Reviving the Art of Calligraphy
Jakarta. Most people seem to have forgone the skill of penmanship for the modern convenience afforded by technology. Gone are the days when taking notes meant you had to scramble for a pen and paper — now some finger-taps on your phone’s touchscreen will do the job. “I realized how we now rarely write by hand. Even my handwriting was getting uglier,” says Veronica Halim, one of the pioneers behind the recent resurgence of calligraphy enthusiasts in Jakarta.
Her statement might be an exaggeration. After all, she diligently practices the art of calligraphy — jotting down graceful letters and flourishes stroke by ink stroke from the nib of her pen — and organizes regular workshops for advanced and novice students alike.
“I studied graphic design in university, where I joined a typography class that introduced me to calligraphy. Afterward, I never really had time to practice it again until several years ago when I decided to do something in my free time that was away from my day job,” says Veronica, who owns a design studio that caters to corporate clients.
Even though Veronica mostly thought of calligraphy as a form of relaxation, she took this hobby seriously — even studying from an American calligrapher who visited Singapore at that time.
“Looking at my creations, many friends of mine became interested in this craft and asked if I would be interested in opening classes. At first I was hesitant because it’s very intense and might be boring for Indonesians in general. But apparently since I gave my first workshop, there has been a huge interest in calligraphy here,” she explains.
Veronica’s calligraphy workshops have taken place in various venues in Jakarta and beyond, especially cafes or teahouses that provide a serene setting to help the participants concentrate. “When you think about it, calligraphy at its most basic essence is something that people encounter every day — everyone can pretty much write with their hands, no?” she says.
In her basic class, she introduces the classic copperplate style, an elegant cursive script that was originally popularized in England during the 17th century. Its slanted angle requires pointed pen nib and ink to produce the contrasting thickness in each character. A beginner must master every form first by repetitively penning one — be it a simple curve or a majuscule letter — before continuing on to adjoining those letters to form words and sentences.
“Modern calligraphy is based on this copperplate system, which is very strict about its angles, letterforms, and technique of writing. There are many other styles out there, such as Spencerian and Gothic, but copperplate is the basic style that will prepare the workshop participants for their next step in calligraphy,” Veronica explains.
The tools that a calligrapher uses also determine the outcome. “Not every kind of paper can handle the ink we typically use. There are various inks with different consistencies, which will give slightly contrasting effects in the letterform, be it in the form of thinner or bolder lines. The pen and the nib also matter. Just like in any other craft, when you use high-quality products, you can really feel the difference,” Veronica says.
Olivia Marsha, who participated in one of Veronica’s workshops for beginners, admits that her interest in calligraphy started when she saw her colleagues bring their calligraphy kits to the office.
“Just out of curiosity, I tried to do it by myself, but after learning in the workshop, I realized that a lot of my techniques were wrong. There, I learned about how to do calligraphy in the right way so that every stroke is balanced and consistent in forming the letters,” Olivia says.
This craft is certainly not for those who are impatient, as Olivia herself can attest. “I found calligraphy to be calming. When doing one letter, for example, you have to do three or four strokes — you have to be really patient. Otherwise, the result will be ugly,” she says.
Witnessing this kind enthusiasm from her students, Veronica is certainly enthralled. “Actually, I’m happy to see so many creative activities in Jakarta lately — not only calligraphy. Most people in the city have no idea what to do on the weekend, and this kind of activity lets you gather with friends, meet new people and learn an interesting hobby,” she says.
“Usually my class takes three hours, but it always stretches up to four. Even many participants didn’t want to go home before they finish their creations,” she adds.
Of course, the skill that one attains from these workshops is not reserved for mere leisurely pastime only. Veronica herself, for instance, has applied the tasteful beauty of calligraphy to a wide array of design projects, from wedding invitations and Christmas dinner place cards to gift labels and perfume packaging.
Meanwhile, Olivia once made her professional thank-you notes all the more impressive by giving them a personal touch of gold-painted calligraphy. As she perfectly encapsulates it, “The beauty of calligraphy is that it really enhances the meaning of every word we write.”
For more information on Veronica Halim Calligraphy, visit veronicahalim.com.
Source: The Jakarta Globe