What began as eight students meeting regularly with teacher Sarah Schuyler around thetable of Betty Gilpin to study calligraphy became the Nashville Calligrapher’s Guild. In 1981, the study group (who referred to themselves as the Crazy Eights) made it official and elected Gilpin as their founding president. Along with Mrs. Gilpin, the original members included: Sandy White, Mary Lee Bowen, Patsy Burger, Betty Sanford and Deloris Rayner. Celebrating its thirty-fifth anniversary this year, the guild is still going strong and still fulfilling its vision “to foster the continued study, practice, and use of calligraphy among its members and to encourage community awareness of the art of calligraphy”.
Current guild president Sheryl Bracey joined the guild about a year after its creation. She had been encouraged by a friend from church to take a calligraphy class at a local community college. There she met Charlotte Chrisman who invited her to attend a guild meeting. Though Sheryl had done hand lettering for years, the class and guild were her introduction to the world of calligraphy. After attending that first guild meeting, then held at Cheekwood Botanical Gardens, Sheryl was hooked. During that first year, guild members Dee Hardesty, Lilo Regen, and Carol Percy also joined. All three ladies are still active members, and Lilo will be leading the program for the guild’s next meeting.
Over the years, the guild has continued to grow, now boasting about 90 members. Much of that growth is attributed to the frequent classes the guild offers. Each year, the guild offers four workshops. Two are taught by guild members, and two are taught by teachers from around the country. Throughout the years, the guild has welcomed well-known calligraphers such as Sheila Waters, Barry Morentz, Heather Held, and Peter Thornton just to name a few. Guild members share what they would like to learn or who they would like to learn from, and workshop coordinator Ann Cobb makes it happen. Further, most guild meetings include a program focused on an element of calligraphy. These learning opportunities help the guild to bring in new members and help promote the art of calligraphy within the community.
Along with the workshops, the guild also hosts a wonderful retreat, known as Scribehaven, each year. Began by guild member Vicki Brandt and held in the state park lodge at Lake Barkley just over the border in Kentucky, Scribehaven allows members to enjoy an amazingly beautiful and peaceful setting in which to work. Each attendee has lodging that overlooks the serene lake, and rooms are comfortably rustic. In the lodge itself is a large room that is set-up as the workroom for the weekend. Within the workroom, each calligrapher has his/her own table to work on personal projects. On Saturday, guild members often offer mini-workshops for those attendees who are interested. When not working on calligraphy, attendees enjoy spending time fellowshipping with one another and enjoying the activities available at the park.
In 2014, President Sheryl Bracey began the annual tradition of a Christmas Open House. Guild members gather at the home of a member to celebrate the holiday season with one another. Refreshments are served, a gift exchange or door prizes are coordinated, and members just enjoy one another’s company. The response has been very positive, and this year’s event is already in the works!
In addition to classes and workshops, the guild holds five meetings a year at Plaza Art Materials, where it has met for fifteen years. They also host a fun summer envelope exchange and coordinate two exhibits per year where members can showcase work. Exhibits are usually held at the Centennial Art Center and the Green Hills Public Library.
When asked why joining a calligraphy guild is important, Sheryl didn’t hesitate in replying, “The most important thing is the people. They are passionate about the same thing you are passionate about and that allows you to be exposed to so many ideas.” If you are interested in joining the Nashville Guild, or just learning more about them, visit their website at: www.nashvillecalligraphersguild.org.