This is Jae, back from the international calligraphy conference which was held on Vancouver Island this year. The conference is usually divided into two study sessions, with a break in the middle. The participants have the choice of several dozen teachers, and can spend both sessions with one teacher, or divide their week between two different teachers, in a the huge variety of subjects. It was my thirteenth conference, over last fifteen years or so.
Vancouver Island is one of the best places I've ever been to: nearly as beautiful as Skye, but with excellent mild weather. The campus at Shawnigan Lake this year was pretty good -- a posh prep school that was the most handicapped-inaccessible institution I have ever seen, although the landscaping was lovely, the new dorms comfortable, staff enthusiastic hosts, and the food excellent.
This year I first had three days with Thomas Hoyer, studying a Fraktur hand. This is descended from medieval blackletter but has been elaborated into many typefaces, particularly in Germany, where books are traditionally printed in the style. A thick blackletter falls naturally from the broad-edge pen, and was the first thing I tried when I bought my first Speedball nib. I've spent a bit of time over the last mumble-mumble years practicing a primitive version of it, but this was something entirely new. I mean every stroke was different from the alphabets I've learned to write before. You're only fooling yourself to think you can learn a new alphabet in three days, but the first day we got through the entire lower-case, which was grueling. I had no muscle memory for this, and would frequently get lost in the middle of a letter, or even the middle of a stroke. It's not that often I get such a bad case of beginner's mind. Since beginner's mind is a much sought-after state in zen buddhism, this was not entirely a bad thing.
At the end of the third day, I was beginning to feel as though there were expressive details in this family of alphabets that Thomas could see, because he is native to that print culture, that I was entirely blind to, as though it were made of Japanese kanji characters in which I am an illiterate barbarian.
Thomas is an extraordinarily creative young man, as you can see from his website. I found the "callitype objects" in his virtual gallery particularly interesting. He is known in the calligraphic community more for his colorful ruling-pen demonstrations. His two-day class -- not a continuation of the Fraktur, but that ruling-pen technique -- was filled, although our Fraktur class only had half as many, eight people in it. Below, so you can see what I'm talking about, a sample from one of my practice sheets.