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Rejuvenating the art of designing letters

(Roger Wilson)

Calligraphy, the art of designing letters, can be traced back as far as the 10th century and the inherently artistic Ottoman Turks. With today’s technology and available theme font selection at our fingertips, it is easy to forget that these artistic interpretations of the alphabet have been designed by someone.

Burbank’s Creative Arts Center Gallery hosts an exhibition titled “Expressions — Images from Our Pens,” a showcasing of the best work, from all skill levels, of the members of the Society for Calligraphy. The society’s letter designers have designed and applied their art in a variety of forms — words of wisdom artfully framed, embroidered quilts with commemorative messages and cleverly engineered origami books, all serve as a ground for the creative lettering. The Society for Calligraphy is actively regenerating calligraphy as a fine art, by providing an environment for study, discussion and exhibition for its members.

Society member Yukimi Annand studied in Japan as a communications designer and worked as a graphic designer for 10 years. Her love for nature and letters combined with her design experience results in a wonderful piece titled “The Wall.” The ground for the mixed-media piece is Rives paper, which has been stained and fan folded. The poetic content of the fan-folded pages is communicated in Annand’s own letter design then complemented with color and texture, both visual and tactile. The artist has achieved the sense of an ancient document loaded with secrets to reveal. It is luxurious, antique and seductive. It has a professional quality.

Christiana C. Atwell has revived the art of manuscript illumination with her piece titled “Psalm 19.” Prior to mass printing of manuscripts and books, artists were required to hand letter and design book pages. These were predominantly Bibles and devotional books. Atwell’s biblical subject and letter design are perfectly appropriate for the King James content. The traditionally designed left edge is adorned with scrolling vine, symbolic of life. The first letter of the text is enlarged and particularly adorned in the fashion of 13th century devotional documents. The artist has designed capitals for the entire document that vary in color and scale to the body of text. One has to appreciate the labor and talent that went into the work of the early manuscript calligraphers and illuminators by viewing Atwell’s classic script.


A unique application for calligraphy is Shirley Holland’s “Children Are; ABC’s” quilt. The artist takes pen and acrylic to fabric, creating design within design in her children-themed quilt. A pieced-together, blue fabric frame traps each micro work of art and calligraphy, 28 squares, which include text proffering words of wisdom, sentiments regarding children and personal commemorative notes. Each designed square is unique. It is a piece that was labor intensive, a version of combined classic art forms — quilting, calligraphy, poetry and painting. It is quite a renaissance piece, both classic and contemporary.

The Society for Calligraphy is a nonprofit educational organization that promotes the art of calligraphy and related disciplines. It is a wonderful revival of a classical craft, quite welcome in this fast-paced, technologically driven world.

TERRI MARTIN has a degree in art history and a background in fine arts.




What: “Expressions: Images From Our Pens”

When: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday; and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday until Aug. 26

Where: Creative Arts Center Gallery, 1100 W. Clark Ave., Burbank

Admission: Free

Information: (818) 238-5397 or visit