Friday, August 7, 2015


Have you ever been a groupie?

Have you ever been transfixed when meeting someone else whom you admire? Have you blundered and gawked at someone else just because you know who they are? I did when I was young and walked by movie stars in Beverly Hills. But as an adult I thought I was over that awkwardness.

I attended  the Passionate Pen International Conference at Sonoma State with about 500 others.  We sat in the classrooms of the stars of the calligraphic world: Ewan Clayton, Denis Brown, Julian Waters, Loredana Zega, Monica Dengo, Pat Blair, the White House calligrapher, Barbara Close, and 48 others. We studied versals, 3-D letter writing, using a ruling pen and a flat brush, gilding, solar plate printing and much more. At the end of the week, we were exhausted and exhilarated by the creative energy surrounding us. We were groupies at the feet of the masters.

At break one morning outside my classroom, I walked beside a vigorous, bald-headed man who expressed concern about gilding in the dry California heat. I did't know that gilding required humidity and answered with some banality. We got to the refreshment station, and someone called out, "Hey, Massimo..." and only then did I realize that I had been walking with Massimo Polello, not a household name to most, unless you are a calligrapher. He is one of the 'calligraphy stars' whose work exudes energy, depth, and beauty. My mouth dropped open as I realized I had had a brush with greatness.

Later that week, as I sat at lunch, I introduced myself to the woman across the table. She answered, "I'm Connie Furgason."  I stammered, "I love your work!" (and didn't ask for an autograph.)

Groupie to my core!  A calligraphic groupie no less!

What is wonderful about these well-known calligraphers is their accessibility and willingness to share their craft. They come from Italy, Canada, Argentina and other places to teach for one week those of us who aspire to be calligraphers.

The instructors displayed their work at an extraordinary exhibit that chronicled beauty, meticulousness, curiosity, and hard-won skills. We all marveled at these expressions of this art form, whose intent is to communicate with a flourish of a pen. One of my favorite pieces from the show is a work by Marina Sora called In My Dream My Name is FUDE, which includes the following poem by that name.

In my dream my name was Fude.
I rested in a delicate mahogany case.
My hair was bright, soft and combed with much care and dedication.
It had been brushed till exhaustion by expert hands trying to line up every single strand of hair.
My skin was smooth and polished with the smell of willow and my slim body had the right weight to be embraced by a skilful hand.
In my dream I danced over the water surface.
Sometimes I slightly submerged until I caught it's humidity.
In other moments I felt slow, precise and meticulous.
Some other times my motion was quick, impulsive, almost gestural.
I left a series of strokes behind me, first a wet and brilliant stamp mark that fixed on to the surface like a sign when it dried.
These strokes shaped a written text.
When I woke up I understood I had dreamt of myself as a brush.
Fude means brush in Japanese.

1,80 x 2,30 mts
Sumi on Magnani Bianca, Modigliani Neve and wrapping papers. Wooden hanger and stone. Bambu mutt
Year: 2012 by Marina Sora

Extraordinary, isn't it? (Thank you, Marina, for allowing me to display your piece.)

Next week I will share with you some of the work I did in the class of another star, Louise Grunewald, Her class, Letters from the Sun, was full of the joy of working with creative people. In the meantime, check out these websites for inspiration:

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