The Quaquaversal Calligrapher
In case you are wondering where quaquaversal comes from, it's a Latin word that describes moving in multiple directions and getting pretty excited about it. It fits so perfectly with our visiting international tutor this Summer, who happens to be a calligrapher. For the calligraphers amongst you, it's also a gorgeous play on words, as Versals are a particular type of lettering.
Our intrepid traveller in this case is Gemma Black who has travelled over 17,000km from Tasmania to the UK for the start of her current European tour. And would you believe it – the first thing she found when she arrived at Ardington was the Ordnance Survey Benchmark carved on the outside of our building. Travelling and exploring are in her genes. It’s no accident that twice as many Australians as US citizens hold passports. Travel goes with the territory so to speak. And we are going to take a whistle-stop tour of Gemma’s latest six week trip to Europe, which begins at our very own Ardington School of Crafts.
Here Gemma concentrates on a three day workshop entitled ‘Retro Deco’. Using drawn letters and inspiration from the Art Deco period, students created a number of pieces which involved making single large letter designs, or stacking words from appropriate period quotes, into a column and then giving them the Deco design treatment. Mackintosh roses were blooming in abundance, painted in monochrome, multi-colour, ink, watercolour and even pearlescent Finetech paints. As the days flew by, the techniques and design ideas flourished. I was lucky enough to get a place on this workshop and I now have enough inspiration to last me a lifetime.
After Ardington, Gemma and her travelling companion head directly to the Malvern Hills to the CLAS Festival. This annual event attracts calligraphers from all over the world and Gemma explains she enjoys the camaraderie of the Festival. It’s her own tribe of people there, and they cross-fertilise the art and practice of calligraphy. ‘It’s the place we like to be as artists,’ says Gemma. Five more days of teaching back to back, and a set of highly enthusiastic students greet her in the hills. Pam is her travelling companion this time as Gemma’s husband is manning the fort back at home. They hope to spend some time walking in the hills during their visit to Malvern.
Next stop - University of Cambridge. Two reasons: Firstly, Gemma has a piece of work in the Fitzwilliam Museum. Gemma wants to have it pulled out and make sure it’s in great condition, and visit Kettle’s Yard while she is at the University as David Jones has some work there. Secondly, Gemma wants to catch up with a great friend in Cambridge, Michelle Goulder, and they plan to explore the tourist trails. Pam will love to see these very British places and artefacts given this is her first trip to the UK.
Then the tour heads to mainland Europe, and to Stockholm where the Association of Calligraphy has invited her to run a three day workshop on Rhythmic Capitals. Gemma has not taught in Sweden before and is excited at the prospect. Their workshops involve students and tutors travelling to and staying in the same hotel. They will be on site together getting into the rhythm of the capital in every sense of the word.
From Sweden to Scotland next. First into Edinburgh and then onto Glasgow for a truly Mackintoshian experience. Gemma has never been there before and hoped to visit the Glasgow School of Art and the Mackintosh Building. Whilst much of this remains closed because of the latest fire, there are other museums, houses and tea rooms where influences of ‘The Four’ will be in focus. She is staying in town, and will explore every nook and cranny seeking them out. The Glasgow section of the trip is partly a reconnaissance mission in readiness for an exciting potential adventure. Look out for a five-day guided calligraphy session exploring the work of the Scottish artists for October next year……
A short drive down to North Yorkshire takes Gemma to Yarm. This beautiful market town has the River Tees flowing through it, and here again Gemma will be teaching a weekend workshop. Then on Monday, a somewhat longer drive all the way down to Brighton to see Ewan Clayton where she will be the student not the teacher this time. Gemma is undertaking a four day workshop in his studio and feels really privileged to go there. They have known each other since 2001 and she can’t wait to be there and be inspired by him. What a great workshop that will be. I’d love to be a fly in the ink.
There’s more to come. Gemma’s final weeks in September will see her visit Sevenoaks in Kent, teaching Retro Deco for The Cinque Ports Scribes, chalking up another two day Mackintosh inspired workshop. Then five days in Wimbledon, when Pam will head off to Italy (another quaquaversal!), and where Gemma has been invited to a Garden Party at Australia House. In case you didn’t know, it was inside Australia House, home to the Australian High Commission, that interior shots were filmed for the scenes featuring Gringotts, the wizards bank run by goblins in the Harry Potter films. She is very excited about this!
Finally, Gemma heads to Uckfield on The Weald, a town first mentioned in historical documents as far back as the 13th Century. This is another teaching stop organised by her good friend Tina Warren. Gemma is badged as ‘The Travelling Calligrapher’ for this final stop of her intrepid tour, before toddling up to Heathrow and wending her way home, relaxed and sitting back after delivering an intense programme of teaching and research. We are glad you travel Gemma, thank you for bringing your skills to Europe.
Calligraphy remains a much studied art and is always in high demand at Ardington. We are pleased to say we have an exceptionally talented and diverse faculty of tutors too. For all our Calligraphy courses, please follow this link and maybe you can be inspired and find that words can come easy after all.
Great article 😊
Wowie, what a great article Gems, well done, you taught a lot while exploring and gaining lots of international experiences. Thanks for sharing it all with us, fellow Aussies and Calligraphers . Excellent as always
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