Memphis Calligraphy Guild
Created in 1987, the Memphis Calligraphy Guild began as the idea of Elizabeth Brondos, Margaret Grace, Beth Mitchell and Norma Powell, known as the Founding Mothers. Knowing that there were many calligraphers in the area, the ladies felt that forming a formal guild would be a good idea. After careful planning and multiple meetings that included others interested in establishing a guild, the group adopted the name of Memphis Calligraphy Guild and selected a logo and newsletter masthead designed by member Bill Womack.
During its first year, the guild awarded the first honorary membership to Burton Callicott. Callicott was a founding member of the Memphis Academy of Arts beginning in 1937. He taught sculpture and ceramics and went on to teach drawing, painting and calligraphy. In 1978, he became professor of the Academy in 1978 and was an important contributor to the art of calligraphy in Memphis for many years.
Guild Member Bill Womack also had ties to the Memphis Academy of Art. He served as Chairman of the Graphic Design Department, and he developed many iconic regional logos for the state of Tennessee. One of his most widely recognized works is the Welcome to Tennessee sign seen as drivers enter the state.
Building on its strong roots, the Memphis Calligraphy Guild now has approximately 50 members from six states, including Tennessee, Mississippi, Ohio, Arkansas, and Alabama.They meet on the first Monday of every month at 6:30p.m. at the Germantown Baptist Church (9450 Poplar Avenue, Germantown, TN 38139). Each meeting begins with a short business discussion followed by a member presented programs. Programs this year cover a wide array of topics ranging from navigating the Guild’s website to holiday themed calligraphy projects to a panel presentation entitled The Art of the Envelope: Addressing Tips & Tricks.
In 2003, the guild hosted an exhibition entitled “Art of the Written Word” in the Northlight Gallery at City Hall in Memphis. The exhibit was billed as “celebrating the beauty of handcrafted letterforms” and proclaimed the third week of October as Calligraphy Week in not only the city of Memphis, but also the State of Tennessee. Work showcased was created by guild members and other well-known calligraphers such as Timothy Botts, Cheryl Jacobsen, Judy Melvin, Charles Pearce, Susan Skarsgard, Michael Sull, Diane von Arx, and Angela Welch.
The guild also offers ongoing classes. The elected Workshop Chairman coordinates classes according to the interest shown by guild members and guests of the guild. Past workshop teachers have included Mike Kecseg, Georgia Angelopolous, and Ann Rabinovitz. Workshops scheduled for 2016-2017 include Layering with Lettering, presented by Roann Mathias April 2-3, 2015, and 26 Seeds: A Year to Grow presented by Reggie Ezell over six weekends in 2017. To find more information about these classes, visit the guild’s website.
According to members, joining the guild has many advantages, including networking with other calligraphers and staying in touch with the calligraphic world. It also gives members the chance to share knowledge and ideas and to be exposed to various educational workshop opportunities. Further, the guild has an extensive library of calligraphy books available to members.
When it comes to starting out in calligraphy, the guild suggests finding local workshops to attend and learning basic italic and foundational styles from an experienced instructor. From there, practice is crucial. Mastering basic styles and learning about basic tools and ways to prepare your paper for lettering will serve beginners well as they advance into more complex or expressive styles.
For those interested in learning more about the Memphis Calligraphy Guild or becoming a member, there are several ways to get in touch. You can email membership@ calligraphyguild.com, visit their website at www.calligraphyguild.com, or attend a monthly meeting.