Calligraphy has taken me to The Cotswolds , Kent, West Sussex and Scotland in the last couple of months . This has involved  plenty of teaching , some fascinating research and much discussion about lettering. One theme that emerged was the value of the interaction and exchange of ideas to the development of one’s working practice .

Le Livre de l'Ecclesiaste , 1602 inscribed by Esther Inglis

Le Livre de l’Ecclesiaste , 1602 inscribed by Esther Inglis

I belong to a small group of professional calligraphers who meet annually to share what we have been working on, reading and researching. The group  established a lasting  bond during the three year SSI Advanced Training Scheme  that we all followed . This was around 15 years ago . (I now teach on this scheme).

We met in Edinburgh this year, at the home of group member Susie Leiper . Some of her larger pieces of work are hung in a brand new gallery space installed in her basement .


Susie Leiper's gallery in her home in Edinburgh

Susie Leiper discussing her work with our group 

During our stay we spent an afternoon at the National Library of Scotland studying manuscripts. All bar one were written by women . They included work by Esther Inglis, the letters of Mary Queen of Scots to her mother , early Gaelic fragments , an illustrated  20th century  travel journal and the illuminated manuscripts on vellum (all self taught) by  Phoebe Anna Traquair .

Detail of wall painting by Traquair

Detail of wall painting by Traquair

An Arts and Crafts movement artist , Traquair , belonged to artistic and literary circles in Scotland and had access to museums through her  husband who was a palaeontologist. Brought up in Dublin she was fascinated by The Book of Kells.  She was  a friend of JM Barrie and William Morris. All major influences in her artistic development. Like Morris she practiced  a variety of craft skills to a high standard and her output was prolific. A converted church near Susie’s home displays striking wall and ceiling paintings by Traquair which took her many years to complete.

In contrast we also saw some contemporary art including a thought provoking exhibition by Louise Bourgeois. Influenced by psychoanalytical thinking of the time , many of her sculptures and paintings expressed her inner thoughts and feelings. Her creative relationship with her studio assistant was also explored. Not surprisingly  many pieces contained lettering.

A simple mantra from the artist

A simple message by Louise Bourgeois