Investing in a Hobby

Pelican pen nib

For over 50 years now, I’ve been fooling around with calligraphy.

I don’t remember how my interest in “the art of beautiful writing” got started. I’d been a alphabet-lover and alphabet-doodler since grade school, but doubtless one of the main reasons for the persistence of this hobby has been my good fortune in the teachers, professional and otherwise, who I’ve been lucky to cross paths with over the years. It was their skill and patience and encouragement that kept alive and nurtured whatever got somehow sparked back there in my callow youth. 

  • My first calligraphy mentor was Blanche Flanders, my art teacher in high school. An amateur calligrapher herself who became a lifetime friend, she and I still enjoy adorning with our respective calligraphy pens and inks some of the envelopes of the letters we regularly exchange.
  • After settling in Atlanta after graduating from college, I took several quarters’ worth of calligraphy classes from Reuben Tuck, through Emory’s community education program.
  • Many decades later, part of my way of coping with the end of a nineteen-year-long domestic partnership was to consider revisiting whatever interests or activities had contributed toward my happiness before I got into that relationship. Along with finding a way to re-connect with my life-long love of dancing and my ancient resolve to learn how to play the piano, I also remembered those gratifying calligraphy classes at Emory. So I looked around to find another (affordable) class, and discovered one being taught only a few miles away, at DeKalb County’s Callenwolde Arts Center. Serendipitously, that course was taught by Carol Gray, who not only was a calligrapher but a fellow attendee of the local Quaker congregation.
  • More recently, I began my second consecutive quarter of weekly calligraphy classes at Fulton County’s Mills Senior Center, taught by professional calligrapher Sharon Ann Smith.

Even though for me calligraphy has been more of a form of private meditation than anything else, and even though I’ve no delusions about becoming a master calligrapher, I would like to get better at it – especially since calligraphy is the only “creative” activity I’ve ever shown the least smidgen of talent for. And given the extra time and energy available since retiring from my full-time job last March, it seems within the realm of possibility that I might be able to hone my calligraphic skills beyond the ability to beautify an envelope.

At my age, substantially improving my calligraphy skill seems plausible, only if I’m willing to invest more time and more money in what has until recently been something I mess around with only a few times a year.

Time-wise, my most recent (i.e., post-retirement) investments so far in this hobby include:

  • Taking a six-session course last fall (taught by Carol Gray) to learn the rudiments of the uncial style of calligraphy.
  • Attending weekly italic calligraphy classes (taught by Sharon Ann Smith) at a local senior center.
  • Attending last month in Stone Mountain, Georgia, a two-day workshop (taught by Sharon Coogle) on uncial calligraphy
  • Renewing my membership in the Atlanta Friends of the Alphabet, the local calligraphers’ guild, and attending more of its monthly meetings (which, alas, happen to  take place on the same night of the week as my square-dancing class).

Spending more money in support of my calligraphy hobby has been more difficult.

True, calligraphy is not as expensive or cumbersome as some hobbies are. For starters, one doesn’t need to buy special clothes to do it in! And even though a studio would be lovely, it’s hardly necessary to set aside an entire room (or rent space elsewhere) for one’s equipment and supplies. On the other hand,

  • the specialized supplies (not to mention certain specialized time- and energy-saving pieces of equipment on the market) aren’t free, and the temptation to spend big bucks on a multitude of ever-so-wonderful exotic supplies or equipment is ever-present.
  • most professionally taught calligraphy classes and workshops are quite pricey – and I’m not talking here about the ocean cruises exclusively designed for calligraphers.

Despite my successful resistance (so far) to any wild shopping sprees and to numerous thousand-dollar workshops on offer, I did recently identify three possibly relevant counter-arguments to my habit of avoiding any substantial financial investments in this particular long-term interest:

  • Shouldn’t I be prepared – nay, be happy – to spend money on a pastime that brings me such great pleasure?
  • Don’t I willingly spend big bucks in the semi-frequent pursuits of my other long-term passions (like gardening and, even more to this particular argument,  overseas travel)?
  • If not now, when?

So I was proud of myself when, earlier this week, I bit ye bullet and purchased a modest batch of calligraphy supplies that I’d long put off buying but that I’ll indisputably be needing if I intend to ramp up my practice and activity in this particular pursuit. Here’s what I got (this time at Sam Flax):

calligraphy supplies

In short, dear reader, I am happy to report that I have finally decided it’s OK to invest a bit o’ cash to support the pursuit of something I obviously love, would like to do more of, and to get better at. So…yay!


2 thoughts on “Investing in a Hobby

  1. Good for you Cal. You are very good at it. I believe if you are good at something and like doing it, then please do it. Martha and I always value receiving your Christmas cards as your calligraphy is so beautiful. Ours is always the prettiest envelopes received in our hi rise building during the Holidays. There it is in beautiful flourish, our names and address. We save them. So thanks Cal for sharing your talent with us.

    1. Thanks for the compliments on the calligraphy. And for all the encouragement you’ve given me and others along the way for various and sundry things. You really practice what Dr. Skinner preached!

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