Ceiling to floor typographic collage showing lettering design drawings and printed text


Large concrete carpet with lettering cut into the surface . Font designed by the artist

In my last post I was discussing how a wide variety of media can be used to support text and meaning in contemporary  lettering. Some excellent examples of this can be seen  in a few of the Jameel prize short listed exhibits currently on show at V&A. It is an international award for contemporary art and design inspired by Islamic tradition. “Its aim is to explore the relationship between Islamic traditions of art, craft and design and contemporary work as part of a wider debate about Islamic culture and its role today.’



I recently attended the private view and was impressed not only by the number of displays which used Arabic lettering as the focus of the design (more than half the shortlisted pieces) but the diverse nature and beauty of the exhibits.

A brief video of the shortlisted work from all the artists can be  seen on this link.  It shows the concrete carpet, hand entering, typographic collage and an abstract animation of lettering as pattern. If this and previous year’s exhibition is anything to go by , it appears that lettering continues to play a much larger part in Arabic art and tradition and is more highly respected than we see in Western culture. The exhibition is free and will be open until April.



Acidulate 1 “The Genuine Article”, shown here, is my contribution to the exhibition 26 Words. The processes I used for this work enables me to replicate the design . I will be producing further limited edition brass etchings soon as two have been sold already, including the original framed version.  No two are the same as variations in the strength and immersion time in the acid and the post-etching surface treatment affects the patina and depth of etching.

KANGAROO; Dame Kanga’s keepsakes by Sue Hufton and text by Roger Horberry

The exhibition is a real must see (and read!) with  many creative interpretations and expressions of our 26 random words . You can find skill , imagination and brilliant inventiveness on display. I also recommend reading the stories behind the collaborative partnerships on the website



The variety of materials and techniques used by exhibitors also has to be mentioned. Mark Noad, chairman of LetterExchange aptly described the project as “the interplay between medium and message”.The lettering is written on and inscribed, etched  or cut into surfaces ranging  from stone ,metal , glass and ceramics, to collage, paper, prints and fabric.

EXCUSATION; Robbie Schneider , text by Stuart Delves

EXCUSATION; Robbie Schneider , text by Stuart Delves

Here are some of the exhibits by  Sue Hufton, Rosella Garavaglia and Robbie Schneider.

GLANCE: Rosella Garavaglia , text by Sarah Farley

GLANCE: Rosella Garavaglia , text by Sarah Farley






You will  find information about the exhibition on the poster here (click to enlarge) or visit the website (link above). It will be touring next year.





Lucas, Arte de escriver, 1577

A recent invitation to run a three day workshop at V&A next January has given me the perfect opportunity to spend many happy hours studying printed writing manuals at the museum in the National Art Library. Entitled “The lost art of writing ? Contemporary Calligraphy “, my workshop will complement a small exhibition in the Metalware Galleries,( Room 116) which displays some fine examples of writing instruments.   My research has concentrated on European manuals from 16th to 18th Century a selection of which will be studied first hand and used by participants to create contemporary lettering using traditional techniques.

Charles Paillasson , L'art d'ecrire, 1765

The white lettering on black is by Spanish calligrapher Francisco Lucas and shows an example of redondilla script. Having spent much time exploring how my letters connect and flow , I was particularly taken by some of the ligatures and effortless gentle flourishes.

This second image is from an 18th century French instruction book by Charles Paillasson showing quills and ink wells and describes how to sit and organise a writing desk correctly . There is also a page in the book showing how a Lady should sit !

Tagliente, a better known Italian writing master of 16th century, produced this next page  from the book “Lo Presente Libro “.

Tagliente, 1553

This also has exaggerated ligatures and almost Arabic looking lettering. Irene Whalley , in her book the Art of Calligraphy,  describes them as “tortured forms”due to the complexity of the script.

My last photograph is a close up of a decorative margin from a manual called “Chiro-Graphia” by Richard Gething (printed in 1645). I am attracted by the informal freedom of line rarely seen at this time and his mastery of the quill.

