It's a great privilege to be asked to write in a memorial book. These books are owned by churches, or sometimes by companies or organisations, to record the deaths of parishioners of people linked to the organisation.
As such, it's a piece with many commissioners (as each entry is a mini-commission) and many viewers as the books are often on display all the time, with the pages being turned weekly or even daily.
The books I have come across have either a page per day of the year or a group of pages for each month of the year. The entry for the person being remembered is added to the page relevant for the date of death.
With other pieces of work, should something bad happen, there's the option to recreate the piece. This is not so with a memorial book - indeed you're writing on a page that may have previous entries on it, possibly on both sides! So while I'm always careful, I try and use every trick I an think of to get a memorial book right.
In the picture you can see my bespoke ruler for marking up the lines - easier to just transfer marks than to measure for every page. You can see that I've tagged every page I'm going to be writing on, with the person's name. I've "isolated" the entry I'm writing so that my eye doesn't accidentally drop down one line and mix up information. I've got pens and brushes on a stand so they don't roll. I've a sheet (top L) for covering the page while I'm writing, so I don't get the grease from my hand on the page. And I've some kitchen roll (which could be cleaner, I confess!) Water and paint are accessible but not close to the book. There are some blocks that I can place between pages so that I can write a page, turn it with a block in place so it doesn't touch the previous page, and then I can carry on writing.
I have no music, radio or anything else to disturb me, and the phone is switched off. I can't do all the pages in one go, but try and do several at one sitting to keep a rhythm going. I also do similar work to all the page - all the ruling up, all the gold initials, etc.
Before writing with ink/paint, I make a tiny mark in an inconspicuous place (close to the margin on a page near the back) to be 100% sure it doesn't bleed.
I work on the flat as propping the book on my slanted drawing board is too tricky - especially as I'm a left hander and need the book at an angle.
The only other thing I can think of is that I'd asked the person requesting the set of entries to formally declare that the information was correct, and then I only worked from a print of what had been agreed - never from something I had written out already.
Then it's deep breaths and away we go!
In a future post I'll tell you what went disastrously wrong in spite of this endless list of precautions!
I'm Janet Smith, a calligrapher who loves to experiment with lettering and calligraphy.