headshot of Amity Parks

Amity Parks

When was the first time you picked up a calligraphy pen?

When I was 16, I became interested in illuminated manuscripts and started buying books about them.  I bought a copy of ‘Writing, Illuminating and Lettering’ by Edward Johnston and followed his instructions to cut reed pens. I bought some bamboo garden stakes and cut my own pens. That is my first memory of writing with a broad edged pen.  

What is the best advice you ever received (lettering or otherwise)?

Sage advice from my parents: Don’t charge more on your credit cards than you can pay off every month. 

Why do you letter? What keeps you coming back every day?

After all these years, I still can’t define what it is about the alphabet that satisfies me so much.  It excites both the left and right sides of my brain.  I come back every day because there is always more to learn and new ideas to try. 

What is your dream project? 

Lately I’ve been dreaming about organizing residential calligraphic retreats that bring small groups of us together for intensive working, learning, collaboration and social experiences.  

What research do you do when learning or starting something new? i.e. a new style or new project.

I like to research new ideas, and typically try to go back to original source material, usually from the comfort of my computer screen or from books.  It doesn’t take long until I’ve enough inspiration and can head to the studio and start putting ideas to paper. 

Name 3 non-lettering artists who inspire you.

Carlo Crivelli, Jan van Eyck and the Master of Mary of Burgundy

What do you aim to say with your work?

There isn’t any one thing I’m aiming to say.  I explore lots of different ideas and images that interest me, and the I interpret them in ways that I hope are engaging and interesting to look at. Most of my work is influenced by events in my life. The pieces I make are souvenirs of my experiences, and trigger memories of people and places that matter to me.

Why do you teach? What is your teaching ethos/style?

I think I teach because I’ve spent so much of my life being a student. So much of the richness of my life has come from the classes and workshops I’ve taken, that it seemed natural to share my skills when others started asking if I would teach. That richness continues with all that I learn from my students. I strive to teach classes that bring value to my students by being detailed and organized, and to create a classroom where everyone feels welcomed and inspired. In the end, I hope that my classes provide them with strategies and skills that can enrich their work once they get back to their own studios. 

What is your favorite pastime when not in your studio?

Travel, gathering with friends, enjoying the Montana outdoors, beading, eating Haribo gummi bears. 

What jobs have you done besides being an artist?

Throughout the years I’ve been a Tipi Painter, Sign Maker, Owner of an Art School for Kids, Mother, Owner of a Corporation doing Field Services in the Banking Industry and now I’m a Calligraphy Teacher. 

How did you get started working in ceramics?

I signed up for a ceramics class my freshman year of college. I soon changed my major from painting to clay and went on to get both my BFA and MFA with an emphasis in ceramics.

Bister inks or Graphite?

Ha, that’s like asking which of my kids I like better. I love them both and refuse to choose.