Thursday, April 13, 2017

Practicing my versals ...

Practicing my versals over the past few days. A new "Rengetsu" body of work is shaping up nicely. This walnut ink interacts quite nicely with the ground.

The young ones and the younger ones arrive tomorrow for Easter. My designated job is to organise the great Easter Egg hunt on Sunday. There will be rabbits in our garden ... trust me!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Interesting little commission

Some days, interesting little commissions come along. This one this morning is dates on a map. The client wanted several dates written on a map of mountain peaks (and other ventures) he had climbed over the years starting off with a family trip into Lake Pedder, Tasmania, in 1971.

The lettering is tiny no more than 2mm. Done in red gouache with little contrast between thick and thin. A slightly awkward job as it was large, the map was old (not ancient) and the surface was suspect. I dusted on some gum sandarac where I was to write due to all marks and blemishes. The map had been handled very well over the years, not ideal for calligraphy and I did have a little reservation. Notwithstanding I plowed into the work with my fingers crossed and had some relative success. The client was very happy and is already at the framers!

Never a dull moment ... just how I like it!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

In this day and age ...

It is refreshing to see that special interest in medieval illumination still continues. Earlier this year Betty Debnam from the Art Society of Tasmania asked if I had a date available for a one day introduction to medieval illuminated letters so we set to our diaries deciding on April 8, yesterday!

With thirteen eager participants all visual artists, we drew, we lay down gold, we painted, painted again and finally we added the finishing touches with white vine highlights. The loveliest chatter, then a quiet so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Participants and tutor departed for home happy yet exhausted!

For the love of letters ...

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Exceptional & Remarkable Women ... and one special guy

On the day my mother died, just under four weeks ago, my gorgeous partner David (aka The Oboe Player) went out searching for a gift that would have meaning for me, that would make me smile, something I could enjoy and think of my mother. He bought me this Georgia O'Keefe book and gave it to me that night. It was simple and something nice, as a memento of that sad day.  I treasure his very sweet gesture. A remarkable woman was my mother Marie MacLaren Walsh as was Georgia O'Keefe, both leaving amazing legacies in their own way.  Reminds me also of the loss of another remarkable woman Susie Taylor, calligrapher & curator late of San Francisco & SFPL.  I have just spent two hours reading about her in the latest issue of Alphabet.

Here's to all the exceptional and remarkable women and one special guy!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Scuola Internazional di Grafica - a residency

There are some really exciting happenings in this little calligraphic life of mine and one of them will happen in November/December this year.  I have been granted residency at the Scuola Internazionale di Grafica, Venezia.  Needless to say I am more than a wee bit excited.

While I am there I shall take a couple of night classes at the Scuola, have an exhibition as well as run a workshop on Saturday 1 & Sunday 2 December part of Calligraphy Week in Venice. While I am in Italy, I have the opportunity to run a workshop in Turin thanks to my friend & colleague Massimo, just before my residency 25 & 26 November. I am very excited and a little nervous, at the prospect of this Italian calligraphic adventure.

I am indebted to the Lorenzo of the Scuola and my friend & colleague Kathy of VIS  for making the application and the workshop planning a smooth process. Take a peek at the Scuola:

I am madly practicing/learning my Italian.  Ciao ciao!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

It was a quick and unusual trip ...


An interesting phone call came my way last Friday - was it only last Friday?  We were coming up to the long-weekend, 8 hours day, and we were to go to Bruny Island to stay over with friends. The call came while I was at the Lettering Shed around lunchtime. Would I come to Perth to complete some new work in the Declaration Against Modern Slavery Books?  These magnificent books were created by Joy & John Tonkin and I did all the original calligraphic design in both books.  The books travel the world with their instigator Andrew Twiggy Forrest of the Minderoo Foundation & and Global Freedom Network, collecting signatures from people of all walks of life, Sovereign, Religious, Civic leaders and more.

