Calligrapher’s Corner:Consulting with the Experts, Volume 6: Holly Monroe
- Describe how you began your love of lettering and how you started your career in calligraphy.
I grew up in a family where art, calligraphy, handwriting and faith were all important. My grandfather was a teacher of handwriting, business and shorthand in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. My mother was a fine artist (taught drawing) and my father, Clifford Mansley, Sr. attended the Zanerian College of Penmanship. (Read of his experience in Bound & Lettered Volume 11, Number 2). In the 1960’s and 70’s, I poured over the IAMPETH newsletters at my grandfather’s house and studied the interesting letters that he and my grandmother hand wrote. Loved his capital script W’s and lower case t’s –that ended a sentence. During my high school years, my bedroom was next to my dad’s studio. I looked over his shoulder (and talked his ear off) while he lettered Resolutions, Testimonials and Certificates for the New York engrossing studios. In 1974, I had the opportunity to learn from my father during a Senior Project that my New Jersey HS offered. For 8 weeks I worked on Engrosser’s Script (aka Copperplate) and Old English. Oh, I was terrible, but Dad handed a few little jobs over to me and I was off and running. While in college, I made my way to several fraternity headquarters and one of them hired me to letter their membership certificates. I still work for them today! With a board propped on my college books, I lettered hundreds of certificates from my dormitory room. In 1980, I decided to start my official business, so that I could be a ‘stay-at-home Mom’ when the time came. And now, here I am, years later, with my hands full of deadlines…still loving letters! My Mission? To feed the soul by making meaningful words beautiful!
- What would you consider to be your area of greatest expertise?
Flourishing or what I call ‘dancing on paper’ is a favorite expertise. I love flourishing Italic and Copperplate and have learned how to play it up on a host of other styles. Years ago, I lettered the flourishing page for the 23rd Edition of the Speedball Textbook. It’s a little tight, but open those flourishes up and voila! They are beautiful. Although you can pick up some instruction there, I now teach a “Fantastic Flourishes” workshop, where you create a flourished piece in the round.
I typically incorporate flourishing in my Calligraphy Cruise class. http://www.hollymonroe.com/classes.php?p=cru
A second expertise…Over the last five years I have been creating a 144 page Book of Hours on genuine calfskin with traditional gesso and 23k gold leaf. My client asked that pages be as decorative and detailed as I could conceive, but then I’d never finish! I’m presently on page 55. http://www.hollymonroe.com/portfolio.php?cc=1
- With whom did you study, and who were/are your biggest influences?
My family was my first influence with lettering and drawing. In 1982, a real turning point for me in understanding broad-edged lettering was Sheila Water’s two week, 2,000 Years of Calligraphy class. Tim Botts was a huge influence when it came to interpreting the words onto paper with feeling and color. John Stevens with his strong letter forms. Reggie Ezell, Donald Jackson, Peter Thornton, Lorna Bambury and Jerry Tresser all helped to shape my gold leaf work. I’m grateful to many others for what they have taught me!
- What products can you not live without?
- What advice would you give a new calligrapher?
Study and learn from good exemplars. Too many pick up bad habits from books with poor examples. Learn the discipline of the letterforms first and when you are accomplished, throw your artistic side into them!
- What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
CALLIGRAPHICALLY: I have recreated, by hand, all of the Founding Documents of the USA, life size. You can see the process and result at www.Patrigraphica.com > The Artisans > The Gallery. My client has reproduced my replica’s on genuine vellum or fine paper with letterpress.
PERSONALLY: I mentor young women (felons, i.e. drug dealers/users, etc.) at River City Correctional Institute through a Cincinnati organization called JobsPlus.
7. When you are not lettering, what do you enjoy doing?
Dance, dance, dance! I’ve been a part of Tango del Barrio, an Argentine Tango group in Cincinnati. Love all the Latin dances-Salsa, Bachata, ChaCha, etc. Walking, golf, tennis, snow skiing. I do enjoy being active!
To view more of Holly’s work, visit her website at: www.hollymonroe.com Also, be sure to check out her Fox and Friends interview focused on her work recreating American historical documents on July 3rd between the hours of 6a.m. and 9 a.m.