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Extract from 'Crafts Beautiful Magazine' 2011. Sarah Capel spent the weekend learning the ancient art of calligraphy
Extract from The Dragonfly 19th July 2013 which brings news and views from Ross-on-Wye and the surrounding area
If it was good enough for King John, it’s good enough for Ross Town Council. In the age of the iPad, important ceremonial acts are still enshrined in hand-painted animal skin, as with the vellum scroll granting the Rifles regiment the freedom of Ross-on-Wye last Saturday.
The scroll was the work of Leominster calligrapher Christine Oxley, and took weeks of painstaking artistry to produce. She first had to obtain a suitable piece of vellum, which is made of calf skin, from the UK’s last remaining supplier, before sanding its surface to remove any grease or blemishes.
Before the calligraphy could begin, she had to draw precise pencil guidelines on which to arrange the lettering and illustrations. The words were inscribed using designer’s gouache, a type of paint that creates a brilliant, yet solid finish, and the town council’s coat of arms incorporated 24-carat gold powder paint, also known as shell paint, as the powder was originally sold in shells. The scroll was then adorned with long strips of red and gold braid from an ecclesiastical supplier.
The final piece needs careful handling and a special frame, as it has a tendency to flex in damp conditions – but if the Magna Carta is anything to go by, it should last for a reasonable length of time.
Christine has been practising the art of calligraphy since the early 1970s, and has made scrolls for Herefordshire and Leominster councils, Hereford Cathedral and Hereford United Football Club.
If there is a particular piece of written work that you want to look impressive, such as your family tree, then that is the workshop for you. In one day you can learn a calligraphic style and complete a subject-led project over a weekend. This is a chance to load your pen with black ink and glorious colour to explore the art of lettering in the lovely rural surroundings of England's secret county, Herefordshire. The groups are small, enabling the tutor, Christine Oxley, to give lots of individual attention and the projects are set with ability in mind, so there is no need to feel out of your depth. I arrived the night before at a homely B&B tucked away in the beautiful county of Herefordshire.
Thankfully, the next day I managed to orientate myself quite easily through the quiet farm lanes to the old village school where the workshop was to be held. I was welcomed in and met with the other participants. Christine began by giving a brief history of lettering, showing us the development of the alphabet. We saw how the tools and materials influence the marks and lettershapes. It was interesting to see the variety of things we could use, such as quill brushes, even lolly sticks! She patiently encouraged us to make our first marks upon the page. I had tried before to learn from books but found that with hands-on directions, it was a lot easier to follow. We were soon able to get the ink to flow and improve on our first scratchy marks. I began to enjoy the sensation of the nib on the paper. Lots of individual demonstrations led us through the alphabet and gave us confidence to write whole words.
Over a hearty lunch, I asked fellow students their reasons for coming on the course. The lady sitting next to me decided to learn a new skill whilst her husband enjoyed the day fishing. Oliver was a stone mason and had an interest in letters, Jo, who also enjoyed card making, wanted to be able to write verses inside her greetings. Her husband was on a trek to the nearby towns of Ludlow and Leominster. The afternoon flew by, whilst we wrote in colour, as well as being introduced to spacing and capital letters. We even had a go at short quotations, which gave us a real sense of achievement. Some participants were coming back tomorrow to build on what we had learned, in a workshop devoted to using calligraphy with plant illustrations. By the end of the day I felt fully equipped to continue at home, having had practical guidance. I now understood the pleasure of conveying the English language in a beautiful way.