A Conversation With American Calligrapher Barbara CloseDecember 10th, 2018
It was Letterforum 1988 that marked Barbara Close’s first calligraphy conference experience. She remembers listening rapt as her hero Hermann Zapf gave a lecture. “I hung onto every word!” she says. Since then, Barbara has gone on to teach at international conferences and IAMPETH conventions and lead numerous guild workshops. She has designed greeting cards for Papyrus and created the logo masthead for Somerset Magazine. She writes that “when I am in sync with a piece—I can feel the rhythm—that is very important to me. It’s when I feel a ‘connection’ in the song, prose, or poetry that I work from the heart. The energy is strong and literally makes me move forward regardless of time.” Read on to learn more about this sunny Southern Californian calligrapher and the inspiration behind her Power Pages class!
Where did you grow up and what first sparked your interest in letters?
I grew up in Lakewood California and loved looking at, playing with and copying letters as a kid. I didn’t know the word “calligraphy” existed but was always asked to do posters for clubs at school. I loved doing it!
What was the first hand you learned, and which hands resonate with you most today?
I first learned Foundational hand with Elizabeth Lucas in Long Beach. The hands I am most interested in are Italic and Copperplate. I have developed a certain style and am happy with it. I love learning and experimenting with many hands though.
Where do you create?
I have a shared studio space [in Santa Ana, California] and am doing well with teaching classes there. I work mainly at my home studio and now have a new studio in Lake Havasu, Arizona [pictured above]. We plan to be there more often and will be teaching classes there as well.
What are three of the most essential tools for your calligraphy practice?
Pointed pen nibs, graphite (lots of pencils) and watercolours
Could you tell me about your work with Papyrus? What does the design process look like when working with a large greeting card company, and what is one of your favourite designs?
Usually they start the design process 3+ months in advance. The Art Director would give an assignment with text and a palette, and then the designer got free range to design. My favorite card was “It’s All About the Journey”. It is of the first few that I designed and was a bestseller for years!
Society for Calligraphy members and Donald Jackson at Seattletters 2018. Photo © Elyse Viotto.
How would you describe the calligraphy community in Southern California and what makes it special to you?
We are so very lucky to have such a wealth of talent right here in our own backyard! I’ve been a member of the Society for Calligraphy for over 30 years and a board member for about 25 years. SfC has been a wonderful family of very special people… the BEST!!
What was the genesis behind your “Power Pages” class? What inspired you to create this class?
I’ve watched calligraphy students for years studying letterforms and gaining good skills, but they didn’t know what to do with them beyond alphabets or addressing etc. I love combining a little art (simple & elegant) with letters and text for more excitement to the page. Power Pages takes you to unique designs without being nervous about page placement and shows people that they can create art with letterforms and be designers!
Outside of calligraphy, what are some of your other interests, hobbies and/or pursuits?
We have a second home in Lake Havasu, Arizona. We love boating, the beauty of the desert and just love retreating to our newly remodeled home, with my new studio! I am planning on holding weekend workshops there as a “Destination Retreat Workshop” very soon.