Calligrapher’s Corner:Consulting with the Experts, Volume 5 Heather Victoria Held
- Describe how you began your love of lettering and how you started your career in calligraphy.
My love of lettering began when my husband brought home a Scheaffer Calligraphy set. He thought I would enjoy using paper and ink and that he had finally found me a “ cheap hobby!” I worked with that little fountain pen set and the small booklet of exemplars and quickly found that I didn’t like it. But I began searching online and through my old Victoria magazines and quickly found that I was drawn to pointed pen scripts. I began interacting with the Ornamental Penmanship Discussion Group on Yahoogroups and found myself completely captivated by the pointed pen. With Dr. Joseph Vitolo’s encouragement, I attended my first IAMPETH convention in 2003 and have been working with the pointed pen ever since. It is still such a source of peace and passion after all these years and I can’t imagine my life without it. In my early days with the pen, I spent a minimum of 3 hours a day in practice. Now, although I take commissions and teaching jobs that take away from my practice time, I still find there is so much to learn and try to carve out dedicated time for pure practice.
- What would you consider to be your area of greatest expertise?
The pointed pen and the world of offhand flourishing are my greatest expertise. I started with the book Ornate Pictorial Calligraphy by Dover Publications and tried to follow the exercises suggested in that book. I quickly found that I didn’t want to copy existing designs, but I wanted to find my own voice and style of flourishing. I worked for 18 years as a Florist and found ways to translate my floral training into the world of offhand flourishing. When I teach Flourishing, my goal with my students is to train them how to deconstruct a flourish and create their own unique designs without copying an existing design or penciling a plan. I love to share my passion for the pointed pen with others.
- With whom did you study, and who were/are your biggest influences?
Artistically, my greatest influence is Kate Greenaway. Through reading her biography and her journey into the art world, I have gleaned a lot of inspiration. Her colour palette inspires me as well as her contrast between a strong lines and gentle colours.
When I began studying the pointed pen, my biggest influences and mentors were Brian Walker, Joseph Vitolo, Bob Hurford and Michael Sull. Michael Sull saw my potential and began teaching me and encouraging me since my first meeting with him in 2003. I studied with him through his Spencerian Saga and through written correspondence. He gave my first “nudge” to teach as well. Joseph Vitolo was a big encourager and source of help in my early days as I struggled to learn the properties of the pointed pen and fought through the learning curve. Without his early instruction, I would have given up on the pointed pen. Bob Hurford was my first pen pal. He wrote to me in his gorgeous penmanship and often flourished birds on my envelopes. He encouraged me to flourish and we still correspond to this day. I always credit Brian Walker as the one who taught me how to see. He gave me tools to critique my own work and see where I needed to improve. I am forever grateful to these friends and mentors.
- What products can you not live without?
I could not live without McCaffery Brown Ink, Finetec Gold Metallic Watercolour, Bleedproof White, Gillott 404 nibs, the Sakura Clear Stardust Gelly Roll Pen, my hot foil pen, Fabriano Artistico Paper, Colour Soft Coloured Pencils, Diane Townsend Watercolours and my penholder made by my dear husband Chris (see below for ordering information).
- What advice would you give a new calligrapher?
Never give up your sense of play and curiosity. Never stop practicing. Show up at your studio space daily and expect to work. Never stop learning. Never underestimate your ability to hone your own skills. Never over estimate the importance of an expert. Follow your own instincts. Create your own path. Accept criticism but don’t take it too personally. Discard that which you believe to be untrue.
- What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
It might not be so surprising anymore, but I am an absolute introvert. I need my quiet time and space, walks in solitude and time alone. My first few teaching engagements were terrifying for me. I had to fight through the urge to hide! But now, the thought of public speaking and teaching large groups doesn’t bother me at all.
- When you are not lettering, what do you enjoy doing?
I love to be outside in nature. I love bird watching, or taking walks through greenhouses, botanical gardens and butterfly conservatories. I wish I were a wonderful gardener but I am not. I love the thought of a garden but I would rather sit and read in a well-tended garden than do the dirty work myself.
For more about Heather, visit her website and blog at:
To order a pen holder made by Chris Held: