The last (almost) calligrapher


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Who needs penmanship? In April, the Indiana Department of Education issued a memo that said third-graders should emphasize ‘keyboarding skills’ instead of writing in cursive. Fonts of all sorts are available to any computer user. But still, a calligrapher in Los Angeles dips her pen and struggles on. Have you read a note from Don Draper on ‘Mad Men’? She wrote that.

In our pages, Thomas Curwen profiles calligrapher DeAnn Singh.


Singh’s hand lettering is a reminder that words are not just a means of communication, items of sheer utility, but personal expressions of beauty and persuasion. ‘Calligraphy is an art; typing isn’t,’ she says. ‘When you see letters that have been handwritten, you make a connection that doesn’t occur with type. Hand lettering leads to a broader, richer relationship to language.’

Singh grew up in Utah doodling letters; after moving to Los Angeles, she took her first calligraphy class in 1979. In addition to Don Draper’s hand, she’s created children’s books, art books, scrolls for the county and more work for Hollywood. ‘Devil-worship movies,’ she says, ‘are good for calligraphers.’

She’s one of the best, and also one of the last. But not the last, not ye: she offers classes to those ready to pick up a pen.

-- Carolyn Kellogg