An Indonesian signing was coming up on Tuesday 14th March and they needed the pages to be created for signing - four of them two in English and two in Bahasa - and this was Friday 10th. Oh and while I am at it would I add eight new heading and eight new dates.  Yes, they had contacted several Perth calligraphers who had declined the job and in a way that is understandable.  The books are so stunning they scare you just to look at them. You have to write directly into the book leaving no room for error.  It is a sad state of affairs that minor human error is not tolerated in this day and age when every medieval manuscript and writings since time in memorium have mistakes in or on them.  Anyway it is a daunting task for a calligrapher and the pressure is huge. Also not everyone has the ability to drop everything and fly for a commission.  Having created the originals I knew the behaviour for the parchmentine paper ... dreadful to write on being waxy and slightly bumpy ... but to correct a mistake, yes I made some, it is one of the finest surfaces like vellum to repair small errors. 

So with all expenses paid and a beautiful apartment to work in at Cottesloe Beach, a huge table, lots of light and full of space, I settled in and enjoyed once again working on the Declaration Against Modern Slavery. I arrived home on Monday evening exhausted yet glad I had this opportunity. Thank you to all my friends and especially David who supported me as I cancelled several things that weekend.

It now feels like a dream ...

Wording in Indonesian Bahasa at 3mm, 3/4mm Brause & stick ink

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Marie Therese MacLaren Walsh

Marie Maclaren

I am continually amazed at the things I learn about myself. The past four weeks have been full of highs and lows, from one extreme to the other.

On 24th February 2017 my mother Marie Therese MacLaren Walsh, died. Mum died in Sydney at the Mark Moran aged care facility, a beautiful home by the ocean in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney.   Mum had lived a full, rich and rewarding life. Most women born in the 1920's became remarkable women, living through the Depression and World War II and onward through the 50's, 60's 70's up until today.

Mum was born on 16th August 1928. When my mother died three weeks ago, so many of my thoughts and emotions shifted regarding this remarkable woman who nurtured and raised me, along with my eight siblings. I was never the model child, a disappointment to my parents really. I guess I was always fighting to be heard and seeking attention in the milieu of a large Catholic family.  All disappointments aside, my mother is gone and I realise how much I really do love her and how much I will miss her intelligence, witty quips and gorgeous little laugh. My father loved that laugh. At mum's beautiful funeral on Friday 3rd March, I read Remember by Christina Rossetti:

Remember me when I am gone away,
         Gone far away into the silent land;
         When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
         You tell me of our future that you plann'd:
         Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
         And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
         For if the darkness and corruption leave
         A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
         Than that you should remember and be sad.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Revelations of Divine Love

I am quietly excited with this little treasure that has just arrived from the Folio Society, London.
The Head of the Art Department commissioned me to design the cover of their just published
Revelations of Divine Love - Julian of Norwich.
I feel privileged to have been asked and I am happy with the result.
I am confident I have captured the spirit of Julian's writing in the cover and book design.

It is truly a divine little book. I hope you enjoy it.

Cover & Spine.

Ornate initials throughout the text ... and there are a lot of them!
I created different designs of the same letter so they would be varied and not the same throughout.
Here are just some of them.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Enjoying some studio time

I have been enjoying some studio time and have completed the bookmarks for the participants at the upcoming Cataneo Italics in Buderim, Queensland. When I do these I always create a couple for David and me.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A thought for today ...

... from my Word-A-Day list

The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.

Theodore Roosevelt, 26th US President (1858-1919)

Saturday, January 21, 2017


An observation: I hope that each and every protester in Washington and other cities around the USA today, actually voted in the election - bar the children of course. I hope this election outcome serves as a warning for all Americans ... no vote ... no voice.   I support the right to protest with passion but I would be embarrassed to protest if I didn't vote.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

China: a memory from Nanjing

It was one of the most moving places I have been to. The Nanjing Massacre memorial.
The rape of Nanjing 1937 August to December.

Visit my website too!

Visit my website too!
In-class illumination demonstration

Something about Gemma

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Blackmans Bay, Tasmania, Australia
I am an Australian, a letter designer & calligrapher. I enjoy working with letters and grounds, teaching and mixing with like-minded people.


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