Cowichan Calligraphers mark 25 years of love of letters

Calligraphy by Warmland Calligrapher Marilyn Boechler. The Warmland Calligraphers are celebrating their 25 anniversary this year. (submitted)
Calligraphy by Warmland Calligrapher Betty Locke. The Warmland Calligraphers are celebrating their 25 anniversary this year. (submitted)
Calligraphy by Warmland Calligrapher Marilyn Boechler. The Warmland Calligraphers are celebrating their 25 anniversary this year. (submitted)
Calligraphy by Warmland Calligrapher Judy Matheson. The Warmland Calligraphers are celebrating their 25 anniversary this year. (submitted)
Calligraphy by Warmland Calligrapher Marilyn Boechler. The Warmland Calligraphers are celebrating their 25 anniversary this year. (submitted)

By Linda Yaychuk and Betty Locke

The Warmland Calligraphers group began modestly in 1995, with one teacher inspiring a group of students.

One of the founding members or the Warmland Calligraphers, Betty Locke, taught a calligraphy class at the Cowichan Community Centre 25 years ago. At the end of the session, 12 women approached Betty in hopes that they could continue learning the fine art of calligraphy. The group decided to form a guild and Warmland Calligraphers of the Cowichan Valley (the Guild) was born. Those 12 original members have grown to more than 80 calligraphers and five of the original members are still active in the Guild.

The goal of the Guild is to nurture and support those who are learning this art. This is accomplished through workshops and classes. A number of these are held throughout the year and are given by local members, instructors from other Canadian guilds, or by instructors from other countries. Warmland Calligraphers have enjoyed workshops from wonderful teachers from Germany, France, Belgium, Ireland, Slovenia, Tasmania and the U.S.

Some of our members have had the pleasure of attending international conferences. In 2007 we proudly hosted “Island Magic”, the 27th International Calligraphy Conference. Twenty-one instructors from various countries were invited and they presented a wonderful array of classes. Some of these instructors and some of the more than 300 calligraphers who attended brought their families with them to enjoy a vacation on our beautiful Island. The conference was a great success.

Warmland Calligraphers has an executive of 13 people who meet monthly to organize meetings, workshops and communication with members. General meetings are held on the second Tuesday of each month excluding July and August. The meetings are held at the Cowichan Exhibition grounds. There are usually 40 or more people in attendance — some of whom come from Victoria, Parksville, Nanaimo, Ladysmith and Chemainus.

Meeting programmes educate us on various aspects of calligraphy and quite often a “hands-on” programme is enjoyed. Meetings also include “Gallerias” in which members voluntarily submit calligraphic pieces they have created on an assigned topic. Discussions and learning take place during Gallerias as we appreciate the works submitted.

To further educate our members, space is rented on the fourth Tuesday morning each month for “Playtime”. During these sessions more experienced members help newer calligraphers develop their calligraphic skills. This is more of a social gathering for the development of skills through practice. Part of this time is shared by a newly-formed group within the Guild called “Warmland Scriptors”. It is a group of more than 20 members who produce and present two pieces a month on given topics. Participants share their work through a private Facebook page and at Playtime.

We maintain contact with some other groups in Canada by publishing an annual journal, Reflections. This huge undertaking documents our year and is a retrospective of the artwork of the membership. It is ably edited by Barbara Qualley. Our goals and our calligraphy are celebrated in this lovely magazine. Each year we look forward to its arrival in spring.

For the last 25 years our group has worked regularly with the public. We have set up booths at various celebrations such as Christmas craft shows, quilt shows and church celebrations. Through these events we try to introduce the history of calligraphy and provide an opportunity for the public to see calligraphy being done and to experiment with a huge and ever increasing variety of calligraphic tools.

Warmland Calligraphers have had numerous exhibitions over the years in places such as The Loft Gallery in Mill Bay, Portals, the Cowichan Library and the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre lobby. You might have seen our work in museums and cafés in Ladysmith and Duncan. Some of our members do commissioned work for organizations and individuals.

The Guild has outreach programmes in which many members take part. Young children from a local elementary school are encouraged to write compositions which are then given to volunteer calligraphers. These writings are rewritten, illustrated and framed. For a few months they are hung in the halls of Sunridge Place for the enjoyment of the residents. At a gathering in the elementary school in May, the transformed pieces are personally presented by the calligraphers to the children who wrote them. Each child then gives the framed piece as a gift to their mother on Mother’s Day.

Other outreach includes the efforts of one ambitious member who holds ongoing teaching sessions at local schools during lunch break. Another member has formed a group called C.W.I.P.P.E. (Cursive Writing Intergenerational Pen Pal Exchange) in which local Grade 3 students use cursive writing to communicate back and forth with groups of seniors. This outreach tries to address the current situation in which school children have no cursive writing skills. Some of our members continue to offer classes to the public through Elder College at the Cowichan Community Centre.

During the last 25 years our Guild has grown not only in membership but in experiences beyond our meeting room walls. Just imagine what delights the next 25 years will bring.

For more information visit our website: warmlandcalligraphers.ca

Linda Yaychuk and Betty Locke are members of the Warmland Calligraphers.

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