Inside the broad heart of Carrie Imai: Rebellion, Color, Patience, and Dignity.



In anticipation of Carrie Imai’s upcoming July 5-7th workshop “Foundation Meets Bone” Victoria Lansford conducted a compelling interview with Carrie Imai, giving us a glimpse of what magic she might bring with her.


Victoria:  You’ve worked as a teacher/consultant on some big film productions such as the movie, JOBS, and HBO’s series, Rome.  What is it like to fit the calligraphic art-form into the specific and speedy demands of directors and actors?

Carrie:  The world of media is certainly an exciting one and one that was fun to visit – but I wouldn’t want to live there.  The director for the “Jobs” film phoned me about 4 days before shooting and needed EVERYTHING…artwork for Jobs’ home, the classroom, board demo paper for the teacher, supplies for the teacher and all the students, journals and homework and even the students for the classroom!  They fortunately came to the right person – I had everything they needed – even the students, who were from my class at UCLA.  They wanted to know if I could train the actors to do calligraphy.  I told them I was a teacher and could do that, but could only make them “look like” they knew how to do calligraphy in the hour I had to train them.  Interestingly, Aston Kutcher, who played Steve Jobs, already knew some calligraphy through a class he had taken.  I was the calligraphy advisor on set to be sure everything looked authentic.  Fun to do but a lot of hurry up to wait.  But it pays well and it’ll be fun to see all my artwork on the big screen. 

Victoria:  If you were stranded on a desert island and could only have one type of pen, one type and color of ink, and one type of writing surface, which would you pick?

Carrie:  Without question it would be my Automatic pen, Arches Text Wove paper and my faithful Prang watercolor set.  Use these all the time.  The large (#4 & #5) Automatic pen allows me to manipulate smoothly.  The Prang watercolors are brilliantly colored and ground fine so that they are transparent and blend beautifully with eachother.  Arches Text Wove paper has changed it’s sizing recently, so has some resistant properties in the sizing.  But it still is a good surface for writing and holds watercolor well.  You can paint a wash as a background and it does not buckle as most papers do.  This surface of background watercolor also improves the resistant qualities.  I’d be a happy camper.

Victoria:  You have a great sense of color and aren’t afraid to use it.  What is the most difficult color for you to work with or combine in a composition?

Carrie:  I love color and use it with some abandon.  I find that the combination of colors opposite on the color wheel – complimentary (orange and blue, purple and yellow, red and green) are the most successful.  And if you go to the secondary opposites – blue-green and red-orange; blue-violet and yellow-orange, etc., you get a whole new set of compliments.  I have the most trouble using the primary colors – red, blue and yellow.  I tend toward the jewel colors of purple, violet and red-violet …doesn’t every female calligrapher??

carrie studio

Victoria:  What is your studio like?  Is it tidy with a place for everything or creatively chaotic?

Carrie:  My studio is far from tidy.  I’m usually preparing for or cleaning up from a workshop or class.  And it seems that when I work, I need to get everything out to do it.  It’s a small room to boot – about 10’ x 11’ and contains a flat file, a file cabinet, my desk, a metal tool chest for my supplies and my computer desk and printer – pretty crowded.  But I feel at home there and have learned to live within the chaos.  Though I feel the need to neaten up before I start work.  I think it’s a method of avoidance, but I’m not admitting to that.  I’m attaching a few pictures that were taken for an issue of Calligraph (SfC’s annual magazine) on studio spaces.

Victoria:  Not only do you do Jacquie Svaran’s Bone hand well, you’ve gone on to create your own “Imai-Talic.” which, if I may say so, is pretty darn fabulous.  What drew you to hands with pen manipulation?  Was it the visual look or more the feel of the process?

