I was first introduced calligraphy by Mr McCann, Art Professor, in Carysfort College. But as nineteen year old students we felt that magic markers rather than dip pens were the way to go and better still, bought-made-n-all charts were far superior to homemade ones! However I came to enjoy calligraphy myself and attended a calligraphy class at a local adult school for many years. I introduced it to my sixth grade class with some success. Over the years former students reported that they used it for posters at college and even addressed wedding invitations! But when I moved from the classroom to the computer lab my calligraphy teaching ended.
Then last year I began edging toward retirement with a day off school every week and I decided to get back to the calligraphy. I volunteered in the fourth grade in St. Cornelius School, an inner-city school not far from St. Pauls where I work as a tech co-ordinator.
As a starting point I used the magnificent St. John’s Bible. This was a project of the Benedictine monks of St. John’s Abbey, in Collegeville Minnesota, who commissioned calligrapher Donald Jackson to produce a hand written, hand illuminated bible, that unites an ancient Benedictine tradition with the technology and vision of today, illuminating the Word of God for a new millennium. Our new cathedral, the Cathedral of Christ the Light, has a copy of the St. John’s Bible on display so it was the prefect reference point. I also brought in a copy of the Book of Kells and pointed out my favorite “mistakes” where the ancient monks had to squeeze in a missing letter! I have included below links to some of the many web resources available about Jackson and his work. He makes it all look so easy. I had eager calligraphers in no time ready to produce their own bibles!
I introduced the first few lessons with flat carpenters pencils, which force the writer to maintain the correct angle. With donations from the Sisters of Mercy I was able to supply all the materials so we then moved on to the calligraphy markers! It was lovely to see calligraphy skill developing and all were eager to learn more! For the St. John’s Bible Jackson made a computer font and the whole book was first digitally printed leaving room for fancy capitals and illustrations. So I printed out all the quotations and students were able to use them with the light box as they wrote their masterpieces. The first assignment was a Christmas quotation, mainly from Luke’s Gospel. The students studied the decorated capitals of Donald Jackson and then made their own for their assigned quotation. The classroom teacher was delighted to display all the finished work for the annual Catholic Schools Week Open House in January.
Our second project I entitled “Mercy Words”. Misericordiae Vultus was not meant to be Fourth Grade reading so after a “mercy discussion” during which the students showed great understanding of the Works of Mercy I assigned them quotations. The final products were displayed in the art hall in the cathedral and may be seen at: http://www.ctlcathedral.org/visit/art-hall/current-display. As I write, this link is working but I am not sure how long the cathedral web master will keep it up!
Here are some of the links I used with the class in introducing them to the St, John’s Bible. https://www.saintjohnsbible.org/promotions/see/
The following might be of interest for those of you who do calligraphy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqgrH0tl9ho
I hope in the years ahead that as these students look back on their Mercy Project they will be inspired to show mercy daily.
Anne Maher rsm