Judy Detrick smiling Headshot

Judy Detrick

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

I was around 13, and during art class our teacher passed out paper, ink, holders, and Speedball B nibs. I was enthralled by the rich, black, juicy strokes that appeared on the paper. We worked with them for a week, and I didn’t want it to end. It wasn’t until 18 years later that I took a formal calligraphy class, but I’ve never forgotten that early experience or that teacher.

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

Always try to sit next to the smartest person in class.

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

Some days I’m working on design or technical matters, but most days it is a meditative practice which I thoroughly enjoy. I lose myself in the process; there are no judgements or expectations. The outcome sometimes does result in improvement (!), and as behaviorists note, intermittent reinforcement is the hardest behavior to extinguish.

What is your dream project?

To finish it before the deadline.

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

A lot of my work is an interpretation of historical scripts. I go back to the earliest example I can find, learn it, and develop it from there. 

Name 3 non-lettering artists who inspire you.

I am inspired by artists from all walks of life, be they fine artists, musicians, poets, athletes, etc. I cannot point to any one in particular much less three. I’m a regular museum goer, however, and they are great for inspiration. Recently, I’ve spent many online hours at the Rijksmuseum and the Folger Shakespeare Museum. They both intertwine several disciplines together for total emersion experiences.

What do you aim to say with your work?

I marvel at what calligraphers in the distant past used to know how to do. That never loses its fascination for me, and I hope to keep that appreciation alive and well in my work. I wish to carry forward what was  begun so long ago, and to continue its development in current time.

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

I love to teach, and try to convey what I appreciate and enjoy the most in calligraphy and design. When students are able to replicate a style in their own way, I think that the teaching is successful.

Students are the ones who would better be able to answer what my teaching style is. I really don’t know.

What is your favorite pastime when not in your studio?

I love strolling in the forest or on the beach. At night I like to read into the wee hours.

What jobs have you done besides being an artist?

My first job was at the cosmetics counter at Woolworth’s (five and dime). I have worked in a letterpress print shop, and have taught calligraphy and graphic design since the 70s. I enjoyed all three jobs very much.

The Dutch Master’s Script is a very unusual style. How have you used it in your own work?

The letters used in Dutch Masters script are fairly easily learned. The preponderance of flourishes are another matter, and the combination of the two on a page leads to quite unique designs. Coming soon!

As a graphic designer, what one thing do you wish calligraphers knew to improve their work?

To regard a calligraphic composition as a study in how many forms of contrast apply to any one work.