Ink People DreamMakers Survey

I kept procrastinating on this questionnaire from The Ink People, so here it is completed for y’all to judge!
— Me, on Facebook

What is the name of your organization? How do you want to be referred to?
Universal Pictorial Language

Please describe your program in a few short sentences.
Most invented languages are written by one person with a specific intention or ideology. But you and I will forgo that to create the Universal Pictorial Language, or UPL. An image-based language written from scratch. I have begun hosting tabling events where I sit down with as many people as fathomable, and draw as many hieroglyphics as possible. Our collaboration will coalesce into a language understood across the region, the nation and potentially the world.

Tell us your creation story. How did you come up with your program? What was the inspiration?
While in my final semester of graduate school, I needed to have a side project to keep me sane whilst also installing a huge makeshift bedroom in the gallery space. Previously I had created rebus music videos, visual puns that sounded out the words of some of my favorite songs. The problem with these pieces is that the images I created weren't mutually intelligible - they were all puns that only I could really get. 

I began researching auxlangs, auxiliary languages means to be used for cross-communication. Dissatisfied with the haughtiness and ego I saw in previous auxlang projects, I decided to experiment with making an entirely pictorial language using public submissions and the democratic process.

What are the biggest challenges your program faces?
Getting participants. I table at public events and advertise online asking for people to submit glyphs, but I need a base group of participants who join in regularly and keep the conversation alive. Advertising, a comprehensive website, and regular public events could get me there, but it is hard as an artist who can only be in the studio 2 days a week.

How would you like for your program to grow?
I want to create a web forum for UPL discussion and submissions. I also would like to be able to table at least once a month, possibly twice. Eventually I will start printing UPL dictionaries that I can share with galleries, book stores, community centers, and language invention convention-goers.

How has the Ink People helped your program?
The Ink People helped me with my post-grad residency fundraiser, where I spent 2 months at the Kala Art Institute learning how to screen print - the medium I chose to produce Universal Pictorial Language materials to share in galleries. Now thanks to the Ink Annex's print studio, I can continue honing my technique while collaborating with the Giant Squid Printmakers.

Is there anything about being a DreamMaker or the DreamMaker MOU that you would change?
I would like more opportunities to interact with the rest of the DreamMakers, and advertise my events via Facebook and other social media. I also feel as if the current layout of the Ink People website could be improved to give a better idea of what each DreamMaker does (but that I assume is what this form is for!).

Do you have an anecdote or funny story to tell about your program, or the Ink People?
As a part of my auxlang / art practice, I set up tables in some interesting places, including Berkeley. There is an active and well treated homeless population in Downtown Berkeley, since many people were kicked out of San Francisco. One person who came to my table was a woman wearing about 4 layers of coats who had a ginger cat she called Zeus on a leash. I told her about my project, but instead of voting on glyphs she wanted to draw her own.

What she gave me was a cypher of the English Alphabet. I know it isn't a conlang, but she spent about 10 minutes on it and I promised her I would share it with all the "language inventors" I knew. So please enjoy. I have redrawn it in my hand - her name seems to be Lhoryanne.

How does your program connect with the community?
The Universal Pictorial Language is a chance for the public to explore concepts usually not considered on a daily basis. It activates creative thinking, does not disenfranchise those who think they "cannot draw," and allows people to consider how to relate to people of different backgrounds, religions, languages, and socio-economic statuses. It is truly democratizing. A homeless person has just as much say in the UPL as a college professor, for they can both consider what communication issues can arise and reach a compromise visually with a quick drawing. This is why I table in public spaces, as well as in art galleries. Having input from a wide swathe of those who would be interested in an auxlang makes for a superior Universal Pictorial Language.


It appears that I have disappeared for the last two months. The truth be told, I have been sick with a combination of an impossibly virulent flu and the Humboldt Crud. Instead of using my wee bit of energy towards creating art, I’ve been looking for a job. I know, lame right?

This week the good people at Kala Art Institute suggested that I hang a print for the SGCI Studio Roulette Event and Conference on March 28th. And then I HAD AN IDEA! Why don’t I catch up on our UPL glyphs in order to get a print done in time? I have a month, that’s doable! It is, as I love to say, killing two birds with one stone. Which might be very offensive to the visitors of my other website, but whatever.

Below is my plan for my poster, using the dimensions I already have planned for the UPL dictionary. I AM WAY TOO INTO PLANNING, IN CASE YOU’VE NEVER MET ME. Since y’all can’t read it, a translation:

Universal Pictorial Language
Progress Report Poster Design

Each square is an official 3 inch square glyph, meant for the UPL typeface. Below that in the lower righthand corner is a calligraphic version in Katy’s hand.

Each glyph will be color coded, printed on white bristol and then mounted. Each positive will be kept for the UPL dictionary printing as a 4 inch square transparency.

Glyphs are in alphabetical order, and the color code is as follows:

Green - Approved
Blue - In Contention (people have complained about it, or Katy can’t draw it!)
Orange - Derived (inferred by Katy from other glyphs)


To see why I feel the need for an “in contention” category, enjoy my attempt to do a progress report as quickly as possible last night. Hands are hard!


So, that makes my goal a total of 35 unique glyph graphics printed, cut-up and set on paper. Their color will be determined by how far I get with approval via tabling and web surveys at the time of the printing. And then I can keep the transparencies to reuse for the dictionary printing if they are approved. And the multiples I create can be sold or given as gifts!

Now I have a quandary - I haven’t been able to standardize the approval process. Not only is it time consuming to table, but it’s harder to do it in Eureka than it is in Oakland. Less people, less public transit, more rain. Luckily, the folks of Giant Squid are getting back into the mix of things and may participate in North Coast Open Studios. And I might be lucky enough to piggy-back on other art events like Arts Eureka and Arts! Arcata… or run Ink People Center for the Arts meetings… or meets at Old Town Coffee. I don’t know yet, logistics are hard to do without knowing my future schedule.

So in the interim I am asking for glyph submissions and votes online, and then I’ll revisit the process. If you bunny-hopped here from my newsletter, I thank you for catching up with me. The next word for approval is BUT, followed by WE and AND. Send me a glyph or two if you’re feeling adventurous. I’ll also be asking for input on Facebook, so follow me if you would like to vote for glyphs there instead.

Hugs and Kisses,

Katy Warner

P.S. I’m also making the prints for donors at the $50 level or higher, don’t worry. I need to buy and reclaim screens like mad first, and Ink Annex has no power washer :(