When was the first time you picked up a calligraphy pen?
My first introduction to lettering was a book called ABC of Lettering by Carl Holmes. I received it for Christmas when I was in grade school. I still have it! It was more letter illustration than calligraphy, but I remember a page in particular that had a lot of words designed to look like objects….. wood, flames, twigs…. my favorite were the letters that looked frozen, they had ice dripping from them. I don’t know why, but I loved them and drew them on everything!
What is the best advice you ever received?
Take your time.
A lot of meaning in 3 words. Do it at your own pace, everyone’s will be different, Do it thoughtfully. Don’t rush, rushing makes you sloppy, and your work does not get due consideration. Enjoy the process, no matter the time it takes.
Why do you letter? What keeps you coming back every day?
The contemplative movement of the pen on the paper, the act of making marks which will convey a meaning and an emotion, the glisten of the ink on the paper, the sound of the nib, all these things calm the soul and feeds your inner self.
What is your dream project?
I have had a long career doing what I love, every day, so every day was a dream job.
What research do you do when learning or starting something new?
For a new project, I give myself ‘percolating’ time. I don’t actively seek answers immediately, but rather keep my awareness high for inspiration, ideas, jotting down thoughts (which always seem to come when you least expect them)!
For learning something new, I read, watch you-tube, google search, find whatever instruction I can, soak up all I can, finding answers, only to find new questions! It’s so energizing!
Name 3 non-lettering artists who inspire you.
Claude Monet, Georgia O’Keefe, Chinese Brush Painting in general
What do you aim to say with your work?
Find beauty in simplicity. I like to use graceful lines, the openness of the white space of the page, a minimal amount of ornament, to convey peacefulness, beauty, and quiet.
Floral works by Pat Blair
Why do you teach? What is your teaching ethos/style?
I draw on techniques I personally used while learning, which resonated and made sense to me.
I want to have my students enjoy each step of the process of learning, take their time, soak it in. Learning should enrich us, each added skill give us satisfaction and each frustration spur us to learn more.
What is your favorite pastime when not in your studio?
So many! Traveling, being with family, spending time in my ‘other’ studio, learning and creating pottery.
What jobs have you done besides being an artist?
I have been a dental assistant, a meat packer, a bookkeeper, and of course, the most gratifying, a mom.
While working as chief calligrapher at the White House, how did your work support state affairs?
Our purpose in the calligraphy office was to always represent our country and our president as gracious and welcoming hosts, while being respectful of our guests and mindful of what enriches their experience visiting the President and the White House. Great thought was given to every detail, and a guest’s first glimpse into an event started with the invitation designed by our office. Menus, place cards, programs, escort envelopes, handling of the guest’s entrance details, all were designed thoughtfully and executed carefully. There could be no errors. If a guest’s name was found to be incorrect as he was arriving for a dinner , we would hurry up to our office to make the correction before the guest arrived at his seat. Spelling checks were ongoing, there could be no errors, Every detail was held to the highest standard.
There is a (mostly jovial) rivalry between pointed penman and broad-edge calligraphers. As an IAMPETH Master Penman, how do you view the rivalry.
I don’t understand it at all!
I love lettering, all kinds. I learned both pointed pen and broad pen. I’ve used both in my career. At the White House, we all did all hands, because one or the other might be better suited to a particular event. Loving all lettering however doesn’t mean I can do all lettering equally as well. But that just gives me a great appreciation for those calligraphers who can do what I struggle with. I don’t judge anyone for not liking what I like.