Friday, March 3, 2017

LETTERS: AN EXPRESSION OF CULTURE


My apron along with some of the name tags from calligraphy workshops

I put on my new apron, spread out my tools on my table and prepared to test my calligraphy skills to the maximum while I attended LETTERS: California Style, a workshop conference sponsored by the LA's Society of Calligraphers. At the end of a glorious day of working, wandering the conference center halls at Cal Poly, Pomona, gazing at incredible pieces of calligraphy, and rubbing shoulders with artists from all over the country, I walked outside. Rain poured down, my cheap, orange umbrella would not close when I tried to get into my car, I was thoroughly soaked by the time I returned to my hotel where I had to walk around the flooded carpeting to get to my room. But I woke up to sunshine ready for another day of practicing Copperplate, a traditional lettering style, which we worked to turn into more modern forms.



My pages of practice and my writing tools,
which include a potato to clean off the pen tip and a bar of chocolate


Using my own handwriting to develop an alphabet


Serendipity happened to me at the conference. I was on the waitlist to attend so my choice of class was limited to one. I say serendipity because I normally would not have chosen a class that depended on my skills in any calligraphic alphabet. I don't call myself a calligrapher. I've had a lifelong interest in type and letterforms, but I have not been consistent in practice. I usually select classes that allow me to be more free form. This time I spent three and half days in Jane Shibata's "Breaking with Tradition: Cool and In Vogue Pointed Pen Scripts." In Jane's class, we bent over sheets of paper with pointed pen from early morning to the end of the day just like scribes did long ago. Jane's class turned out to be one of the best I've taken since it forced me to concentrate on my lettering skills. Jane is a gentle, kind instructor who patiently offered suggestions and encouragement and talked about her own experiences as a student and teacher.


Jane Shibata demonstrates adding colored pencil to letters.


Marina Soria, one of the other workshop teachers, encouraged her students to produce calligraphic work based on a piece of weaving. I was reminded of one of my college professors, Douglas McClellan, who talked about the influence of weaving on the development of letterforms. Without the examples of crossing threads in weaving, he claimed that we would not have the alphabets we use today. He gave us the assignment to design an alphabet for an alien culture that did not weave. Good question: what would an alphabet look like that did not have lines that crossed?  Dots, dashes, perhaps? What would your design look like?

Examples from Marina Soria's class. Photo by Linda Yoshida

10 comments:

  1. I love your creativity and sense of adventure with arts and crafts.

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    1. Jean, Thank you. I am trying to do as much as I can while I can! How's your weather? Any chance of Spring?

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    2. We get two-three days of nice weather and then it's back to snow. It's going to be that way for the next ten days as well.

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  2. The last part...an alphabet with no crossed lines boggles my mind! Oh Martha, another amazing post. I love Friday discoveries!

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    1. yes, I think it would be very limiting -- morris code? Thank you for being one of my best readers, Jan.

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  3. Beautiful, Martha! I never thought about the many different ways words can create art. I love how your blog makes me look a things in new ways. Thank you!

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    1. Thank you, Teresa, I'm so glad my postings are an inspiration for looking at something differently!

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  4. Was great to meet you at Letters, Martha! Jane is a truly wonderful instructor, so glad you had a great time.

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    1. Thank you, Linda, for letting me use your photos. I didn't put your name up when I published. It is there now! Wanted to give you credit. Sorry for the omission!

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  5. I can totally relate, I have the same type of experience at Asilomar. It so much fun to wake up in the morning and have the whole day to look forward to immersed in your craft.

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Thank you for commenting! I love hearing from readers, and I answer each one.