Jen Farrell & her printers devil daughter Jo are the formidable ladies behind Starshaped press - Jen's ambitious lockups are incredibly inspiring. She shapesets ornate letters, architectural scenes and most recently the female form with sorts rules and spacing material using the traditional tools of letterpress in exciting and unexpected ways.

Late last year - Jen discovered a 20th-century German graphic design book in a secondhand bookstore. Inside were images composed from metal type to represent the female form but Jen noted the illustrations had "a decidedly male gaze."

  Progressive German Graphics 1900-1937,  Leslie Cabarga

Progressive German Graphics 1900-1937, Leslie Cabarga

 

Jen was influenced by the aesthetics - but wanted to remove the objectification. Her women would be powerful, cool, relevant... viewers should be intimidated by their awesomeness! Jen set out to create modular typeset women - Reflective of her experiences rather than an idealized image created by and for men.

Jen and Jo often have Dance Parties in the StarShaped studio, "where we turn up the tunes and let it all out. This is a good exercise after school that loosens us up to get through a few more hours at the studio. So it seemed natural to brand a series based on girls and music as such."

Jen notes after moving to Chicago she "was quickly enamored of a number of subcultures in which girls drafted their own personas based on a shared passion for style, fashion, music and writing. They were built on the past while adding something new... a tweak on the clothing, bands diverging from the originals, working in the vernacular of the street. I adored the attitude of the rude girls, mod girls, b-girls and straight-edge girls that didn't necessarily fall in line with the punk crowd. This was the perfect line up of girls to create that directly reflected my experiences, and so the research began."

 Rude Girl, with her clean, black & white sweater paired with pencil skirt, grooving to ska and rocksteady, came first. This classic image is already so graphic it felt like an easy place to start; it helped establish the use of white/negative space as part of the design itself.

Rude Girl, with her clean, black & white sweater paired with pencil skirt, grooving to ska and rocksteady, came first. This classic image is already so graphic it felt like an easy place to start; it helped establish the use of white/negative space as part of the design itself.

 Mod Girl, that icon of 60's style so classic it persists today, was a natural follow up to Rude Girl. Her mascara and pop art dress was built to a steady soundtrack of Northern Soul and English Mods.

Mod Girl, that icon of 60's style so classic it persists today, was a natural follow up to Rude Girl. Her mascara and pop art dress was built to a steady soundtrack of Northern Soul and English Mods.

 Good Girl, a variation on Straightedge Girls, preferred the scrappy sounds of garage bands and gospel soul to punk rock. She offered more opportunities to rock a uniform while staying true to her ideology. Also, it was really fun to build that skirt.

Good Girl, a variation on Straightedge Girls, preferred the scrappy sounds of garage bands and gospel soul to punk rock. She offered more opportunities to rock a uniform while staying true to her ideology. Also, it was really fun to build that skirt.

 B-Girl brought it home with the most challenging form. How do you capture such incredible movement in one print? What iconic pose gives you the attitude of these breakdancing ladies without killing the energy? I went with this one to show the strength, all while rockin' the cap and Adidas.

B-Girl brought it home with the most challenging form. How do you capture such incredible movement in one print? What iconic pose gives you the attitude of these breakdancing ladies without killing the energy? I went with this one to show the strength, all while rockin' the cap and Adidas.

 

Each of StarShaped's girls is paired with lyrics which represent her unique attitude and genre. "Our pals at Jump Up Records suggested the Bodysnatchers for our Rude Girl and no one is ruder than these ladies. Mod Girl got a little Paul Weller because she's a girl that can scare Paul Weller. Good Girl pulled out her Alex Chilton/Big Star albums, knowing he can write about uniforms with reverence and not creepiness. MC Lyte lays it down on the cardboard harder than anyone else could for our B-Girl."

Jen notes "Creating angles seems like an easy enough task with metal type but not if they veer from 45º or if each image contains more than one set of angles. I attempted basic starter sketches of each girl on grid paper to look for common angles and to begin seeing how the simplest metal sorts could fill the space."

The series is available as individual prints and as a bound edition resembling an LP sleeve. To support the next generation of ass-kicking girls, 20% of the sales go to She Crew.

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Dance party is Limited, signed edition of 50. There are two options. The Bound option features all prints bound within the outer sleeve. The Unbound option includes all the prints loose within the sleeve (perfect for displaying all at once.)

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