Any of these books can be viewed at the National Art Library.

margin detail

Once you have a readers ticket (which can be applied for online), up to 4 items can be reserved in advance of your visit by searching their on line collection . Alternatively, you can visit in person and be guided through the process of becoming a reader and  ordering books by the helpful staff there.

Information about my forthcoming workshop is shortly to be published in a V&A booklet and will also be on their website soon.



Lettering and decoration inspired by V&A exhibits , etched and heated copper

Now that my latest finished piece has been framed and safely dispatched, I can finally reveal what I have been working on recently. It will be on show at The Free Word Centre, Farringdon Road, London, as part of an exhibition called 26 Words, The DNA of Lettering. It is a collaborative venture between members of Letter Exchange  and 26

For details of the project and the description of how the work evolved for my writing partner, Will Awdry, and myself , check out the exhibition website 26 words . The random word we had to work with was Acidulate which led to the etching of his words and my design in brass .

Letters from V&A , experimenting with etched and oxidised copper

I was interested in this process before this project began, as I had studied beautifully acid etched decoration on armour at V&A and one of the curators had suggested it might be a good medium for my calligraphy . So, it was fantastic serendipity to have a word to work with that actually describes this technique.

I booked myself on to a perfect etching course at  West Dean College. (Most etching courses are for intaglio printing but this focused on the metal itself ). It was run by Brighton based  jeweller Clara Vichi, who uses lettering in her fabulous brooches. The 3 small pieces shown here were created by me on the course using different techniques and metals.

I learnt a huge amount over this weekend course, but it was the many days experimenting in my studio (wearing marigold gloves and protective apron ! ) where I worked out how to transfer designs to metal,  finding out what effects can be achieved and what does and doesn’t work. More on my techniques in a future blog  .

I always believe it is important to spend time playing with the medium you are working with to develop complete confidence with the materials and allow the process and design to unfold together and inform each other. I wondered, at one point  if I had taken on too much , knowing I had a deadline but I’m so glad I rose to the challenge.

I include here a small section of the finished piece . I hope you will come to the exhibition to see the  art work in its entirety ! But, if not, there will  be more information and images on my blog soon.

Pompeii, Amalfi, Herculaneum and Venice

I have long been interested in the art, architecture and literature of the Classical world. Initially it was fuelled by academic study at university and more recently through researching Roman lettering and trips to Italy and Greece.

Roman inscription

Roman inscriptions, both formal and informal, were in evidence at the The  Pompeii and Herculaneum Exhibition at the British Museum.


Travel sketch book - Vesuvius

I was completely absorbed not only with the lettering but the household items on display which created a real link with the people who had lived there. It also reminded me of my stay in Sorrento a few years back and visits to both sites.

TTravel sketch book - Pompeiihe photographic collage shown here (and lettering detail ) was created by a professional  photographer friend who accompanied me on this trip. I also have a few pages of my very small pocket sketch book (made of hand made paper) here to show you.

Travel sketch book- Herculaneum

I like to make sketches/write a sort of diary during my travels when I can. It helps me absorb and retain detail and keeps me connected with the experience.

Travel sketch book - Amalfi

Boat .Imitation gold and silver leaf and acrylic inks on black paperIn the latest edition of “The Edge”, the CLAS magazine, there was a flyer for next August’s  Festival of Calligraphy. This popular annual event run by CLAS will take place in Malvern , Worcestershire next year.

Along side tutors Vivien Luniss, Nancy Ouchida -Howells , Massimo Polello (Italy) and Peter Thornton (USA) I will be running two courses there. I am teaching drawn letter design, inspired by applied lettering at V&A and modern gilding techniques.

Annotated note bookThe pieces shown here were created by  artists and calligraphers who recently attended my shorter version of this gilding course at West Dean College.  These examples show many of the techniques and materials we explored, from acrylic ink glazes on transfer gold to incising through imitation leaf with fantastic results !

Seahorses.Rooster. imitation and gold transfer

the book of my life detail2     Following on from the theme of my last blog, here is an example  of  my work with lettering made into framed low relief paper sculpture art work. This is a detail from The Book of my Life , by Sting.