Carrie:  I have been kind of a rebel throughout my calligraphic career and never liked the lines and the rules.  So when I learned Bone, many years ago, I found nirvana.  I could bounce up and down on the line and cast aside most of the rules.  I love the look of the beautiful curves that happen when you manipulate your pen, but it’s the feel of floating on the wet ink (you remember that and had a dramatic response to it) and dancing with your pen that I am hooked on.  It must be what sky divers feel or ski jumpers.  Well, I’m never going to jump out of a plane or off a ski ramp, but I can fly with my pen.  It is magic!

Victoria:  In reference to the title of your piece with the same name, would you tell us the significance of the Japanese word, Gaman, and how it relates to your work and life?


Carrie:  The Japanese term “Gaman” means to endure the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity.  My piece of the same name is a tribute to those Japanese people who suffered and lost everything during the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami in northern Japan.  With perseverance and strength, they went to work to rebuild.  I so admired that spirit that I was moved to do that piece.  I used Japanese Unryu paper, Sumi ink, brushes and metal pens to get the sense of the power of the water and the strength of the Japanese people.

To read more about Carrie Imai, visit her website here.

To read more about her fabulous upcoming workshop Foundation meets Bone, follow this link or keep reading. We dare you not to sign up. 🙂

3 Sessions | All Levels | Price: $210
ARTZ1382 | Friday – Sunday, July 5 – 7, Fri. & Sat. 10am – 5pm, Sun. 11 – 6pm  


Foundation Meets Bone Description 

The Foundation alphabet was aptly named by Edward Johnston as it is based on Carolingian, an early Humanist Roman hand and became the “foundation” for a calligraphy revival in the early 1900’s.

This class will begin with a study of the beautiful, strong, round Foundation alphabet and then morph into the Bone alphabet which was the brain child of Jacqueline Svaren as an exercise to loosen up the rigid pen holds and stiff hands of her students.  It is based on the very formal Carolingian, but is manipulated to the MAX to create a wild, amorphous, sexy alphabet.

Be prepared to learn to walk all over again.  Doing this alphabet is like nothing you’ve ever done before.  The beautiful thing that happens once you master these manipulated letters, is that this skill integrates into your other alphabets and gives them that life and bounce that you drool over in books and at exhibits, but were not quite sure how to get into your own.

There will be lots of personal attention to assure your success.  We will have lots of time to play with the many wonderful variations of these two alphabets and to create several easy and fun projects using the skills we learn.

Each participant will receive a bound book of exemplars, samples and handouts.

LetterSpace is UP!


Come to the Limelight gallery at Binders this Friday night at 6PM for the opening of our first dual calligraphic show called LETTERSPACE – ushering in a new era of combined strengths, calligraphic wisdom and talent of the Friends of the Alphabet and Penablers calligraphy guilds.

Many thanks go to Dhruvee, Mary and Carol for spending the day hanging these powerful works.




Group Show

May | 2013

Show Dates: Monday, May 6th – Friday, May 31st

Install: Sunday, May 5th

Take Down: Saturday, June 1st

Reception: Friday, May 10th (6 – 8pm)                    


Monday, May 6th – Friday, May 31st

BINDERS Limelight Gallery presents:

“ L e t t e r  s p a c e ”

This is a joint exhibit featuring the work of the Atlanta Friends of the Alphabet and Atlanta Penablers.

Reception: Friday, May 10th (6 – 8pm)



SPENCERIAN CAPITALS and NUMBERS Workshop with Bill Kemp!

Hello Penablers. The information below came from calligrapher Mamie Velez. Her contact info is below, should you have any questions about this fabulous opportunity!


If you liked Heather Held’s workshops, you’ll also enjoy Bill Kemp’s workshops!



DATES: August 20 & 21, 2013 (Tues & Wed) 

TIME: 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

LOCATION: Norcross, GA

COST: If we have 16 participants, the cost will not exceed 88.00 (plus a cost of approx. 20.00 for his workbook), less if we have more participants (“$” to be divided equally among the group)

Currently, I have 12 confirmed, and 8 spots opened. They’re filling up fast, and this is the first e-blast that is being sent out.

