Meeting at Alpha Folks Headquarters

Last week the ad hoc Board of Directors of Alpha Folks met at our house in Cooperstown. Lauber made a grand entrance on her motorcycle, which led to a brief conversation on Then Came Bronson. Doug Miller was here as were Karen, me, and, of course, Nate. In the previous few weeks Nate had gotten a ton of work done – 26 letter characters, male and female, both hand drawn and graphic versions of each. That’s 104 individual pieces of art to look at! Question was, could the artist himself stick out what would prove to be a lengthy kitchen table work session?

We sat amidst Nate’s laptop, his sketchbook, muffins and coffee (Lauber’s request). With each design Nate displayed his amazing talent, an overwhelming show of creativity. Each figure had a large central letter in MS Reference Sans. But Nate had done his own tinkering with the font, carving out space where needed, adding heft when desired. We learned that was a graphic design sin.

Lauber explained to Nate, who barely listened, that adulterating a font would make designers cringe. Doug had an interesting suggestion: pull out the extra letters that gave the Alpha Folk detail and what would remain would be the single dominant letter. In effect, a new Nate font. So, in the middle of creating over 100 fresh faces, Nate indirectly discovered a new type.

Similar to when we framed Nate’s strip malls for his gallery show (more on that at the end), as we sat and dissected his work we noticed incredible detail, how he flipped letters or elongated them to fit the space, how he added lower case letters as eyelashes, and so on. Nate is very literal, so each Alpha Folk has to have hair, eyes, a nose, and a mouth. Sometimes he morphed the base letter to create a feature, though he’d still add it separately. (For his “n-lady” he used a lower case “n” and thickened the top stem to resemble thick, poofy hair (see below). AND he put hair on top of the hair. Interestingly, every time he used lower case as the central letter it was for a female character. Nate Katz, chauvinist?).

Lauber wrote notes in Nate’s sketch book to remember prospective edits. Does Nate have the patience to revise his work? Usually not, though as we discussed the need I thought what may work would be specific instructions – “Nate, can you do five different designs for X many letters, one happy, one sad, etc.” That may be effective.

The meeting lasted almost two hours and Nate stayed with us for most it. Every once in a while he’d want to move on, cutting off conversation with “And now, on to the ‘Q-Fella!'” He growled occasionally.

“Nate, people don’t growl at a business meeting,” Karen gently suggested.

He’d also yell.

“Nate, people don’t yell at a business meeting,” Karen said.

“You haven’t been to many business meetings,” I said.

Next step is honing the design into a final version and, as far as I can see, then it’s a simple process of getting shirts made and a website set up. I’m still thinking Alpha Folks will be available in the fall. We already have two possible outlets lined up.

========================================================

As promised, there’s more on the strip malls.

Karen’s cousin Alex is a long time friend of noted opera composer Tobias Picker. Karen has met Tobias a few times, the last time probably 30 years ago. This past weekend Picker came up to Cooperstown to go to Glimmerglass Opera’s production of The Music Man. He’s a great guy and we had fun.

Tobias came over to the house and caught a glimpse of Nate’s malls and was hooked. Since we haven’t yet retrieved the unsold, plexiglass framed works from Leonard Tourne Gallery yet, Karen is going to pick them up and bring them to Tobias’ house. He wants some.

And so, Nate Katz continues to enter rarefied air.

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About Jeff Katz

Jeff Katz is Mayor of Cooperstown, the “Birthplace of Baseball” and home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. His latest book, Split Season:1981 - Fernandomania, the Bronx Zoo, and the Strike that Saved Baseball, (Thomas Dunne Books, 2015), received national attention, with coverage appearing in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Sporting News and NPR’s Only a Game, among others. Katz appeared on ESPN’s Olbermann and The Sporting Life with Jeremy Schaap and MLB Network’s MLB Now, with Brian Kenny. Split Season: 1981 was a finalist for the 2016 Casey Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year.
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