At the end of the summer, our core team flew in to Newport, Rhode Island from all over the world for a week filled with typographic site-seeing, cooking, a photoshoot, and, yes, even some work. Our friends at Monocle tagged along to document the retreat; our feature in their latest design issue is currently in newsstands.
As a foundry that operates remotely, we try to gather once a year to spend time together in person. In September, we flew in from Hong Kong, France, Spain, Switzerland, Los Angeles, and New York City to Chantra's hometown of Newport, where we caught the last of summer's heat amidst a flurry of activity that we planned around a photoshoot with our friends at Monocle. From a colonial-era cemetery to a revered stone carving studio to one of the oldest public libraries in the United States, the settings were typographically stimulating and enriched us as a team. That said, the time we spent together relaxing—cooking, eating, swimming in the ocean, or even just driving around town from location to location—might be the moments that felt the most important to us.
The Redwood Library was founded in 1747 and is housed in the United States' oldest public Neoclassical building. While it still operates as a lending library, it is also a repository of rare books, and we had the privilege of accessing the private viewing room upstairs, where we perused some incredible type specimens. Special thanks to Patricia, Michelle, and Benedict for hosting us and matching our enthusiasm for these treasures!
We then walked to Island Cemetery and Common Burying Ground, two contiguous cemeteries that cover over 30 acres and contains the largest number of colonial-era headstones in the United States. With the heat, humidity, sun, and collective jet lag, there was a bit of a feverish quality to our excitement as we combed the grounds. The density of engraved specimens here was too much to absorb in a single visit, but we documented as much as we could. The elements have weathered many of the oldest graves, and it's a testament to the skill of the generations of stone carvers that the engravings were not only legible, but still conveyed the beauty of the letterforms.
Did you know the longest continuously-operating business in the United States is the John Stevens Shop in Newport? Founded in 1705, today, this stone carving studio is essentially the one man operation of Nick Benson, a third generation stone carver and letterer. We were granted an all-access tour, and we spent an afternoon taking in as much detail as we could. Nick's shop is a masterclass in spatial functionality and evidences the truly handmade quality of his inscriptional work. Spread across two buildings on a modest plot, generations of singular craftsmanship are evident in every corner. Thanks to Nick for his generosity—we could've spent days perusing his shop.
During the retreat, we stayed in a large, beautiful house in neighboring Jamestown. The property sits on the southern shore of the island and has small trails leading to the beach, where we could walk, swim, and observe the dozens of anchored sailboats and yachts in the harbor. We ended most nights playing board games, drinking natural wine, and joking around, but the obvious highlight of our stay here was when Chantra's parents took over the kitchen and cooked us a Thai feast for dinner!