October 26th, 2023

The Whistle: A Reflection on Calligraphy Performances

A couple of weekends ago, my friend Holly asked if I’d come and write some names for people while she hosted an open studio. Holly is more than capable of writing names herself, but she’d be busy sharing her work and talking to visitors throughout the afternoon. It was an opportunity to repay her friendship and encouragement over the years, so I was excited to take a few hours out of my Saturday and share my love of writing once more. I’ve been mulling it over in my head for a few days now, and I feel compelled to express to all of you the difficult but magical experience that sharing your calligraphy as a performance can be.

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March 12th, 2022

The Specialist’s Dilemma: A Reflection on Calligraphic Specialization

Specialty is an confusing phenomenon. It’s commonly accepted that specializing in a niche field increases the quality of the contributions that an an individual can make. However, the concept of specializing—particularly when it comes to penmanship—is often seen as being at the expense of other knowledge and abilities. A specialist might excel in one avenue of script but flounder in others. One common thought is that there’s a certain sense of perspective that one loses by focusing on the specific, rather than the general. Western culture glorifies “renaissance men” who are capable of a wide range of feats, but overlooks—or even admonishes—specialists until we have a need for them.

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February 2nd, 2022

Fan Fiction: A Reflection on Calligraphic Idolization

"I only saw the hands" collage.

It was 2014.

I was struggling to find inspiration in some mundane task that I’d been assigned by a client who didn’t really need a graphic designer but wanted to use one anyway. I was taking it seriously, though; I wanted to be a legitimate designer, not some kid who scraped the Craigslist “gigs” section twice a day.

As the sun set on the pine trees shielding my window, I signed out of my time tracker and exited Photoshop. My fingers clicked rapidly as I typed up an email to send tomorrow morning with updates on the project. I shut my laptop with a smack. I was free for the next eleven hours.

My hands fumbled on the Parallel Pen as I twisted it this way and that way in my fingers. I watched—and rewatched—John Stevens’ hands on video as he produced an effortless brush fraktur exemplar. The confidence in his strokes was palpable. Each movement revealed a stain in the paper that had been there for a thousand years. How could he see what he was writing before he wrote it? Why couldn’t I?

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