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.
My first collaborative book project began soon after: Drip-Drop the Rainy Monster, lettered by me in careful roundhand, illustrated by my sister (6 yrs old then) 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.
Pieces of my work were 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?
Because, like many, I want to write and decorate pages for the pure love of it, according to whim, not as part of a daily struggle to pay bills and maintain a career.
Because I’ve found SBI's website tools which allow me to get the word out to as many people as possible. As a bonus, that can help me to make part of my living from art, which feels very good. (Read my SBI review here.)
More deeply and most importantly: I believe that everyone — not just the starry elite — everyone has a few startlingly good pages inside them that are more than good enough to embellish the world and give pleasure to others.
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 ...)
October 2013: to my great pleasure, Dick Blick Art Supplies are back and have again approved my site to make products available as an affiliate of their program. Watch out for some great deals.
I'm also pleased to say that since October 2010 that MisterArt, a US-based art supplier with an excellent reputation, has approved my site as an affiliate. When you buy a MisterArt item linked from Calligraphy-Skills.com, I receive a small commission, which at the moment goes towards the costs of maintaining the site.
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 site-maintenance costs as well as some purchases of art materials, new nibs, picture-frames etc. And coffee beans :-)