The book of my Life ii

There are three layers of identical text in gouache and bronze power cut and glued to create an illusion of the sections of a book opening  out . The framed image here is a second version , so different to the one currently shown on my website.

examples of paper manipulation

I will be demonstrating paper folding techniques at the Calligraphy and Lettering Arts  Society Regional Day , October 20th in Cheltenham, for those interested in finding out more about using paper in a dynamic way.

Here are two more images of students work , created at the workshop in Belgium recently.

cut and glued lettering

Experiments with different techniques

Textures in black and whiteIt is great to be back to my blog after a Summer break .

It has been a productive time for me, not only in my studio ( where I have completed 2 commissions and enjoyed inscribing gifts for friends ) but I have also delivered lectures and workshops to some very different audiences.

Idler Academy was the venue for a taster session improving handwriting . I taught a lively group who were keen to begin the process of reinventing and smartening up their handwriting . So, they had a  practical purpose for taking a closer look at letters.

The next group I visited, at Tigerprint studio , were interested in finding out more about calligraphy to enrich their design work. Following an illustrated lecture on my personal and commission work they watched me demonstrate  different calligraphy pens and scripts . As professional card and product designers,  they use a great deal of handwritten text in their work . I enjoyed being given a tour of the studio. It was such a creative environment.

My final group were calligraphy enthusiasts (from beginners to professionals ) who were from Belgium , France and Holland . They shared a love of letters and words and were keen to learn new techniques . I spent 4 days near Aalst, in Belgium, running a residential workshop on techniques for using paper as a three dimensional surface to complement calligraphy.

Monoline textures We also explored textural patterns and how to combine text and form successfully. Here are some examples of different textures created  by the students. There will be more on paper sculpture DSC05230in the next blog. monoline lettering textures in shades of blue

Last week I spent two busy days at a Junior School in Stoke on Trent. My workshops with groups of 7 -10 year olds were part of the launch of their new handwriting scheme.

Exploring large scale letter patterns

Exploring large scale letter patterns

Calligraphy workshop

Calligraphy workshop

I aimed to give them an opportunity to learn about letter shapes, cursive patterns and the “mechanics”of writing in a creative way and help them view writing as enjoyable and rewarding. Whether they were writing with toothbrushes, feathers, twigs and paint, using a dip pen and ink or making up secret messages with Greek letters, I hoped to give them the message that taking care and time to develop their writing skills is important. It was great to teach so many well behaved and enthusiastic chidren.

cursive patterns

cursive patterns

Elle Decorate magazine interviewed me for a small feature on handwriting a while back . It was published this month and I am quoted on the many benefits of writing by hand . This has prompted a number of people to contact me to discuss how they can improve their writing style. I offer a correspondence course , sessions at Idler Academy as well as tuition at my studio in North London . I am delighted to see that there is renewed interest in this basic skill.

Toby`s dragonWhen teaching adults to modify their writing , a major element in achieving success in this depends on  their commitment to writing  exercises and practice but with children I find that after a day at school, writing lines of letters switches them off completely. To motivate them I use a multi sensory approach and devise games and activities to keep their interest while they practice.Toby`s drawing

Toby, a pupil of mine who has found writing very difficult, is enjoying learning his letter joins by making letter patterns on his drawings ! Here are two examples .

Bridgette Stocks, one of my recent students on the Calligraphy with Design Degree course , chose to focus on designing  teaching aids for  handwriting  for her final project as she hopes to work with  adults and children with  their writing skills when she finsihes her studies.. She designed and  digitising a lower case alphabet  and made a wonderful tactile wall hanging with lino printed  letters and stiching . This picture shows Bridgette ( left) working on her hanging with  fellow tutor Sally Mae  at the studio at Kensington Palace. Bridgette and Sally Mae at KP

Her work, along with those of other graduates will be exhibited at the Degree Show from 3-7th July , 10-5 weekdays and 12-4 weekends at University of Sunderland Campus , Docklands E14 9 SG. Images of the excellent work of this year`s graduates can be viewed on this website.