I was fortunate enough to work with a fabulous customer over the last few weeks, delivered TWO related family trees.
My customer's Dad has done a great deal of research into both his adopted family and, more recently, his birth family.
When we first talked, we were looking at putting all the information onto one tree, but there's so much info that it would have been difficult to make it compete and attractive, unless it was going to be a very strange shape.
In the end we went for 2 separate trees which are clearly a pair, but separate off the 2 families.
There were many many more names in the research, but over a number of email conversations (including involving my customer's dad) we decided on the final content. (As ever that's the customer's call - with them no doubt thinking about who will see the tree and making sure no-one will be offended to be missed!)
I was delighted that the classical look of the tree suited my customer - and I was able to speed along with it.
As is usually the case, I wrote 4 versions of each tree - I'll tell you a bit more about the process in another blog.
They were originally to be ready for her Dad's birthday at the beginning of December, then Christmas, but in the end we decided not to rush, and they were delivered in time for a Sunday lunch for the family last weekend - where I believe the package containing the trees was opened for the first time!
The studio window continues to be an anti-work issue! Here's a picture I took this week, without even standing up. (Yes, lazy!)
So far I have seen from my studio window:
- sunshine, mist, breezes, gales, rain, hail, rainbows
- stars by the billion
- calm sea, blue sea, grey sea, crazy sea
- assorted tankers/ferries/small craft
- beautiful cloud formations
- gulls, oystercatchers, magpies, a heron, a pheasant and assorted small birds
- the Isle of Man (which is 50 miles away)
- dolphins (or maybe they're porpoises - I need to learn more)
I love this!
One of my favourite students, Norm, has been working on various styles of Gothic, and decided to recreate the lettering from the Luttrell Psalter. And then, feeling playful, amended the decoration to include not one, but two, self portraits.
The lute playing one is in a sheaf of corn because Norm decided he wasn't up to drawing legs - not, as his wife thought, jumping out of a cake!
It's right and proper that we learn calligraphy properly, but it's also great to just have a giggle too!
Those of you who follow my ramblings or have visited will know that I had a wonderful studio space in Nottingham.
With a house move come a few compromises, so I was perfectly happy to settle for a smaller space here in Wales. I was keen that it was on the ground floor and had plenty of natural light, but other than that, I was happy to work with whatever space came along.
Well - the house we've bought has a large room (formerly the garage) with picture windows to the north and the south, and I was fairly sure it would be big enough.
When we moved in, I discovered a couple of things I'd not noticed.
1. There's some really decent fitted office furniture which is pretty much perfect for my needs, and allowed the other furniture to fit in easily
2. There's a dedicated loft space, dry and boarded out and roomy with a reasonable ladder to it - perfect for all those things I "need" but don't need to hand.
The main challenge is going to be keeping my eyes on my work and away from the wonderful view though.
Well - it's never going to be any tidier than it is now - so here's some pictures for those of you who like a look in someone else's studio (I know I REALLY do!) Note binoculars on the window sill - just in case something needs a closer look....
One of the hardest things about moving away from Nottingham was giving up my teaching - each class has been such good fun and I've made so many friends through them.
Unfortunately at the moment I don't know of anyone who could take over the teaching, so I really have abandoned them (as was pointed out to me many times!!)
Everyone within the classes could become members of Nottingham Calligraphers (Here) but for some that didn't feel right (yet). A couple of the groups are continuing to meet, which is great news!
I received many lovely presents, cards and comments from my groups as I left, including a hugely thoughtful "Welsh food parcel" which even included Anglesey sea salt crisps! I received several beautiful bouquets too including this one which brilliantly includes "daffodils" (I'm not sure what they are, but as I received the flowers in December, I don't think they're daffodils).
I feel very privileged to occasionally do calligraphy for a customer which is really personal - an anniversary gift, a declaration of feelings, or a marriage proposal.
I did 2 marriage proposals in quick succession this autumn- obviously they're private for the couples involved and also some very personal words for a special Christmas present.
I know that one marriage proposal was successful - here's the lovely testimonial from the proposer:
Janet, from the word go, was incredibly friendly, helpful and very quick in responding to my queries. The work itself was delivered before time and to an exceptional standard. Safely and properly packed, this exceeded expectations. All in all, I cannot praise the service and quality of the work high enough, especially when the price offered was very reasonable! I recommend Oakleaf whole heartedly!
The other proposal, I'm certain will have been successful too. This is what the proposer said on receipt of the piece:
I showed my mum the card you have crafted and she burst into tears so it's already had a great impact.
The Christmas piece was a pleasure to do, for a delightful customer. He said:
.....she cried happy tears. I cannot thank you enough for your extraordinary generosity in doing this for me.
Of course it wouldn't be right to show you the pieces - so here's a tiny snippet of each.
New year, new studio - trying to get back into it!
I thought I'd do some pointed pen lettering because it tests all your control - including pressure on the pen.
I chose the marvellous "A bay in Anglesey" by John Betjeman (thanks to friend Cathy for pointing it out to me) and wobbled my way through - but at least it's a start.
The up-strokes are hardest - much wobbling going on there - but at least I felt more competent by the end than at the beginning.
(Yes, I spelt scarcely wrong too - all the right letters, not quite the right order)
I've a lovely commission waiting for me on my desk (a pair of family trees) but I owe it to my client to get my lettering back in order before I do any work on it.
I know I've been quiet for a while, but it's for a good reason!
Just a week before Christmas I moved house - to Anglesey in North Wales. It's been quite a big deal as both my husband and I have spent all of our adult life in Nottingham, so it's a big change. But so exciting to be near the sea - really near!
The move went really well despite my having to confess to how much stuff I had in my studio (thanks to my lovely classes for taking a lot of it off my hands) and despite a taster day of "Welsh weather" when we moved in.
We've experienced some really wild weather here so far, but as it's also generally making national headline news, I'm assuming it will all calm down eventually.
I will revert to sharing pictures of my work, but thought you might like a taster of views from my new house.
Here's my brother removing the pergola which seemed to have no purpose whatsoever except to block the view:
And this is a rather grey view today - taken from my studio window though - not bad, huh?
I shall miss not having my classes starting up again in a week's time - missing everyone - but I'm determined to bring some calligraphy tuition to Anglesey. And of course commissions and online learning can all carry on as before.
Will take my camera OUTSIDE the house and take some more photos to share as soon as the sun appears!
Happy 2014 to you all.
I'm Janet Smith, a calligrapher who loves to experiment with lettering and calligraphy.