Contact info: Mamie G. Velez, or 678.943.9970


Dear Penablers,

You are invited to participate in a calligraphy exhibit at Binders Limelight Gallery called LetterSpace. This will be a joint show with Penablers and FOTA presenting. July will mark the first anniversary of the Atlanta Penablers and we want to celebrate with this group show. Our friends at FOTA have done so much to lay the ground work for Atlanta’s calligraphic community and this is a great opportunity to show our solidarity with these amazing groups of creatives.

Your voice matters, as does the expression of that voice, especially when written with ink onto a surface. That’s what we do here, help facilitate that expression and we do it together, at ALL levels of experience. As your development grows and you acquire more sills, it’s important to take a snapshot of each moment’s growth spurt. This snapshot is what tells the world where and who you are, and it also encourages others to do the same. We are a community of growers and nurturers. We uplift each other in meaningful ways. We are community.

If there is any part of you that is hesitant about framing a piece of calligraphic art and sharing it with us in Letterspace, we hope you’ll set your reservations aside and grace us with your presence by submitting work. This is not a juried show, and it’s so beautiful that many of you are new. All creative communities need new blood to grow and remain current, while honoring the tools, wisdom and techniques of the past. We want to see your work grace the walls of the Limelight Gallery.

If you would like to participate then please contact Anne Elser at She can hold your work until it’s ready to hang on Sunday, May 5th. Binders is also offering a framing discount of 40% for any artist who needs to frame a piece for the show! You have until May 5th to submit your work!

She can send you the Artwork Release Form should you wish to participate. The first several pages outline policies and procedures and the final pages provide space to document your artwork. If you have questions about the paperwork feel free to contact For all other inquiries regarding the show please contact



Group Show

May | 2013

Show Dates: Monday, May 6th – Friday, May 31st

Install: Sunday, May 5th

Take Down: Saturday, June 1st

Reception: Friday, May 10th (6 – 8pm)                    


Monday, May 6th – Friday, May 31st

BINDERS Limelight Gallery presents:

“ L e t t e r  s p a c e ”

This is a joint exhibit featuring the work of the Atlanta Friends of the Alphabet and Atlanta Penablers.

Reception: Friday, May 10th (6 – 8pm)



May 3rd meeting: A Brief Foundation of Western Calligraphy

Join us for our next Atlanta Penablers meeting Friday, May 3rd 6 – 8pm at Binders Art School in Atlanta, Georgia (Buckhead).

A Brief Foundation of Western Calligraphy

Carolingian, Uncial, Black Letter, Fraktur, Gothic, Italic, Roman, Foundational… where do they all fit, and why should we care? Through artwork that will make you drool, take a quick step back in time and learn how the bones of our writing system evolved and how this can make us better lettering artists. Discover Edward Johnston’s foundational hand and explore making a few of the letters with Penabler co-founder Victoria Lansford. Last but certainly not least, get a taste of pen manipulation that will rock your world!


Poem on Vellum, Carrie Imai

What to Bring

·         Practice paper

·         Speedball C-2 nib (or equivalent)

·         Straight pen holder

·         Large Automatic Pen (#4 or #5)

·         6.0mm Parallel Pen (or other large broad pen like a Coit or Horizon)

·         Fountain pen ink such as Pelikan, Doodlers, or Windsor Newton (pan watercolors will also work)





And don’t let our new workshops fill up without you! We have two new ones coming up – flyers attached (correction: American Cursive is 17 – 19). Also, upcoming Copperplate class/ workshop and Italic class with Anne Elser!

 And Mark Your Calendars!


Monday, May 6th – Friday, May 31st

BINDERS Limelight Gallery presents:

“ L e t t e r  s p a c e ”

This is a joint exhibit featuring the work of the Atlanta Friends of the Alphabet and Atlanta Penablers.

