Calligraphy and craft love
November 23, 2007
Yesterday while I was working on a lettering commission I was struck by an intense love for the work. Granted, conditions were optimal; the studio was sunny and I had a day of uninterrupted time ahead of me to settle into what I was doing. But it has been awhile since I’ve had such a strong feeling of peace and gratitude for being able to exercise my craft (and get paid for it).
The joy came in part from a job going well. As I formed each letter, it was a delight to feel the intuitive knowledge gained over 35 years experience -the sense of how to shape a curve on the inside of an o, or give the turn at the end of an N just that extra tension to make it sing.
These letters will be transferred onto a piece of granite and carved into a gravestone by my stone-carver friend Bertus.
While I work, I have a picture in front of me of the robust man who died in the prime of life. I feel his presence, it is gentle and humorous.
I feel, too, the spirit of my master and teacher, Arnold Bank, one of the larger than life heroes of modern calligraphic tradition. I send him gratitude for taking my wild and immature love of letters and taming and honing it. I went through fire with him until I came out tempered.
There is so much potential for healing in practicing a craft well. The satisfaction in seeing one’s skill progress, in facing down obstacles along the way, in getting a job done to one’s own standards, regardless of the hours spent. In the quiet of my studio yesterday with just me and my hands and heart and the letters, I rediscovered some of the joy and purity I first felt in shaping the letters for the first time in Pittsburgh nearly 40 years ago.