Still a Place for Calligraphy

Hello everyone,

Calligraphy is called “the art of beautiful handwriting,” but over last 25 years, I’d call it almost a “lost art.” At least in my case.


I learned some Chancery Cursive (or is it just called Italic?) back when I was studying at K.U. in the 70’s. One of my first jobs ever was making signage for the Periodicals Room at the K.U. Library at a time when the manager didn’t have funds for permanent directional signs. She’d send me out to the bookstore on paid time for large one inch wide nibs and dip pens and ink and mat board. It was a great, if temporary, job. For a few years after that,  I really worked at it, and got some jobs doing certificates, but I was never a true professional.  It all ended for me when my expected yearly contract with one business for certificates disappeared  with the advent of computer fonts.

So when a couple of weeks ago my manager at the county library asked if I’d collaborate with another co-worker to make a new sign for our lobby, I was happy to see if I could still pull it off.  I rarely get the chance to do lettering of any kind, and I’d rather do that than shelve heavy non-fiction any day. The difference here is that I’m using something called Chalk Ink, which is more like blackboard paint. It goes on like paint, dries quickly, and washes easily. But it’s applied with a sponge tip like a big fat magic marker, only not as precise. One pass through is best, since it looks really nasty if you go over it a second time.

So here’s how I did it. I measured out all the spacing and lines for the information I needed to include. I drew the letters first with regular chalk (which wipes off afterwards) and then went over  them with the ink/paint.  Next week I’ll remember not to try to “fix” by going over it a second time. This is my third week to do this, but sometimes I’m slow to learn.


IMG_0663So my co-worker, Mike, used the library logo for the top section, which is permanent, and every week I change out the list of events for the lower section. I’ve done it three times now, so hopefully by next week the flow will all have come back to me, and it will be a smoother process.

IMG_0664Because, really, you still don’t want to look too closely at it.

What, you’ve never heard of a Dystopian Book Club, Shiva? I guess you’re just not reading enough Young Adult Fiction. The interesting thing about this book club, though, is that it’s being held both at the library and on Skype. Sort of changes the perspective on what a book club can be, I think. And I love the idea that a centuries-old, hands-on skill still has a place in libraries, even in a digital age where so many popular books are about  societies in a dehumanized condition.



10 responses to “Still a Place for Calligraphy

  1. Yep, the ole girl can still spool when she

  2. You’re still on the money, Jeanne. Lovely results.

  3. Jeanne may be a bit rusty, but I hear she could wield a mean pen at one time. Just wait. It’ll happen.

  4. Those books in your first photo are somewhere in my own boxes of books… brought back a few memories. I used to use those pens and nibs (still have a box of … no doubt rusted… nibs of various sizes) and made certificates and signs for the hospital where I worked. I was the payroll manager, so you can tell that had nothing to do with my job 😉 Yeah… computers make things a lot easier and faster now. You can even correct a misspelled word!

    • Sharon, I’ll bet you had an Osmiroid, too. I can’t even remember the last time I used that word! I think I’d be a lot better at certificates now than I used to be. I wish there was a need for it.

  5. I enjoy calligraphy, too, both as a fan of the true artists and as a practitioner of a home-grown sort. Osmiroids ahoy! The process can be quite zen-like at times. And I especially enjoyed your last paragraph as a reminder that though the medium inevitably changes over time, the message remains. 🙂

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