A Conversation with Slovenian Calligrapher Loredana ZegaFebruary 12th, 2019
Today our faculty interview series brings us to southern Central Europe, as we speak with Loredana Zega of Slovenia. Loredana is Fellow of CLAS, the highest honour of the organization’s Ladder of Progress. She teaches and exhibits her work internationally and is also known for her live calligraphic performances that incorporate her love of theatre and dance. In the interview below, learn more about her upbringing and how the performing arts impacts her work as a calligrapher!
Where did you grow up and what first sparked your interest in lettering? Do you have a specific memory from when you were young?
I grew up in Slovenia, and three quarters of the country is covered with woods. The nature is really breathtaking at every step. My aunt was a designer, and we received lots of greeting cards written calligraphically. I was really dying to see those magical letters, so I started to learn calligraphy very early. I remember a moment when I desperately wanted to have a calligraphy fountain pen, that I made it by myself by cutting a regular one and of course destroyed it! I also remember standing in front of the classroom and drawing the letters with chalk, pretending to be a calligraphy teacher! Oh, I have lots of memories from that period!
What is the first hand that you learned, and which hands resonate with you most today and why?
My first hand was Gothic Textura which I find the easiest script for beginners (and especially) children to start with even though we know it is better to start with Romans. But there are no round strokes in it and therefore for beginners much easier to grasp.
Nowadays I use mostly my own designed scripts: my favorite Flame script (which I will be teaching at Rendez-vous) and modified Italic which are both designed for a brush. Have I mentioned that I love brushes?
Which teachers have made the deepest impact on you and your work and why?
My first teacher was Denis Brown and he had the biggest impact on my calligraphy. His style was (and still is) like it was mine. Dangerous lines, rhythm, dancing, the energetic strokes… That’s really me… But if I wanted to become internationally recognized I had to discover and develop my own style and find my own calligraphy path. Because his unique style really matched my personality, finding my own path was quite a hard job. Besides that, I couldn’t attend as many international workshops as I would like.
However, some years later, I was lucky to learn from Carl Rohrs at a five day workshop in Germany. I said, “Carl, I don’t need your brush, I have already one with me.” And he said, “Yeah, but try this one!” And it was LOVE at first sight (with the brush, of course!). He spoke about brushes the way I felt about them! Carl is a great teacher and an open book. For me, his workshop was a starting point to develop my own style. From then on I started to teach internationally.
Where do you create, and how have you organized your work space? What is your best time of day, and do you have any particular routines or warm-ups before you begin?
Over the years I have changed lots of different “working” places. I enjoyed working in a wood factory the most, where I had really a lot of space (and tools) to create big artworks. Now I create in a part of my room and hopefully I will have my own creating space in my own little house by Christmas 2019.
Before I can start a new piece, I have to clean up the table and put everything in its place. However, my daily working routine starts with a walk in nature, with my beautiful fluffy dog, a Samoyed named Gigi. As I am also a mum, I have to work when the children are at school but my favorite part of the day is evening. In few years I will be able to create in my natural creativity part of the day!
What are three of the most essential tools for your calligraphy practice and why?
Brush, brush, brush! Ok, seriously now: more accurately, I’d say a good quality brush – my Ferrari, good gouache and great paper! Why? Because all these ingredients (besides a good hand and little water) make all the difference in the final piece!
A still shot from Loredana’s performance in Rennes
What has been one of your most meaningful commissions or projects? What made this project particularly special, challenging or rewarding?
Can I name two? My most meaningful and inspiring project was the performance in Rennes, France. It was a huge event organized by a printing factory for their anniversary. As it was somehow connected with letters – printed and written, it was interesting to interlace all these elements with music and dance. The second was a commercial for Guinness beer.
Would you share the background behind your musical “A Day of a Calligrapher”? What inspired this production, and how do your passions for dance and theatre impact your work as a lettering artist?
It all started with my first international workshop in Germany. On the last evening, they prepared a big wall covered with paper and said: “Loredana, please let us see how you dance with your biggest brushes!” And they made a terrible mistake... they gave me a glass of wine! I started to enjoy myself writing backwards like Leonardo da Vinci, imitating the voice of Jean Larcher (at that time he was still alive), talking how Copperplate should be written, explaining why the Rustica script is impossible to learn… It was really a great show, with a great audience and in one moment I knew this would become my musical for the 34th international calligraphy conference in Sonoma! The next day I started to write the concept, wrote all the text that I am speaking on the stage, create the choreography for dancing, recorded two new videos, six songs … Quite a huge amount of work, but really enjoyable, especially when it was presented at The Passionate Pen in front of 400 calligraphers from all over the world.
Dance and theatre were actually the biggest part of my childhood which taught me to be very free, confident on stage and of course have natural movement of the body. All these things have had a strong impact on my work, not only when I perform but also in my letters. One calligrapher once said: “You can actually see her dance in the letters she creates! In her works you can see that all the confidence is real, not hiding anything, but just pouring herself into her work.” That was really nice to hear, even though it wasn’t said to me directly.
You will be teaching a five-day course at Rendez-vous entitled “Dry Brushing the Romans and Flames”. What knowledge and skills will students gain from this experience, and how would you describe your style of teaching?
The Roman letters were always taught with the wet brush, but now the students will have a chance to try it dry! Some strokes go into some different directions in order to make the connections invisible. Besides this, my teaching differs in another way. I actually hold the student’s hand in order to help him or her to feel how the brush should be twisted, how much pressure should be given and how fast or slow it should go. Most of the students are really fascinated by this, but some are not. These people have to discover all these things by themselves, slowly but firmly.
In to this five-day workshop, I included my Flame script which was really “invented” when I had a break during the practice of the Romans. It is really the relaxation script, and it helps to achieve the soft touch and confidence required for all the scripts. In this inspirational workshop we will take some time also to make embossing on the final pieces and I believe the students will have a great time!
How would you describe the calligraphy community in Slovenia? What does community mean to you, in the context of the lettering arts?
Well, actually there is no calligraphy community in Slovenia yet. It is true that I have had 2000 students, but these were short evening workshops. Many people came back five or even nine or ten times, but the population of students is young and no one really had time to run a society. However in the past days, my partner and I started the first calligraphy society in Slovenia. Hopefully we will grow in the following years and connect with other guilds around the world. We are already planning quite interesting events in the future! Besides the beauty of calligraphy, people who will visit Slovenia will be fascinated by its divine nature.
Outside of calligraphy, what are some of your other interests and hobbies? What might be something about you that people would be surprised to learn?
I have many interests and life is too short to try and learn all of them! I love languages! But most of my free time I like to spend with family and walking with my dog. Oh, yes, and I could teach people to make the best tiramisu!