Ewan Clayton headshot

Ewan Clayton

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

When I was around 12 years old, my handwriting was so bad that my family gave me calligraphy books and a pen set to inspire me. It worked!

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

Slow down

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

It is my medium, I can explore all sorts of issues through it.

What is your dream project? 

I really don’t have a dream project, I work with what comes along. At present my biggest project is actually writing another book on my community of crafts people in Ditchling: the village close to where I grew up. It is the village where the calligrapher Edward Johnston lived and also my grandfather who was a silk weaver and dyer.

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

Well all my work seems to come out of my life and it happens by drawing threads together and discovering what is alive for me, then I try and find a form for it, words, shapes, materials, and a certain freedom and integrity in writing.

work by Ewan Clayton

Name 3 non-lettering artists who inspire you? 

The architects of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, the poet Garcia Lorca, the martial artist Richard Strozzi Heckler, my friend the dancer and capoeira mestre Poncianinho Almeida

What do you aim to say with your work? 

Well, its changing all the all the time. But in essence I want to express a delight in vitality in all its forms (and by saying vitality I do not rule out awe at the inorganic also).

“Vitality” by Ewan Clayton

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

Brody Neuenschwander asked me this question once and I surprised myself by answering “I teach vitality” and I think that’s essentially true, I feel very protective and moved by seeing the small sparks and steady flames of it around me and I want to guard, nurture and encourage it wherever I find it. It means I tend to be drawn to teach individuals rather simply the subject at the top of the ticket.

What is your favorite pastime when not in your studio? 

Walking and enjoying gardens.

What jobs have you done besides being an artist? 

I have worked for my father in building restoration and conservation, I have been a Benedictine monk, a teacher and a writer. 

The conference is happening near the center of the tech world. As someone who once consulted for Xerox PARC, what advice do you have for artists that are interested in the intersection of calligraphy and tech?

Follow wherever it calls you, I have found holding past, present and future together to be a creative practice, the links between things are often more interesting and sustaining than the differences.

How did writing a book about the history of lettering & typography (The Golden Thread), change your view about the lettering arts? 

It affirmed my view that all the lettering arts are one and writing is like an ecology with messages flowing through and across many different forms over time, all the forms depend on each other. We don’t really have a full history unless we look at all the media involved in the written word, they are multiple and always changing and rarely completely disappear.