Waco Calligraphy Guild: Creative People United by a Love of Letters
By Jeanne Dittman
Have you ever stopped in a store to appreciate a handlettered sign simply for its beautiful artistry and not just for what it was selling? Do the shapes of letterforms intrigue and delight you? Do you have a favorite pen that you must use for certain special occasions? Then the Waco Calligraphy Guild may be your kind of people.
Founded in 1988, the Waco Calligraphy Guild is a group of creative people united by our love of letters. Some of us hang our shingles out as professional calligraphers, whereas some would just rather write and doodle on old shingles (or paper). Some of us have mastered many different lettering styles over the years – from classical Roman capitals to contemporary pointed pen script – whereas some have just picked up a calligraphy pen for the first time in recent months. Some of us teach calligraphy, some of us attend calligraphy workshops and conferences, and all of us are lifelong students of the lettering arts.
The guild currently has a membership of around 40 people, and we gather on the second Saturday of each month at 10am at St. Matthew Lutheran Church (800 North New Road in Waco). We always serve snacks, since some of us are excellent bakers and some of us are excellent buyers of baked goods. We begin with a short business meeting, share our 3×3 artwork response to a monthly prompt (a small “canvas” that can be chock-filled with inspiration), break for some conversation and treats, and then proceed with our educational program. This hour-long program is usually led by one of our members, and most often is a hands-on lesson in something pertaining to the lettering arts. We are sometimes writing a new lettering style or using a new tool. We are sometimes learning a new book or card technique on which our lettering can be placed. And, we are sometimes introduced to an entirely new art form to which letters may be added later. No matter the topic, we leave inspired for having done something creative with a room full of creative people.
The calligraphic arts trace their roots to the medieval scribes who labored over their parchment and quills creating the exquisite manuscripts that now lie in museums and continue to inspire artists worldwide. Their techniques with broad-edged pens and inks have been studied through the centuries, and many of our lettering styles (and typefaces and computer fonts) are based on the elegant combinations of strokes that they first created. Even as technologies have changed the book arts – first the printing press and ultimately the computer – the elegance of hand-lettered artwork still holds a special place in the artistic world. Calligraphers have served queens and presidents through the years, as well as institutions conferring degrees and brides mailing wedding invitations. In recent years, the newest visual technologies of Instagram and Pinterest have sparked a renewed interest in the lettering arts. Pointed pen and pointed brush calligraphy have taken on a contemporary feel that can be widely seen in advertisements, home furnishings, and even the offerings of Magnolia Market.
If any part of this expansive history of lettering intrigues you, you are not alone. We invite you to visit the Waco Calligraphy Guild and find your people already gathered. You can see what we are up to each month by viewing our colorful newsletters and other goodies on our website. We have participated in the Waco Cultural Arts Fest for years – perhaps you have stopped by our booth at the end of the Suspension Bridge and had your name lettered by us on one of our giveaways. We also produce a full-color calendar each year with original artwork by 12 (or more) of our members – they are $10 each and available for a limited time through a guild member. Feel free to visit a guild meeting on us – membership is only $25 a year, but you don’t need to be a member to attend the first time. And please never let a lack of supplies prevent you from attending a program – we always have plenty to share. (calendar)
We hope that you will feel welcomed and inspired when you visit. I have been a member of calligraphy guilds in several parts of the country, I’ve attended several calligraphy conferences over the years, and I have found calligraphers everywhere to be genuinely gracious and generous artists and delightful human beings. We would love to have you join us.
Jeanne Dittmann is a calligrapher and graphic designer who has worked as a freelance artist in Waco for over 14 years. She serves currently as President of the Waco Calligraphy Guild, and she teaches calligraphy through Baylor University Continuing Education. Her day job is the Box Office and Marketing Manager for the Baylor University Theatre. Jeanne and her family attend St. Matthew Lutheran Church, where she and DeAnna Toten Beard started the Fine Arts Ministry 8 years ago. For more information, please contact her at [email protected]