This is the second year I have travelled to Melbourne for the annual Summer School in Winter (SSiW) Calligraphy Conference. SSiW is run by the Calligraphy Society of Victoria and is the biggest calligraphy event in Australia. Each year at the end of June/start of July the society invites five talented tutors from all around the world to travel to Melbourne and run calligraphy workshops. This years tutors included Brody Neuenschwander (Belgium), Susan Hufton (United Kingdom), Amity Parkes (United States of America), John Mathieson (South Australia) and Tamara McKimmie filling in for Olive Bull (Tasmania) who unfortunately had to cancel due to illness.
Calligraphy students from all over Australia, New Zealand and Korea descend on Melbourne to enjoy a three day workshop followed by a two day workshop run by the tutor of their choice. The students are a wide variety of ages though I am definitely at the younger end of the spectrum. A lot have been practicing calligraphy for over 20 years which I often forget when comparing my three years experience to their immaculate work!
While attending the conference, those of us that aren't from Melbourne stay at University College. This is basically a dorm room situation where we share bathrooms and have caferteria style breakfasts together before class. The college is a short walk from the workshops which are held at St Mary's College. Both colleges are located near Melbourne's famous Italian food precint, Lygon Street, which gives us plenty of options for eating out. Some of our favourite meals include Brunetti's delicious sweets, Italian at Tiamo and vegan curries at Mantra Lounge.
Both times that I have travelled to Melbourne for SSiW I have made sure to get there a few days earlier to make the most of the awesome culture. (Once I'm at the conference I tend to enter a calligraphy bubble and don't venture out of a five kilometre radius!) This year I enjoyed a girls weekend away filled with epic breakfasts, lots of shopping, birthday nights out and general fun times. The only downside to visiting Melbourne in the middle of winter is the cold. Its SO cold and SO grey. I may have missed the Perth sunshine just a little bit!
This year I chose to attend both of Brody Neuenschwanders workshops; Text Creating Texture: Large Works on Paper and From Horizontal to Vertical: Large Works on Fabric. This is Brody's second trip back in two years and all of the great things I had heard about him were confirmed. His workshops were untraditional which is what attracted me to them. We didn't once pick up a calligraphy nib and holder, instead we worked with both flat and pointed brushes.We also never wrote on traditional sheets of paper, alternately using long rolls of Japanese practice paper and large squares of fabric.
Within each workshop we formed groups of six to create 3 x 1m calligraphic panels using techniques Brody had developed. Firstly we stretched out a length of Kozo paper onto the 3 x 1m wooden panels. Then with white goauche and acrylic medium we wrote calligraphy onto the paper. Ideally you write back to front so that the words can be read correctly from the other side. Next a coat of black (made up of pigment, paint thinner and clear varnish) is applied over the top of the white words with a makeshift felt squeegee. The felt creates fabulous blocks of texture which really make the white words pop. Finally a layer of watered down Golden Acrylic colour/s is applied in your chosen manner. Only a light wash is needed so that you can still read the calligraphy. The final effect is really quite striking.
Throughout the workshops while we were waiting for each stage of painting to dry we were practicing different calligraphy scripts, following Brody's exemplars. The fact that there is a recent reseurgence in copperplate and gothic scripts hasn't gone unnoticed by Brody and he had been inspired to develop his own gothic 'Calligraffiti' style script. It was inspiring watching Brody demonstrate the Calligraffiti style. I can't wait to play around with his exemplar and modify it into my own style!
I also really enjoyed exploring the free flowing gestural scripts that looked like messy writing but were actually quite hard to achieve. It was always so interesting that the class would be working on the same scripts but the results were all so different! It only emphasised to me that each calligrapher should have their own personal style/flavour to their writing.
Writing on fabric was also something I'd not really tried before but really enjoyed. It was however more difficult to get the consistency of the goauche exactly right so that it would easily flow onto the fabric. We were able to produce some really nice brush strokes and it was cool to know that you could make something other than a print from your writing. Finished fabric pieces can made into table cloths, pillows, cushions, beadspreads etc and you could even try writing directly onto clothing.
Brody Neuenschwander was an excellent tutor. He has a huge wealth of knowledge and I could listen to him speak about calligraphy all day. Brody was very approachable and would go around the class giving out advice when needed. Just one small suggestion could easily make a big difference in our writing. His demonstrations were fascinating, especially the arabic calligraphy which I hadn't seen written before. I hope he comes back to SSiW in another couple of years.
Finally I just want to say how awesome it is being in a room with twenty other inspiring calligraphers for five days. Again so many of us from the Calligraphy Guild of Western Australia travelled over this year and I enjoy getting to know everyone better each time. I also made many new friends from various parts of Australia and New Zealand who I can't wait to see again next year, fingers crossed! To me this is the best part about SSiW.
For more infromation check out the links below: