Warmland Calligraphers of the Cowichan Valley (Duncan, BC) was founded in April 1995 as the result of a beginning Italic class held in the valley. A group of interested students led by Chris Beckett assembled at the home of Betty Locke to form a guild. Betty Locke studied calligraphy with Fran Strom in Eugene, Oregon in 1977. She returned to Calgary and began to teach. As a result of her classes there, the Bow Valley Calligraphy Guild was formed.
As of March 2016, the guild has 78 members who hail from Duncan (located on Vancouver Island), Saltspring Island, or the mainland (the Vancouver area). A few members travel 1 to 2 1/2 hours to attend workshops and meetings regularly. The remainder live locally. Of the 78 members, 36 regularly attend the monthly meetings.
The guild meets on the second Tuesday of each month, with the exception of July and August. Meetings are conducted at: Mellor Hall, Cowichan Exhibition Grounds, 7380 Trans Canada Highway (at Mays Road) Duncan, from 9am – 12:30pm. Currently, meetings and classes occur during the daytime hours only. In June and December, potluck luncheons are held in lieu of meetings. Members enjoy this time to socialize.
The guild aims to host at least one major workshop annually. Sometimes an opportunity presents itself that is hard to resist. If an internationally recognized calligrapher is touring the area, the guild will join forces with other nearby guilds to share travel expenses and will invite the instructor to present a class for their members. From March 2015 to April 2016, WCCV had the pleasure of welcoming Heather Victoria Held, Amity Parks, Cherryl Moote, Yukimi Annand, Yves Leterme, Timothy Botts, Renate Worthington, Lorraine Douglas and Connie Furgason.
The Warmland Calligraphers have also planned a major international conference. The 27th International Calligraphy Conference, Island Magic 2007, was held on Vancouver Island at Shawnigan Lake School (an internationally acclaimed boarding school) and hosted 22 instructors and 350 attendees.
WCCV notes that the biggest advantage of joining a calligraphy guild is being able to learn from highly skilled instructors. It is felt that when meeting in a group, members have the opportunity to befriend and learn from like-minded people. The group had a member several years ago who was self-taught from books. When she joined the guild, she realized her hands were all wrong, and wished she had known that the guild existed. She went on to perfect her hands and become a skilled and admired calligrapher. Guild membership has other advantages as well. WCCV has an extensive library is available to members regularly. Further, an online newsletter that includes a gallery of members’ work is published in February, June and October. Eye candy is a motivator!
The Warmland Calligraphers sustain interest in their guild in several creative ways. On the fourth Tuesday of each month, “Playtime” is offered. Essentially, members meet for three hours to work on individual projects in a group setting. There are always experienced calligraphers on hand to teach and encourage newcomers.
A monthly Galleria is featured in which a single quote or topic is presented for members to prepare calligraphically. These pieces are hung for all to see, and an experienced calligrapher leads a critique. It is a wonderful learning tool and opportunity for all to see the growth of each calligrapher. Of the 36 members who regularly attend meetings, at least 18 are regular contributors to the Galleria. For the past 18 years, the guild has had an exhibition and sale of members’ work at a local gallery. During the exhibition, they are able to encourage members to share their galleria pieces with the public. In additions, works are regularly displayed in the local library and in a seniors’ home, as well as online.
One member works closely with a Grade 2/3 teacher and gathers simple poems/thoughts the children have written for an assignment. Members then create artwork to showcase the words. This community outreach project honours the efforts of the children in this particular school who are socially disadvantaged and encourages members to actually do something more significant with their calligraphy under no pressure to be excellent. The artwork is framed, hung in a local retirement home and returned to the students prior to Mother’s Day. Kids, mums and calligraphers are delighted with this project.
Further, several members teach classes through Eldercollege. This is an adult community program in which instructors are not paid. The guild gains many new members from the generosity of these members. Also, when members attend a conference or workshop given outside of the Guild, they are encouraged to share what they have learned with other members.
For those just starting out, the Warmland Calligraphers advise not being afraid to show work to others and emphasize that practice is important. They offer challenges which are interesting and valuable for improving participants’ calligraphy.