Why I Attend the International Calligraphy Conference: An Interview with Linda Yoshida

Although I live in Montréal, my calligraphy roots are in California. And thanks to a class with Yukimi Annand, I had the pleasure of meeting Linda Yoshida in 2013. I’ve been a fan of Linda’s work since the early days of Instagram, and she’s still one of my favourite calligraphers to follow. I am always impressed by her dedication to her studies and greatly admire her graceful skill in multiple hands. Her work shows a deep love for the written word, with thoughtfully chosen texts from sources as varied as Haruki Murakami, Leonard Cohen and the Game of Thrones series. She has a kind and humble spirit, and I was so glad to have the chance to spend time with her in person at Seattletters. I was also delighted to learn that she registered for Rendez-vous, which will mark her third international conference. I reached out to Linda to learn more about her studies and experiences at conference. -Joy

Image Title In Christopher Haanes' class, "It's Not a Foundational," A Show of Hands 2016 © Vichana Suon

When did you begin studying calligraphy?

I actually learned calligraphy from my sixth grade teacher when I was 12. She had the most beautiful penmanship and taught the class Italic Hand, using Sharpie Calligraphic chisel tip markers. Since then, I’ve been in love with letterforms! I studied graphic design and typography in college and went into a career in graphic design. After many years of working on the computer, I really missed doing things by hand, and decided to look for calligraphy websites on a whim. In the summer of 2011, I came across the website of Society for Calligraphy in Southern California and contacted a few teachers - lucky for me, Yukimi Annand was starting a Saturday class in her home studio, so I became one of her students. I consider myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity to study with her for two years.

Image Title Class work from Pat Blair's class, "A Flurry of Flourishes” and class work from Christopher Haanes' class, "It's Not a Foundational," A Show of Hands 2016 © Linda Yoshida

What is your favourite hand?

I actually don’t have a favorite hand - they are all so beautiful and wonderful to study. Like many, I started with pointed pen, but because of Yukimi’s excellent instruction and tremendous dedication and passion for calligraphy, I fell in love with broad edge scripts as well. Even though I only have a limited time to practice because of my full-time job, I just can’t commit myself to one script! If I absolutely have to pick a favorite, then I guess my current favorite would be Italic Hand. I had so much trouble with it back in 2012 that I put it away for years. Last year, after attending Sheila Waters’ and Julian Waters’ masterclass, I was determined to try again. I took a workshop from Carrie Imai in August, followed by another workshop with Julian in November, and then a week-long class with Diane von Arx at Seattletters in July. After three classes on Italic from three of the best teachers, I am still enjoying it immensely. I was also very honored to be asked by Paper and Ink Arts to do an “Instagram takeover” in June with a focus on Italic. It was really fun to share my experience with learning this beautiful script. I have been consistently practicing Italic for over a year, and I don’t think I have ever focused on one script for this long.

Image Title At the "Show and Share," Seattletters 2017 and class work from Diane von Arx's class, "Italic Textures and Variations," Seattletters 2017 © Devin Dhawan & Linda Yoshida

What was the first international conference that you attended and what made you decide to go?

The first conference I attended was A Show of Hands in the summer of 2016, on the campus of Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina. I didn’t think I was “good enough” to attend an international conference, but I was persuaded by a group of friends. We actually all met online, and had been working on our calligraphy via Google Hangouts for about a year. When the location of the conference was announced, it made sense for all of us to attend and to meet in person. Of course, the opportunity to study with some of the best calligraphers in the world was not to be missed! I got to study with Christopher Haanes for the first half, and Pat Blair for the second half. I had the most wonderful time at my first conference.

Image Title With Yukimi Annand and in Christopher Haanes' class, "It's Not a Foundational," A Show of Hands 2016 © JB Banzon & Vichana Suon

With so many different subjects offered, how do you decide which classes to select?

At any international conference, the faculty list is always the best of the best in the calligraphy community. It’s so tough to choose! Personally, I tend to look for classes that focus on scripts and letterforms rather than experimentation and exploration because I still very much consider myself a newbie. I truly appreciate that classes of all levels are offered at the international conferences. I also rely on recommendations from friends.

Has attending conferences made an impact on your personal calligraphy practice? If so, in what way?

Attending conferences has definitely made me more mindful about practice. I try to practice at least 30 minutes to an hour each day. For some, self-learning is great, but I always prefer in-person instruction because as a student, I may not yet see certain details in my letters that need improvement. Teachers also share tips on how to make the best of your calligraphy practice, such as using pangrams and writing blocks of text instead of writing one letter or strings of alphabet over and over. The opportunity to receive individual attention and feedback from some of the best calligraphers in the world is simply invaluable.

Image Title

Class work from Diane von Arx's class, "Italic Textures and Variations," Seattletters 2017 © Linda Yoshida

Could you share a favourite memory or story from past years at conference?

I actually have several. The first isn’t exactly a memory or a story, but the overall feeling of being completely immersed in learning, and realizing that everyone there is just like you - that’s one of the best feelings. You realize that you belong, that you are part of a tribe, and everyone there loves calligraphy just as much as you do. Another favorite memory is being around all the amazing teachers. Prior to my first conference, I hadn’t met many of the teachers, and to me - there is no other way to put this - they were like celebrities and rock stars that I read about online and whose work I admired from afar. The conference made it possible for someone like me and my friends to interact with the teachers and hear all the wonderful stories they have to tell. It almost felt surreal to be sitting at the same cafeteria table with teachers like Peter Thornton, Denis Brown, Christopher Haanes, Julian Waters, Amity Parks, Diane von Arx, just to name a few. And they were all so generous with their time and genuinely interested in sharing their knowledge with us. Calligraphers really are wonderful people.

What are you looking forward to most about Rendez-vous?

Conferences are usually the only times I get to see my calligra-friends and some of my favorite teachers, so I can’t wait to see them again. I have never been to the Eastern side of Canada and I am really looking forward to my visit.

Image Title Calligra-friends Elyse Viotto, Sunny Ba, Megan Maksimovich Goodenough, Joy Deneen, JB Banson and Devina Dhawan © Elyse Viotto

What advice and words of encouragement do you have for newbies who will attend the conference for the first time?

For a newbie, the thought of attending a conference can be quite intimidating. Even if you feel a little intimidated about attending, I would encourage you to go! Keep in mind that everyone attending the conference is there to learn - from beginners to seasoned calligraphers. No one is there to compete, only to make progress. We are there to study, not only from the teachers, but also from each other. The conference also opens up many opportunities to meet new friends and get to know teachers. Calligraphers are some of the kindest and most generous people I have ever met! Many return year after year because it is truly a wonderful experience.

To see more of Linda’s work, visit or follow her on Instagram at @lindayoshida.

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