As a pony-tailed nine-year-old growing up on the white shores of the Arabian Gulf, I tagged along after school one day to ‘calligraphy class,’ where we were shown ‘the Italic alphabet.’
During the weeks following, I and around twelve others sat down with a large, friendly, middle-aged lady whose name I wish I could remember, and laboriously learned our first calligraphy skills.
It was the astonishing union of my two greatest loves at the time: writing and art. I fell stupendously in love all over again with the idea of beautiful pages of text – which I could learn to create.
It also sowed the seeds of the idea which I'm now exploring through this site: what are the practical skills needed to produce beautiful handwriting, and how can a person acquire those skills?
My first collaborative book project began soon after: Drip-Drop the Rainy Monster, lettered by me in neatest roundhand, illustrated by my sister (6 yrs old) in full-page felt-tip technicolour, and ‘bound’ by stapling the pages very carefully down the left-hand edge.
My mum probably still has it somewhere ... oh yes:
Throughout school, college, an MA and a PhD in medieval studies at Cambridge, I kept writing historical scripts on the side, learning more about calligraphy skills in general and illuminated pages in particular, and getting paid quite well for a lot of it too (by student standards).
I found that, while not everybody was as concerned as I was with the evolution of insular minuscule, or how to form an uncial serif, most people very much liked giving and receiving beautiful pages.
I also learned the lesson, hard for many creative people, that 'shipped is better than perfect'. Delivering a flawed page is better than waiting for a lightning-bolt from heaven to turn you into a perfect artist. The truth is that there will always be something that somebody could find to criticise about your creative work (and a few unhappy people actually don't like the fact that you dare to create at all). Whether the critic is your best friend, a respected artist, a teacher, a relative, someone online, or the voice inside your head, thank it politely for its effort to help, and get your work out there anyway. Ship, ship, ship. THEN decide to improve and what to improve.
In this way, pieces of my work have been commissioned to be gifted into the most extraordinary hands: some Highnesses — some Excellencies — a former President — the British Columbian government — writers, entrepreneurs, captains of industry — and lots of friends.
Why didn't I strive to become a 'professional calligrapher'? And why, as an amateur, am I publishing this website?
Partly because I like to write and decorate pages for the pure love of it, according to personal designs and wishes, not as part of a daily struggle to pay bills and maintain a career. And that's true for a lot of people.
More importantly: I believe that everyone has a few startlingly good pages inside them that will beautify the world and give pleasure to others. You don't need to become a professional calligrapher to adopt a professional attitude about learning and using calligraphic skills.
And, lastly, because SBI's website tools allow me to get the word out. As a bonus, that can help me to make part of my living from art, which feels very good. (Read my SBI review here.)
So, while I’m continuing to improve my own calligraphy skills, and (slowly) expand this site, I hope I can encourage you to produce those pages of yours.
(That is, how this site helps me pay for books and materials ...)
Here is a statement about my Amazon links – I have to give it to you exactly as they ask me to! –
"Calligraphy-skills.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com and amazon.co.uk." (Basically, this allows me to earn a small commission on items bought through my site. Usually I wait till these have added up enough to buy another calligraphy book, but occasionally I get a gift for a friend or family member.)
As you can see on other pages, this site also hosts advertisements. They help me with the cost of maintaining the site, as well as some purchases of art materials, new nibs, etc. And coffee beans :-)