Keith and Amanda Adams are two of the best calligraphers in the world, and they will be returning to teach another amazing six day intensive course on Calligraphy in 2016!
This is quite a claim, I know, I know! After six days of tutelage on the Catalan Carolingian script and seeing Keith and Amanda’s various feats such as the free hand writing of Trajan script (the original roman lettering) and hearing another student whispering across the table, ”There are really only a few people in the world who can do that.” This from a student who comes from a family of letter carvers, and recalls how he would be practicing letter strokes as a child, ”I might practice a lifetime and never quite manage to do that.” That, being the elegantly applied strokes of A, V, S and P in smooth, unerring action.
I had my initial reservations about participating and hosting a calligraphy course. I attended a Design College about 12 years ago and we had typography and layout modules as a part of the course, but I felt like calligraphy could be a little out of touch. You know, a pleasant past time for the retirees.
Now I admit, I had it totally wrong!
Keith and Amanda have been teaching in France and Spain for over thirty years. He, as a Professor of Calligrpahy in the Graphic Design Department at EINA in the Autonomous University of Barcelona. Both Amanda and Keith work as artists and professional calligraphers. They are anarchic, irreverent and extremely experienced teachers. They love their students and Amanda has an indefatigable ability to value and connect with each student!
Not only did we learn about the techniques of Carolingian Calligraphy (the original lower case, most widely used script before printing presses). We had talks and presentations on the history of letterforms, the cultural and historical context of Carolingian Calligraphy. Demonstrations of the artistic methods of collecting, grinding and using various natural pigments and stains (walnut, clay, and other slightly harder to acquire pigments). We made quills and bamboo pens, and practiced with brushes and experimental tools and brush strokes.
Over the six days our group of ten participants became good desk mates. We had daily cake deliveries from Lillian, who lives in the valley (see below!) and fresh berries from the garden and from Liz. As well as the Spanish biscotti (what’s the spanish word for it!?) from Keith and Amanda’s well travelled supply. The afternoon tea and cake breaks were just the thing to boost our energy after concentrating on our work.
It’s safe to say that Amanda and Keith turned my view of Calligraphy upside down (which is exactly what the left handed calligraphers have to do). Like many of their students I will be reattending the course to further perfect the scripts we were practicing and learning more of the traditional lettering techniques. Like a lot of traditional skills, this is about the pace and the meditation. Despite still being able to tap out this blog on the computer keys at a spontaneous pace, I now appreciate time and skill it takes to make a beautiful, ageless document (perhaps on calfskin vellum with pigments and acidic inks which burn the paper, instead of staining). And like those monks, we certainly appreciated a glass of wine or a fine swig of spirits at the end of what felt like rewarding and challenging work.
(Below are the class participants’ final works)