Thursday, January 21, 2016

What makes it American? What makes it Calligraphy?

I’m mainly interested now in American calligraphy, the topic for my future book The ABCs of the USA.  Most of the established calligraphers that I talk to say there isn’t any such thing, that "real calligraphy" can only come from the Roman, Medieval, and Renaissance styles of Europe.  So I think I may be on to something; when people can’t see an idea that is clear to me, it’s time to write a book. 
Every other American field has had to establish its independence from the Old World--philosophy, architecture, music, dance, fashion, and even spelling.  It's time calligraphy got recognized too.     

I’ll be posting examples of the letters that I see around me, here in Boston and from my travels in the USA.  What could be more American than those? 

What makes it American?  What makes it calligraphy?  Your comments are always welcome.     

Here’s a detail from a unique American gem. The Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota, is covered annually with elaborate, eye-catching mosaic pictures and letters.  They are made out of—what else?!—corn cobs of yellow, red, purple, and black.  Americans have a long history of improvising letters out of individual dots, including such techniques as beading by Indians, lightbulbs displays on the Goodyear Blimp, and football fans in the card section.  All this creativity led to the first pixellated letters, and dominance in the field of digital typographic design.    


  1. Good to have you back here and that is a book I'd buy!
    For me American calligraphy are those hand painted signs and logos; the Coca Cola script is perhaps the most American writing to me

  2. You and I have never met, and yet you have been my mentor for probably 20 years, since my brother bought me one of your books for Christmas, and I faithfully practiced a new calligraphic alphabet each day of that next year. I eagerly await your discoveries and posts from around the USA!

    1. Wow! You really made my day. I used to wonder if people really checked in and tried that succession of alphabets. American letters are all around us. Let me know what you see.

  3. I'm so excited about your forthcoming book! I've been going around my neighborhood with fresh eyes, wondering, "Is this what she's talking about?" I live in a very ethnically diverse neighborhood, so there are so many different types of alphabets here - and not all of them English. I adored your World Calligraphy book; I'm so excited to see what you have for us next.

  4. Thanks to these supportive readers! Yes, it's an exciting topic. My mantra: if it was here before Columbus came, if it came here from somewhere else and evolved, or if it was invented here, it's American and deserves to be evaluated on its merits. There's so much calligraphy around us!