When Pen and Art Meet: IAMPETH

This summer penman and calligraphy enthusiasts met in Omaha, Nebraska for a week of conferences with IAMPETH -International Association of Master Penmen, Engrossers, and Teachers of Handwriting.

Mug shots with my ol’ calligraphy teacher!

From August 2-8 each day started at 8:30 am with day long classes.

We had breaks at 10am, a long lunch break, another break at 3pm, with the classes ending at 5pm.

Even before classes ended vendors had their art supplies and writing accessories available for purchase all day long and into the evening. Paper and Ink Arts was the largest vendor, and had a delicious assortment of fine art supplies that put Hobby Lobby to shame!

Can’t wait to use them again!

The other Vendors were artists and craftmen themselves. There were people who marbled paper, made paper, pens, nib holders, handcrafted inks, stationary and of course, their own artwork. The first vendor I met was Greg Minushkin, originally educated as a Swiss watchmaker, he’s a pen collector and repairer as well.

As I visited with him, I met the lady standing by his table, Janet Takahashi, who happened to also be his wife. I was scheduled to take a class on map making with her! After visiting with her I found out she did much more and after a bit of more explaining, she said “Just look at my website, and then you’ll understand more of what I do.” And it was true.

She does almost everything artistic under the sun! And miracle of miracles…

I saw that her style spoke to me the most out of any watercolor artist I have see so far!

More on them later…

The first full day after the registration evening, Tuesday started with master penman Bill Kemp. He taught a class on the Engrosser script, which LOOKS somewhat similar to Spencerian, but is so very different in execution!

The class was so frustrating that it almost drove me to tears…I am going to tell you more on that in another post totally dedicated to that!

Kalo’s lovely work became a familiar sight.

Each day ended with study groups 7-10pm, and sometimes other fun activities. The study groups never really ended at 10pm, they just closed the doors of the classrooms at 10, and we migrated to a more open area to work together, coach each other, ask questions, or just have fun being together and getting to know each other.

Wednesday was doing the adorned letter -an illuminated letter- with Miss Rosalie Anderson.

Miss Rosalie’s class (he’s the one in the pink top!)

Here’s mine, all finished:

Thursday was spent designing a flourishing composition with Jake Weidmann, who had been a role model for me for nigh on five years. I can’t wait to redo what I worked on and learned from in his class!

Jake Weidmann prepping us with examples from his work.
Flourishing on Steroids: Inspiration rom the archive room.

Friday was one of the best days of the whole event.

The first highlight was taking Janet’s class, but instead of sitting in the front as I had in all the other classes, this time I sat in the back with Kalo Chu and Melissa Esplin.

These two cool cats and I were a little ‘naughty’ as we did a lot of chatting, exchanging tools, and sprinting forward with the material Janet was giving us. In the end we did sit patiently and and follow along, but I think we had to get out some creative steam before settling down!

Creative Steam
A map-within-a-map-within-a-map, a teeny bit of what I learned in Janet’s class.

It was a pleasure to talk with Janet and see her work up close! You can see more of her work here! She is a master of many forms of art!

The piece I’m holding in the photo below shows Hotel Coronado, where my Grandma Jones used to paint with a friend and teacher. It’s special to me!

With one of the brightest gems of the week, Janet Takahashi (-and HER artwork!)

The second highlight of that day was when a group of us paraded around the historic downtown in search for some equally historic hand lettered etched glass and tried to decided on places to eat.

The pictures below capture some of the charm of the Omaha and her Old Market district.

(One of the best places was eating together with everyone! You really got to know people and strengthen bonds! My roommate and I collaborated in bring picnic food, so we tried to find a happy medium between picnic with people in the outdoor plaza, and going out to eat.)

The third highlight was a collage of a beautiful gift of a cocktail from a gastronomist, story time with the Master Penman Michael Sull (he’s like a combination of Fr. de la Tour, a dad, and a grandfather and charismatic teacher all in one).

He read poems he had written about the stories of pen history here in America to a friends and colleague who joined us virtually and couldn’t make it to IAMPETH this year. The rest of us, from experts to newbies, sat around in seats and on the floor like entranced children.

With The Master Penman, Michael Sull.

Then a small group of us stayed working on different art projects, sipping wine and beer, taking a smoking break, and talking till nearly 5 o’clock in the morning! The conversations and bonding time was worth it!

Saturday was also incredible too.

The Bob Kerry Bridge, my favorite ‘sit-spot’ for morning coffee and quiet time.

The first half of the day was spent learning how to execute Kufic calligraphy with the talented Aisha Changhazi, and the second half was bonding with Greg and Janet.

The day ended with a banquet to conclude IAMPETH, and went out with a bang: the monsoon rains descended upon Omaha near the end of the feast.

This not only caused massive flooding in Omaha itself, but also in our hotel, and to cap things off, while dashing through the rain to get back to the hotel (the banquet room had no interior access to the hotel) I broke my toes hydroplaning slamming into the stone steps, trying to get up them quickly!

The Magic of IAMPETH.

The broken toes, while very painful and debilitating for an active person, ensured that I stayed in one place and bonded with some very special new friends instead of moving through too many groups.

IAMPETH ended for most of us that Saturday night. It was sad to say goodbye, but also hopeful because for those of us with bonds newly formed, we knew that the week did not end our relationships, but only signified the going back to regular life with them!

Perhaps the greatest magic of IAMPETH is the familial spirit made possible by the masters and experienced artists: they are humble, approachable, and down-to-earth who genuinely want to help hobbyists and budding artists successfully journey on their own path! Thank-you to all such people that I met at IAMPETH 2021.

My sweet roommate and fellow summer-sausage eater, Sheila.

If you have any interest in art and writing beautifully, please consider going to conferences like IAMPETH, finding an art retreat, or just taking lessons, like from Melissa Esplin at calligraphy.org, from Jake Weidman’s online lessons, or Kalo’s kalomakeart.com in Hong Kong! You can also search online for many others – find someone who’s style inspires you!

Proud and humbled to be in this group of valiant women!

I want to say thank-you especially to Rosemary Buzcek for directing me to go this year! She knew how life changing it would be to connect with so many artistic role models!

I also would like to thank my Mom for making my penmanship possible and surrounding us with so many resources and field trips of beauty. Gratitude also goes to Aunt Teresa: she inspired me with a love of fine paper and illuminated writing. She always had nice paper around, and once she took a poem written by 10 year-old me and mailed it back beautifully matted and illuminated, written with a gothic script!

Finally, thanks also to Grandma -she cemented the legacy of the love of beautiful writing by bequeathing to me her old Speedball nibs. I still need to clean them throroughly.

Phew, y’all, that was long! Thanks for staying with me!

I hope you enjoyed it and that it gave you some idea of what the IAMPEH conferences were like, especially for a baby artist like me!

Tune in next week for “Slow Down Evelyn Wood: How a Penman Made Me Cry”!

Before you leave, I’d love it if you would check out one of these items below. When you click the pictures/links below, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks so much for helping me!

Rhodia is great for practicing your pen strokes on-it’s like writing on silk and water!

And this book has always been a source of joy and inspiration to me!

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