Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A Personal Process

Early on when I began teaching in 2010 I had a dear friend question me about doing so. Why would I teach? Why would I share? Why not just keep it to myself? The only reason I teach is to give someone else the joy that the process of creating gives me. Back in my embroidery days, one of my first teaching engagements was to teach silk ribbon embroidery at a women's shelter. The women had been abused and many of them had fled their homes without anything other than their clothes. The director of the shelter wanted the women to make something pretty that they could hang on their wall or put in their room to add a spark of beauty. The class wasn't long. Just a few hours. But that's all it took with Silk Ribbon embroidery to make a little bouquet to hang on their wall. For those few hours, stress was relieved. Pain was gone for a little while and their minds were free. Now, when I teach calligraphic art, I know I meet people from all walks of life. Each has their story and many have incredible hurdles and stresses in their lives. The artforms I teach are therapeutic. Not overly complex. Hopefully the classes spark joy with the student and they go on to create their own artwork putting their own unique stamp on their work. That is why I teach. Every workshop I teach is a result of a personal process. The Enchanted Letter class is the result of personal study and exploration.
I see the little Victorian Letterforms as my own children! They have a personality that evolved over a year of study as my friend Dana Cochran and I both worked on illustrative letters throughout the year. We kept each other accountable. My process had many failures. I was not happy with my first attempts and the style of Victorian letterforms that evolved out of that year were my search for finding a style of illuminated lettering that would augment my pointed pen script. After I developed the letterforms, I started working on Victorian foliate extensions to add to them. The extensions could act as border designs or meander around corners.
The inspiration for the designs came from Persian illuminated manuscripts, Victorian scroll engravings and Florentine paper patterns. I love to create the designs and I love to share them with my students. I am happy when students take what the learn and create their own works of art. It does catch me off guard when I see others take the Enchanted Letter workshop and teach it as their own brainchild. If I can explain my feelings clearly, these workshops and their content are like an entry in my diary. Seeing my personal work taught by another is like having someone write their own notes in my diary. Do they have the same feelings for the work? Are they explaining my thought process? If they have their own process of creating the letterforms, why are they copying mine? I don't understand this part of my field. I don't think I ever will. The process of creating a workshop and taking care to pass on the elements of the style with passion and clarity are deeply personal. I asked a friend to share their thoughts with me about this. She is very wise. She was in an art class and the teacher took the students to the window and showed them the sun. She said..."this is the sun...and there is nothing new under it." So true. As artists we all borrow. Ideas and inspiration are all around. The ideas are all floating around out there and with the convenience of social media, work is being shared readily and the ideas merge together. I get that. I also see incredible influence from my embroidery days and floral days influencing the designs that I create. I recognize the derivative nature of the work. I also recognize the elusive nature of artwork and teaching. That being said, I am so grateful for the commission work that comes my way for these intricate designs. They are probably my favourite initials to create. Each design is a puzzle waiting to be solved. Although they start with similar elements they all take different twists and turns. I create every one the same way...starting with a detailed pencil design. I never rely on an initial that was previously created even if the client points to previous design as the one they want. I work it out carefully in pencil and then commit to the painting process. These days, I add more gilding and swarovski crystals than my previous work. This design was created for an upcoming child's baptism. A work of joy to share from my heart.


Tessy Moon said...

Hello Heather,
I just wanted to say thank you for all of the beauty you create and inspiration you spark. I have been reading your blog for awhile now as well as following you on Instagram and Facebook, as well as your blog posts, your work always brings a smile to my face and delights my eyes with loveliness.

I know I will never have one hundredth of the talent you have at beautiful penmanship. Although with much striving I am slowly improving my penmanship, I know it is not at all a natural talent, it is hard work and I don't think that it will ever feel easy or natural to me. Nonetheless, I love to see what you can create and aspire to improve each time I see your work.

Sometimes I just sit and trace my finger over and over a particular letter or word you create, hoping to impart some piece of that beauty into my mind's eye to use some little bit to improve my writing. Of course mine comes out nothing like yours, lol! But I can see how others would greatly desire to imitate your work, it is glorious! But that does not give anyone the right to infringe on your intellectual property, your designs are uniquely your own and belong to you, and should they should never be claimed as someone else's.

I hope someday (when my kids are older) to be able to attend one of your workshops. Until then I admire silently from afar.

An Admirer of Your Fine Work,

Heather Victoria Held said...

Thank you dear Tessy for these kind words! They mean the world to me. Please send me your mailing address to my email address: I would love to send you a note in the mail.

Big hug to you,

Acornmoon said...

Those are lovely reasons to teach. Your students are indeed fortunate.

Nichola said...

I absolutely love looking through the things you have done. I only recently found your blog and have been enjoying what you have done thoroughly. It has inspired me to give it try. I find the hardest part is working out what materials you use to produce the brilliant colors. I wish to use some of your idea for a commemorative death certificate for my late step-mother. I have been interested in old books because of the fancy details and being she was also a book lover I thought this would make a great tribute to her.

Admiring from Australia,

Heather Victoria Held said...

Thanks for the kind words Nichola. I am constantly changing my colour palette, so even I don't know which colours I am using!!! Just keep experimenting and you will find what you love. Best wishes for your commemorative piece. That sounds wonderful.