype

“Short announcement: For the next two hours the reading directions is RTL (right to left)”, Lara Captan explains at the beginning of her talk. “We don’t know where the Arabic script was born, but it was born with Islam. Islam branded itself with Arabic script.”, the young Lebanese designer goes on. As we get a brief introduction on the history and the development of Arabian scripts, a variety of ancient manuscripts are displayed via the projector. Lara explains that the historical Arabic script Kufic exists in a wide variety of styles, some being more geometric and distinct, while others are swirly and unshackled. The exact way of how Kufic once was written regarding stroke direction and hand movements remains unanswered to this day.

TYPO-Berlin-2016-05-13-SebastianWeiß-Monotype-_X4A7671© Sebastian Weiß / Monotype

Every participant is challenged to come up with their own interpretation of a Kufic lettering, making it into a stencil in the end. But first every participant has 10 minutes to sketch some Kufic letters on tracing paper to get into the mood. She puts on some Arabic music and the slideshow showing manuscripts continues.

Taking two pencils to mimic a broad nip pen she makes rough sketches on the whiteboard to show how to achieve correct stroke contrasts and explains that there is no real baseline in Arabic handwriting. You can also stress certain letters, like double-decker letters, in some scripts at your will: “There is no wrong or right”.

After an intense two hour working session, constant feedback, critique and a lot of side information on Arabian scripts the final letterings are cut into cardboard stencils for the participants to take home.

Lara Captan

Lara Captan

Graphic Designer (Amsterdam)

Lara Captan is an independent Lebanese designer based in Amsterdam. She holds a BFA in Graphic Design from the American University of Beirut (2006), a Masters in Advanced Typography from the Escola de Disseny i Art (Barcelona, 2011), and a certificate in type design from the Cooper Union (New York, 2012). She taught design and typography at the American University of Beirut between 2006 and 2013 then moved to The Netherlands where she became an apprentice in DecoType’s ACE (‘Arabic Calligraphic Engine’) technology for Arabic type. Since 2005, she knew she wanted to become an Arabic type designer but refused to design any typeface before having sufficient knowledge over the history and mechanics of the script. Ten years of experimentation have passed and she is now working on an ACE-engined Arabic type family, with support from the Creative Industries Fund NL. She was also a speaker at ISType (Istanbul, 2015) and co-speaker at AtypI (São Paulo, 2015).

Written by Jannis Riethmüller •