Beautiful Angle-phile

[Alyson Kuhn] We received an e-mail last week that simply said: You may be interested in the Beautiful Angle project. You can read about it on Wikipedia or go to the site at I was impressed with the sender’s minimalism: No adjectives, no hints, just 130-some characters. Well, this project is so fab, words almost fail me! But I will recover and write a very long post.

Lance Kagey {the minimalist e-mailer} and Tom Llewellyn have known each other for “20-plus years – a mutual friend introduced us, thinking we would like each other. We’ve been friends like brothers ever since. We live a few blocks from each other. We work together. We take family vacations together.”

Lance returned from one of those vacations with an impressive stash of posters he had liberated from their posts. He acknowledges, “We are rabid poster thieves ourselves. We knew people would take our posters, and that’s fine with us.”

Lance, a graphic designer, and Tom, a creative director and writer, started their monthly poster project in 2002. “The idea was to create a project that would be sustainable for a really long time. We really planned it out at the beginning, and we’ve stuck to it almost to the letter. We can do it almost every month without getting too tired of it. We created a set of rules for ourselves. It’s Tacoma-centric, you have to have an active Tacoma address to participate.”

Lance had spent some time up in Vancouver, being inspired by letterpress legend Jim Rimmer. He also took some classes at the School of Visual Concepts in Seattle, and then he bought a 1952 Challenge proof press on eBay. The shipping cost about six times the price of the press. Lance and Tom print the posters together in Lance’s studio; Lance usually designs them, and Tom usually writes them. But sometimes they switch, and occasionally they have guest designers and guest writers. Including Tacoma native Art Chantry. Art got his inspiration from the vintage type and vintage cuts in Lance’s studio and simply said: “I want to see everything that’s round.” You can see the poster, called Thing So Poetic, below. I just bought one from Beautiful Angle’s Poster Archive.

Every poster has a story, and I had the incredible pleasure of hearing several, with Lance and Tom in stereo. The stories aren’t on the website, but the posters are, and most of them are still available. Lance and Tom also donate posters to charity events, and select a beneficiary for the proceeds of their annual studio sale.

Tom’s explanation of the name Beautiful Angle is too terrific not to share: “You know how when you order something online and they have two fields for your street address, Address 1 and Address 2? As a writer, I always hated seeing Address 2 go to waste. One day I filled in an order form and just typed in for Address 2, “Where the world spins at a beautiful angle.” A few days later the package arrived, with those words as part of the address. I thought it was quite lovely. So that’s where the words came from.

Then he lists three more reasons the name fits this project: “Downtown Tacoma is built on the side of a hill. Tacoma also has a bit of an inferiority complex, so it’s nice to say something descriptive about it that declares its beauty. The other side joke is that Lance’s family and my family both live in very old homes with tilting floors. You know, it’s good to cram in a joke wherever you can.”

Can you tell that I did not want to get off the phone with these guys? I had started to think of them as The New Hardy Boys, Lance and Tom. So, I asked what their hopes are for the future of Beautiful Angle.

Lance: To have this artistic outlet and engage other people. It’s a great opportunity to work with other artists, to engage the community as a whole, to revel in our geographic location in life. It’s great to have that anchor to experience life with other people.

Tom: My practical hope is that 20 years from now we’ll still be doing it every month.

Lance concludes: I have a friend who is an incredible designer. If you push him on the point, he describes our posters as “a great body of work.” And it’s true, every poster is not great, but collectively…. Every month, you can do your best work at that moment, every piece doesn’t have to be your magnum opus. This frees you up to explore – there will always be a new piece. We can continue to do them and learn and grow as artists.

And my hope for Beautiful Angle is that there will be a documentary, a book, and a speaking tour.

Scene below: 1000 Cranes – Each poster yields six origami cranes. Poster run – Tom on the left, Lance on the right, posters on the dash. Gallery – Posters and make-ready  at Pacific Lutheran University. Lead type – “Your condo dwellers” for the Blender poster.

Photography: Beautiful Angle

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Comments (3)

  1. Posted by Paperlover on 04.2.09 at 10:06 am

    This is great work. Makes me want to move to Tacoma! Are they available for sale?

  2. Posted by The Editor on 04.2.09 at 10:32 am

    Thanks for reading, thanks for asking. You can buy the posters on-line, clickety-split. Start here. I too am feeling rather Tacomaniacal!

  3. Posted by Lance Kagey on 04.2.09 at 2:43 pm

    It was great to talk with you and hear the enthusiasm in someone’s voice. The same enthusiasm I hear in my own. Letterpress is a great medium to explore graphic design, visual storytelling and the beauty of well-chosen words. thank you. Lance Kagey

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