Calligrapher’s Corner:Consulting with the Experts, Volume 9: Julie Gray
1. Describe how you began your love of lettering and how you started your career in calligraphy.
Ah! Many many years ago! I grew up with a father who had gorgeous penmanship. I was always fascinated watching him write. Then I kept scrapbooks of photos and put titles on them with lots of made up crazy lettering. When in art school, I took lettering, (calligraphy wasn’t taught back then) so memorized and learned many of the old typefaces. Remember Cooper Bold and Bodoni? It wasn’t until I joined the Calligraphy Guild of Columbus (Ohio) back in the 70’s that I really began studying the calligraphic arts in earnest.
2. What would you consider to be your area of greatest expertise?
Well, I wouldn’t call it “expertise”, but studying calligraphy has led me in so many wonderful directions. When in 2008 at the Chicago conference I studied with Dave Wood, a paper cutter from Australia, I felt like I had found my calling. I love, as we all do, the feel of paper, whether writing on it, or forming it into shapes. Forming it into the shapes of letters seemed the perfect fit.
3. With whom did you study, and who were/are your biggest influences?
Being a ‘professional student’ I have had the privilege and honor of studying with so many great calligraphers and artists. I have to say the ones that have had the most influence on me have been Sheila Waters and Carl Rohrs. They both have the knowledge and talent that you can never get enough of. I will continue to take classes with them for as long as I can. But I have studied with so many great ones, they have all been an influence on what I do, each in their own way.
4. What products can you not live without?
My X-acto knife!! And my very old Letraset spoon burnisher that I used in the ‘olden days’ for Press-type, and now 40 years later, I find I use it every day.
5. What advice would you give a new calligrapher?
Learn from the best masters you can. Whether it be their books, or especially with them in person. Attend as many calligraphy conferences as you can afford. I always come away from them with new knowledge and enthusiasm. And the best teachers in the world are there.
6. What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
We love to do home exchanges! We have done 7 in the US and Canada. When we lived in NC, we did an exchange with a couple in Santa Fe. She was a textile artist, and he was a sculpture. Ohhh, what a studio they had! And living there for 3 weeks inspired our love for New Mexico.
7. When you are not lettering, what do you enjoy doing?