A Conversation with Japanese Calligrapher Yukimi Annand

Originally from Japan, calligrapher Yukimi Annand is known for both her formal and experimental calligraphy. She worked as a graphic designer for ten years before moving to Southern California in 1990 and has been teaching calligraphy since 2003. Her work has been featured in numerous exhibitions and juried issues of Letter Arts Review, as well as in books such as Mastering Calligraphy and Textual Art. This summer, she will teach a five day course on the Foundational Hand, open to calligraphers of all levels. Read on to learn more about Yukimi’s journey in the lettering arts, gain insight into her approach to experimental versus formal calligraphy and discover how nature influences her work.

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Where did you grow up and what first sparked your interest in letters?

I grew up in a small town on the Boso Peninsula in Japan, surrounded by the ocean and hills. I always liked to draw as I remember. I got a spark from the power of written letters when I saw a poster about preventing pollution at the local train station. It had a strong message with a child's drawing and several words. At that time, I was a high school senior and was searching for my future life. I was a very shy girl who was not comfortable talking in front of people. I thought that the verbal messages I composed did not have much power. I was fascinated to think that I could communicate something with visual messages. The fascination grew, and I chose to study communication design. When I took lettering and typography class in my second year of art school in Tokyo, I realized again that letters are not only the tool of communication but also their forms are beautiful in themselves. I spent many hours drawing both Japanese and Roman alphabets with pencils and brushes.

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What is the first hand that you learned, and which hands resonate with you most today and why?

The first calligraphy hand I learned was Japanese Kaisho style in elementary school. My interest in Japanese calligraphy somehow didn’t grow well. In early 2000, I found a Western calligraphy class at our local adult education center in Southern California. I first learned Chancery Cursive based on Arrighi's running hand. Any well designed Roman alphabet forms resonate with me. If I have to pick one hand, maybe it would be drawn Roman capitals. Right now I am studying Hermann Kilian’s drawn letters. His works are full of life, and his original works have been my spiritual nourishment.

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Which teachers have made the deepest impact on you and your work and why?

• Akireru Nakajima, typographer and graphic designer who introduced me to the world of lettering and typography.

• Thomas Ingmire, my first correspondence course teacher who influenced me to choose my career as a calligrapher. I learned so many possibilities in calligraphy from taking his workshops.

• Brody Neuenschwander, who gave me creative direction to work with the meaning of text.

• Ann Hechle, who let me be myself.

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Where do you create, and how have you organized your workspace? What is your best time of day, and do you prefer to work with music or in silence?

I create at my home studio. It is located on a second floor and it receives bright sunlight. My workspace is set in the center of the room with tables that can be re-arranged. I often share the space with my students. I store items in categories such as letterform study, textural calligraphic works, and book arts. My tools, mediums, paper, canvas and wood boards are also stored in different spots. I try to minimize whatever I have since my space is limited.

Whenever I can concentrate is my best time. It comes at different times in the day. My deepest concentration comes often between 10:00 pm and 2:00 am. I don’t listen to music when I create. I always work with words and texts. They have their own sounds. I listen to the sound of words when I create.

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What are three of the most essential tools of your practice and why?

Words, ink, paper and whatever writing/mark-making tools best suit my creation. My most essential writing tools are pencils, small edged nibs, pointed brushes and folded pens. My most essential mark making tools are balsa boards, twigs, wide flat brushes and linen cheesecloth.

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How do your approach, process and mindset differ, when you create abstract, textural pieces versus when you work on formal calligraphy? Do you find that your formal work influences your abstract work and/or vice versa?

I definitely feel that both textural work and formal work influence each other. Rhythm and movement are essential elements of calligraphy. Textural work and formal work echo each other. When I create abstract pieces, feeling is more important than legibility. I put my whole body into it for expression. When I do formal work, I have a responsibility to communicate with my letters. Legibility becomes first priority. However all my work contains my feelings.

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How does your love of nature influence your creative process and work?

Going back to my childhood, I grew up on my parent’s flower farm in a rural area. I always enjoyed the change of seasons, and I naturally learned that the power of nature is strong and we humans can’t win against it. Whenever I struggle with my creation, I have enough patience to continue to work on it or wait until the next wave comes. When creating my textural abstract works, nature has been my source of ideas. It has everything - line, form, contrast, color, unity, harmony, equivalence, etc. I have been capturing natural elements and been experimenting to put the forms, especially the form of lines, into my letterforms and texture development. And most of all, it is comfortable for me to create something related to nature.

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You will be teaching “The Foundational Hand from Form to Design” at Rendez-vous. What knowledge and skills will students gain from this class and how would you describe your style of teaching?

This will be my first 5-day letterform study class and I am very much looking forward to it. I studied the Foundational hand under Gaynor Goffe in 2006 by correspondence course. I love systems, and the geometric system of this hand made me feel very certain why I love the Roman alphabet. The class will be a “step by step” learning process, and my materials for this class will be appropriate for beginners and experienced calligraphers. I would like this class to be a seed for each individual's own development of Roman minuscules.

The class will begin with a historical background of the Foundational hand. It covers:

• Basic structure of Edward Johnston’s Foundational hand

• Basic instructions for writing the form with broad edged nibs and ink/paint on paper

• Studies of the Caroline minuscule, Humanist minuscule and narrow Foundational hand

• Writing the hand from large scale to small scale

• Studies of written textures - exercises with letter/line spaces, with block writing and with weight change

• Page design and layout

• A book project

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How would you describe the calligraphy community in Southern California? What does community mean to you, in the context of the lettering arts?

I joined SFC (Society for Calligraphy, Southern California) in 2003. I have been learning calligraphy by taking workshops coordinated by our society and by attending the Letters California Style conference every February. SFC has also given me the opportunity to teach classes and workshops since 2011. Our group covers a large area in Southern California, and we have about 400 members. We are a very active group, and I have made many wonderful calligraphy friends. It’s my goal to establish a very local calligraphy community around my city (Torrance and the South Bay area) and to develop close relationships with book artists, type designers and fine artists.

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Outside of calligraphy, what are some of your other interests and hobbies?

Everything connects to my creation. I enjoy botanical drawing, gardening, baking, walking and traveling. My weekly tai-chi lesson has been helping my concentration. I have been very interested in fiber arts and have started to stitch threads into paper.

Yukimi Annand

United States
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