Creative Calligraphy Review of the Year: 2023

I’m packing my calligraphy pens away after another busy year, full of ideas for 2024!

But it’s always nice to look back before you move forward, particularly as a small business owner, when big achievements can get lost in the day-to-day grind.

Most of the early part of 2023 was taken up with the Inspired by Lindisfarne project.

The Inspired by Lindisfarne project

I received funding from Arts Council England last summer to work with my weekly calligraphy groups on a special project inspired by the return of the Lindisfarne Gospels to the region.

We worked with guest artists to learn Celtic knotwork and bookbinding and visited the award-winning Lindisfarne Gospels exhibition at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle.

The groups then created work inspired by what they had seen and learned, prompted by the question: What do you take as Gospel?

The work was showcased in the Inspired by Lindisfarne exhibition, which travelled around three leading cultural venues in the north east of England.

It was launched at The Customs House in South Shields in January, before moving to 17Nineteen in Sunderland in March and South Shields Museum and Art Gallery in April.

We had some wonderful feedback from the venues and visitors, as well as Arts Council England itself, which was a real confidence boost.

Guest artists and sold-out calligraphy workshops

We’ve continued the theme of working with guest artists, with Carrie Dennison showing us how to make flag books and Jayamini de Silva introducing us to Chinese calligraphy.

Aside from my weekly groups, my other calligraphy workshops have proven popular again this year.

CAP workshops 1 calligraphy

I still have several long-standing regular venues – Re-Create Today in Whitley Bay, From Loft to Loved in Sedgefield, Elvet & Bailey in Durham and Newcastle Arts Centre – but I’ve also been welcomed by new venues and groups this year.

(Bumping into renowned calligrapher Susan Hufton during a class at the Shipley Art Gallery earlier this year was a personal highlight. I really should have got her to sign at least one of the three copies of her book that I own.)

My aim is to try and establish another weekly group at The Art Room Sunderland after staging several workshops and short courses there over the years. (The new studio at Mackies Corner is just the perfect space.)

More work with schools please!

I’ve also been asked to do more work with schools this year, namely Wellfield Middle School in Whitley Bay, Newminster Middle School in Morpeth and The English Martyrs Catholic School and Sixth Form College in Hartlepool.

I’ve also been kept busy with a steady flow of commissions, from weddings and other family celebrations to updating formal records and books and writing certificates.

Some non-work-related highlights

On a personal note, my daughter started secondary school this year – and having two kids in ‘big school’ is a bit of a milestone. I haven’t got used to it yet.

We’ve also had lovely holidays in Cyprus, where I got to see my best friend, and Sirmione in Lake Garda, where I found a gorgeous stationery shop on our first day!

I also finally made it to The Pen Museum in Birmingham!

The Pen Museum in Birmingham.

Unfortunately, 2023 also saw the closure of the Northumbrian Scribes.

While I wasn’t a member myself, I was taught by its late chairman, Susan Moor, and knew many of its members, having attended workshops and exhibitions in the past.

Looking ahead to 2024

My plans for next year are focussed around my 10th business birthday in May.

I must admit, there have been a few times in the last few months when I’ve thought about making it to a decade and then calling it a day.

However, after some valuable coaching from Caroline Pearce, I now see it as a cause for celebration and an excuse to switch things up a bit and drive the business forward.

I’ll be taking some time in January and February next year to work out exactly what that will look like, but I have all sorts of ideas floating around!

I’m very excited to have been accepted on to the What Next? Thrive and Grow business support programme being run by Create North for creatives in South Tyneside.

That’s going to keep me on task for the first three months of the year at least.

So, keep watching this space in 2024! And thanks again for your support.    

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