Embracing the chaotic possibilities of lettering with Anna Czuż
Anna tells us about her innovative work with calligraphy and lettering, and what chaos means to her.
- Joey Levenson
- 13 July 2021
London-based Polish art director and letterer Anna Czuż has a broad set of skills. Working as part of design studio Studio Moross, Anna creates chaotic and immensely creative visuals. Originally working within graphic design, Anna tells us she quickly strayed from the field. “I’ve never seen myself working solely in a graphic 2D context,” she says. “I’ve always been into making things, I have a strong DIY/working class approach.” She attributes her eye for lettering and physicality to her time helping her father, an orchardist, make signs for his market stands. That led to “designing single covers for my musician friends that I met on Myspace, and making zines about topics I found interesting at that time such as illustrated stories, music or taxidermy,” she tells It’s Nice That.
As a designer, Anna’s work has to be expansive and adaptable. But still, Anna infuses a part of herself and her own outlook of life into every project she does. “I don’t think I have a clear visual style,” she says. “But, I’ve heard my works have this sweet and sour combination of morbid excess, grotesque and humour.” Anna keeps her imperfect nature close to her heart, carrying counterculture with her even as she interacts with the “polished, accessible mainstream” of advertising agencies. “I’m a dark person, but my works are full of details and colour,” she says of keeping this balance. “Overall, I jump between craft, chaos, punk destructiveness, and decay.”
Her process is a similar blend of chaos and refinement. “I’ve built confidence in accepting the fact, I’m great at improvisation at the very last minute,” she says. “Amazing things can come up on the last day, so I'm always prepared for it. I value the ability to get lost and thirst for learning from anybody.” Anna relies on communication a lot for conceptualising her ideas and projects. Conversations, physical interactions, and perusing flea markets constitute the bulk of Anna’s creative methods. “The process is always quite tangible and tactile, as I’m very interested in analysing the physicality of things and their imperfections,” she explains. “Design without the context is just speculation.”
One of Anna’s proudest achievements is her extensive work with calligraphy and letters. “I do calligraphy and lettering but I’m not a calligrapher, I would say my practice sits somewhere between art and communication,” she tells us. “It’s about the physical experience of writing and control over tools, rhythm and rules.” Anna’s fervent dedication to calligraphy and letters leads her to always push the boundaries of what is capable with the written word. “I like to question the visual manifestation of spoken language,” Anna explains. For example, she often wonders if “when composing a message with letters, is it an act of drawing or writing?” These questions allow Anna to explore the extremes of legibility, finding ways written language can express different qualities of silence or using letters as an expression of a feeling. “I’m very interested in asemic writing,” she says. “What really pulls me is destruction, deconstruction and unhindered explorations of handwriting.” These chaotic reworkings of letters can be seen in many of her projects, such as Dressed/Undressed, which saw “the idea of chaotic lettering as a vessel for uncomfortable emotions.”
This blends perfectly into her calligraphy workshops, which she’s run since 2015 with various different groups across varying locations in Poland (and abroad). “It can be done almost anywhere: not only classrooms, but also squats, industrial plants, parks, training rooms, cafes, or private apartments.” Known as “post-calligraphy” workshops or “letterpunk” classes, Anna takes an incredibly unique and invigorating approach to calligraphy. It’s dynamic and innovative – she’s not afraid to break rules and play around. “It’s an experimental zone for trying out new ideas,” she explains. “I also like making it extremely accessible, particularly for people who never had a chance to try and have fun with something they know.” Going forward, Anna tells us she’d “love to open a calligraphy school for underprivileged groups.” Most importantly, “I want to make people confident to open their hearts to chaos and learn to love the art of losing control for a moment or two,” she adds.
Anna Czuż: Lettering (Copyright © Anna Czuż, 2020)
About the Author
Joey is a freelance design, arts and culture writer based in London. He was part of the It’s Nice That team as editorial assistant in 2021, after graduating from King’s College, London. Previously, Joey worked as a writer for numerous fashion and art publications, such as HERO Magazine, Dazed, and Candy Transversal.