Over the weekend I attended a two-day Spencerian Masterclass. I didn’t need to take the class, but I signed up as soon as I heard about it because it seemed like a ridiculously fun thing to do. And it turned out to be like attending the best two-day summer camp ever.
I haven’t practiced calligraphy in decades, so allow me clarify one thing: the “Master” in “Spencerian Masterclass” has everything to do with the qualifications of the teacher — Master Penman Michael Sull — not the qualifications of students like me.
Michael Sull is considered “America’s foremost living Spencerian penman.” He was Ronald Reagan’s calligrapher, and in an effort to ensure Spencerian doesn’t become a lost art, he has written a number of books on classic Spencerian techniques.
Spencerian is a uniquely American style of pointed-pen handwriting based on the geometry of ovals (…singular, or lots and lots and lots of overlapping ovals). Spencerian’s “Golden Age” was 1850-1925, and is characterized by large decorative capitals and highly legible, generously spaced connected cursive lowercase. Spencerian can also be recognized by its use of ornamentation. Birds, shafts of wheat, and feathers often embellish Spencerian designs.
The class included lecture time, hands-on demonstrations by Michael (as a special treat he lettered each student’s name), and time for us to practice what we learned. One thing I deeply appreciated about Michael was his unbridled enthusiasm. Even after all these decades, he was giddy when he learned a student’s name included one of his favorite letters: a capital Z or K or D. He attempted to demystify the process, showed how to handle tools (who knew the pen nib should be burned with a match before using the first time?!), and answered every question we had.
The photos in the gallery show Michael and his work, some historic samples he brought to class, and because I specifically heard from a letterer that she wanted to see practice samples, I’ve included a couple of photos of my practice sheets.
Want to watch a video of Michael in action? Click HERE.