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Letters From Lester

Words:

Edd Norval
June 4, 2018

There has been a recent resurgence of handwritten crafts, coinciding with our love of all things 'authentic' and 'artisanal'. It's easy enough for some people to get swept up in this, but Seb Lester remains innovative and always ahead of the curve.

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You might recognise his work before you know the name. He's the guy that found viral success for his pinpoint accurate representations of big brand logos like Google and Coca-Cola - the great equalizers of our generation. It's thanks in large part to his social-media savvy approach to calligraphy that helped to usher in its current renaissance.


What was once seen as a stuffy medium for historical quill-wielders has now become a very popular and desirable skill. The videos that made him famous are both satisfying to watch and actually enough to motivate you to learn the trade yourself. It looks easy as his pen glides across the paper forming letters with a subtle perfection - of course, it's anything but.


His ability to make it look effortless is probably a large part of the appeal, like those 'humans are amazing' videos. People are used to seeing the finished product which, in the hands of Lester, looks so polished that you'd have to assume it's relatively easy. Even watching his videos could fool you into thinking mere humans are capable of it.

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Obsession is probably putting it lightly. Lester's life is entirely consumed with the creation of letterforms. His studio is full of pictures of them, his desk covered in the clutter of them - his mind a mixture of the both. You can see the passion that exudes from his work. His control of the forms of the past inform the work that he continues to create for the future - before you can rewrite the history book, you've got to learn to write it.


His total immersion means that his monk-like dedication pays off as be is one of the world's leading practitioners of hand-drawn letterforms. In the mould of the great masters of anything - his work does all the talking. Despite his social media presence, you'll probably never see him.


The man himself is almost entirely removed from the process. This means that all eyes remain on the work - he's being judged for what he can do, not how he looks doing it. That's a rarity nowadays, especially on platforms like Instagram. For every great yoga practitioner, there's an average one that just happens to have a better accent. Luckily, Lester does have a charmingly average English accent. Average only in that it is devoid of the embellishments or eccentricities that his work has. If anything, it makes the whole process seem even more magical.

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Although he's perfectly adept at using the age-old techniques and has utilised those styles as his foundation - Seb isn't afraid to get creative. He's happy to write slogans that are shareable ('Do Epic Shit') and ones that make great use of mirroring software like the palindromatic 'TIT'.


Funniness and doing epic-ness aside - his work has an eternal appeal. Nothing whispers class in your ear more than gold letting on a sumptuous red background. He lives in Lewes, East Sussex - a very quaint, very English town. Outside of his window is a Norman castle, one of the oldest in the country, constructed just after the invasion of 1066. It's not a far cry to think that might have inspired a recent tweet where he asked any bishops commissioning a cathedral if he could do some work on a rose window. Imagine that.


Besides calligraphy he has a new project - Heraldic Beast where he unsurprisingly (it's in the name) designs heraldry, the art of devising coat-of-arms. The two worlds seem to overlap slightly. Both come from a genuine respect for the past and its traditions, both are also the artistic outlet of a man that is keeping something alive.

Lester is now one of the leading names in calligraphy, letterforms and will inevitably become highly regarded in his latest venture too. A tireless work ethic and an innate ability to make the old seem fresh and relevant have given him a platform perfectly tuned to our contemporary condition. Hopefully beyond his impact in these fields, he also inspires many more people to follow in his footsteps of retaining the value of traditional skills - not by living in the past, but by tastefully guiding them into the future.

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