My jobs: Freelancer and calligraphy teacher

October 20, 2022

This particular article has never been written before as part of My Works in 2012, but I thought I should include it. . .
After losing my job at Lee Wards in 1983 and staying home with my son for two years, I did overlapping independent art work over the years during my full-time jobs.
One of them was meeting the new creators of Indy’s Child magazine at an award ceremony for my junior high daughter who was receiving an award from the mayor. (I have a whole scrapbook of his academic awards over the years – smart like his dad). I sat next to the ladies and we struck up a conversation and they needed artwork for their new magazine (section headers, filler and artwork to go along with the articles). I created black and white designs for them before clip art and computers were widely used. They are still active (37 years!)
I continued to take calligraphy classes at Walker Career Center, Manual and Howe High Schools. They were all evening classes for adults and the students did well. I had a 4 week beginner course followed by an advanced calligraphy course for serious students. I had my lesson plans ready and could grab my bag and go anytime. During one of my calligraphy classes, I met a young man with his own small marketing business who needed a part-time artist and started doing illustrations for him at home. I’ve done everything from drawing art for t-shirts (it was fun except when I had to do a sports stadium from an airplane) to designing newspaper ads for resorts of apartments. I once made a sign out of a huge canvas hanging from the fence of an apartment complex that said, “If you lived here, you’d be home now” (you could see it from the freeway). I had to do it outside because the paint was toxic. I even made a huge apartment building sign out of plexiglass by cutting out a hand drawn stencil I made and spray painting the letters. Another time I had to paint the sign of a new dance studio upside down inside their window. The paint fumes were terrible.
I also made brochures for the library since my husband was a librarian there. There were MacFadden lectures every year and for several in a row I made their poster announcing the event with the famous author giving the lecture.
I regularly did calligraphy signs for a medical convention at the Methodist Hospital. These were really big and I used a steel calligraphy brush to do the letters.
For years (maybe 20) I did calligraphy for a wine tasting club that held a classy French dinner every year with a menu all in French (which I don’t speak). It was 4 pages of calligraphy and the meal looked wonderful if only I could read it! I decorated the menu with vine leaves and elaborate borders. I also made their place cards. The members of this club were all doctors and lawyers and I have dealt with the nicest of gentlemen to get this done every year.
I’ve had some calligraphy work for weddings, which seems to be my business, but it’s very stressful. I once had a client (mother of the bride) who wanted all the envelopes done in burgundy ink. They don’t do burgundy ink, so I had to mix red and black ink to get the color right. She had a paper artist cut out little standing swans for the place cards and I had to write all of those too. When I was in the hospital giving birth to my son she called my husband and asked him to bring the calligraphy supplies to the hospital room and get me some more place cards – he told her said she could pick up the ink and supplies at our house and do it herself. I never met the bride and feel sorry for the groom with such an overbearing mother-in-law (the marriage didn’t last, believe me).
Another time I made a marriage certificate for a Quaker ceremony out of the most elaborate and enormous piece of parchment I have ever worked on. It had to be perfect, no backup scroll, no ink to erase, so it was nerve-wracking.
Years ago someone wanted the Declaration of Independence done in calligraphy – I can’t remember who, but as you can imagine it was a nightmare to do. I need to learn to say “NO” more often. I want you to realize that calligraphy ink is not permanent and if it rains or sneezes on it it runs off so I had to use a sealer spray to seal all of this calligraphy work – hope this was not carcinogenic!
I made a family tree in calligraphy (I’m sure I’ve told this story before, but bear with me). I made my daughter’s name out of the trunk, and then from that trunk came two branches – my husband’s name on one side and mine on the other. Fortunately, one of his aunts passed on the family ancestry, so I was able to list the 1750s when the first Newschwanger (later Nicewanger) came from Bern, Switzerland on a ship. My side doesn’t have so much information, but I made each branch get smaller and smaller with smaller pen tips – it looks like a tree. I rode my daughter’s version and took calligraphy lessons as an example. Later, when my son was born, I created another one for him, framed it, and hung it on the dining room wall. Later, my daughter’s boyfriends commented “you must be adopted, you’re not on the family tree”. I kept telling him that I made him one, but I could never find it. Well, for her 40th birthday, I located, ironed, matted and framed it for her and gave it to her as a gift!
I’m still doing some art work, but I’m a bit busy with this journal.
Next time: my job in the publicity department of LS Ayres.

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