Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Shallows: Level Two Handwriting Class

Packing my travel bag now getting ready for level 2 of my handwriting class. Much of the backstory in putting this handwriting class together has come from Nicholas Carr's book The Shallows. The book prompted research into more books about neuroplasticity, multitasking, digital natives and mindfulness. A surprising link is handwriting!! Armed today, with fountain pens, dip pens, ink, stationery, an ipad and Monteverde Stylus pen I am ready to rage against the machine! I have a love/hate relationship with technology. I love the capabilities, the information, the tools it offers in my work and my sense of connecting with my colleagues and friends. But it comes with a price. It tasks our chief central resource...our ability to focus. This class is always exciting. I love hearing the stories of my students, and watching them reclaim their handwriting heritage!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Magic of Writing

As a calligrapher I get paid to write. From a birthday card to a large poem, with or without flourishes, sometimes with gold leaf and sometimes without. Whatever the commission, they have never felt like work to me. But beyond my routine of teaching and commission work, I write for the joy of writing. It may be in a journal. I bring a Blackwing journal and a Sky Blue .04mm Slicci pen with me on my walks. Sometimes I find a spot to sit and read the words of John Muir. I take a few minutes to record some of his illustrative passages. His words are peaceful and meditative and lend themselves to the gentle rhythm of handwriting. This month marks nearly a year of teaching handwriting classes at Phidon Pens in Cambridge. I've lost track of how many students have gone through the program. This morning, we will continue our handwriting classes while a new class in Letter Writing is launched this afternoon. I can only describe the process of writing letters as magic, enchanting or charming. The thought to engage with a friend or colleague hits me out of nowhere. I pen my thoughts on paper. I letter an envelope to help carry the thoughts across the miles to my friend. As I walk the letter to the post office, it begins its journey. I never know when it will land on my friend's doorstep or what type of day they are having when they read the letter. A simple pleasure and a simple joy that we can share that is non-technical and so graceful. As much as I love the convenience of my computer, email and technology, my letter writing is a push back against the harsh digital glare of a screen. A glimpse back at a gentler time that I know I have romanticized. I travel to my class this morning armed with dozens of letters that I have received over the years. Thank you to all who have written to me and thank you for the pleasure that you bring to me when I sit at my desk to write back.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Spencerian Zen and Offhand Flourishing

Today I sat down at my cluttered work desk. I didn't have a lot of time to work, I should have been doing other tasks, starting with tidying my workspace but the pen called me! Spencerian Zen is a term my friend Michael Sull used at his Spencerian Saga. We would watch him approach a blank paper and work on a piece of ornamental penmanship from start to finish without any pre-planning or idea in mind for the look of the final piece. It is this process that is the root of true offhand flourishing. I try to tell my students this in as many ways as I can, but the truth of the matter is that while I flourish, I am not aware of any thoughts in my head. As Ralph Kramden would say" they can examine my head, and you know what they will find.......nothing!!!" True Offhand work is not pre-penciled. It is not designed. It just happens.
In this particular piece, I roughly centred the lettering with a chalk line and established my boundary the same way. The capital W was executed rapidly by throwing the stroke away from my body. The rest of the piece was done without interruption and finished in 15 minutes. The process is the reward.
While the pencil has a place in designed work, I was introduced to the art of offhand flourishing without even dreaming that the pencil might have been included in the process. There is a freedom and joy that comes from spontaneous work. In the end, if errors occur or you are unhappy with the result, it is good to know that this is ink on paper and you can try again in your next little window of opportunity.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Ink on Paper

October 1st already! Time to update the blog. My life is overwhelming at the moment as my classes are starting up again, I work on the Iampeth conference and watch my October calendar fill to capacity. I was reminded this evening of the time outs I often gave myself regularly to retreat to the coffee shop and just work with my pen in solitude. Something about the ambient noise of people chatting and hearing espresso brewing was condusive to my work. I need to take more of those time outs regularly! This evening, I shut my studio door and opened a new bottle of Edelstein Amber Ink. I was given the gift of a Visconti Rembrant fountain pen and the Amber ink matches it very well. But the first work out I gave the ink was with my Spencerian 1 and my snakewood straight holder on Maruman Imagination paper. The fountain pen ink feels different than McCaffery's as it flows out of the pen. It is transparent and rich in colour. It doesn't quite deliver the hairlines that McCaffery's does but the Maruman paper could take the pressure and the ink had very little bleed. Fun to play with these inks and enjoy their vibrant colours. Happy to fill my fountain pen with it. The hand that I was practicing is my English Roundhand. My caps were getting very loose as I progressed down the page. Happy October 1st.