Reception: Friday, May 10th (6 – 8pm)



To become an Atlanta Penabler member please contact Jacob Gunter at or 404.237.6331 ext. 203

 ·         Click here to see photos from Heather Victoria Held’s recent workshop at Binders Art School:

·         Atlanta Penablers Website:

 ~Victoria, Anne, George, Mary, Jacob

The Inventive Inkwell: April 5th, 2013 Meeting

AnneElser_InventiveInkwell Join us for our next Atlanta Penablers meeting Friday, April 5th, 2013 • 6-8pm at Binders Art School in Buckhead.

“The Inventive Inkwell” Learn how to make a custom inkwell base out of corrugated cardboard for any size container. Anne Elser will demonstrate cutting and measuring techniques using an exacto blade, pencil, and ruler that produce results as good as any laser cutter. You can DO THIS!

What to Bring

• Xacto knife and very sharp blades

• Cutting Mat

• Non-slip ruler

• Mechanical pencil and eraser

• Glue (Elmers is fine)

• A snack or drink to share

• Yo Bad Self

Optional Items: Decorative paper and pens and your own plastic or glass container for inkwell – Anne will bring 1 plastic vial for everyone to keep and George will bring enough cardboard for all to use.

To become an Atlanta Penabler member just visit or contact Jacob Gunter at or 404.237.6331 (x203) 


March 1st, 2013 Snippet of Spencerian Meeting shots!

IMG_0199Last night on March 1st, George Dorsey led us through the steps of making the Spencerian capital stem stroke. Check out our pictures of the meeting here.

George’s demonstration was very insightful – many of us hadn’t realized that there’s a subtle in-movement twist of the barrel of your holder as you apply pressure to the tines to create the shade of the stem stroke. By twisting slightly to the right as you near the baseline, only the right tine moves outward, creating the shade. Pen manipulation is a beautiful thing, and mysteriously maddening to conquer, when you are just learning.

Of the many profound pieces of advice George had to offer us, this one moved me most, “Each hand you learn not only gives you practice time for the new techniques of that hand itself, you are also improving your skills in OTHER hands, techniques, and with other tools as well.” He is absolutely right. This is why once you get started in calligraphy, it’s best to simply submit to the slippery slope of wanting more.

Thank you, George, for taking time out of your busy schedule and spending it with us – sharing your knowledge, passion, creativity and generosity and in the spirit of fun – as you always do.

We’d also like to thank Maria Turk for bringing her expertise in the Spencerian hand and to the fabulous Victoria Lansford, for starting the evening off with the story of Spencerian, it’s timeline, and inspiring examples of the hand in a slide show she prepared for us. It was such a fun way to start a meeting.

And to all of our Penablers for participating and bringing such yummy snacks. Each of you provides a strong contribution to our group and we are grateful to have you!

If you are wondering why we’re all of a sudden doing the Spencerian style, there’s a really good reason. We’re preparing for Heather Held’s workshop “The Story of Spencerian Script” in April! Seats are selling fast and there are only a handful left. Sign up for Heather Held’s Spencerian Workshop in April here.  And you can read more about Heather in her exclusive Penablers interview: The Peace Behind the Pen.

Stay tuned for more information about our next meeting in April, The Inventive Inkwell, where we’ll learn to make a cardboard inkwell with laser cut precision!!

March 1st, 2013 Meeting: A Snippet of Spencerian Script


Greetings Penablers!

Join us Friday, March 1 at 6:00 pm for a look at calligraphic eye candy as we delve into the graceful world of Spencerian script. Watch a brief slideshow of artwork in this uniquely American style of lettering by top artists from past and present, including Michael Sull, Bill Kemp, and Heather Held.

But that’s not all!  Experience what makes this lettering style feel so good to do as our beloved George Dorsey leads us through the process of learning the capital stem.

And after the fun you’ll have, we dare you not to sign up for Heather Held’s Spencerian Workshop in April!

Read more about Heather in her exclusive Penablers interview: The Peace Behind the Pen.

What to Bring:

·         Oblique pen holder

·         Pointed nibs

·         Practice paper

·         Black ink (one that makes good hairlines is best)

·         and a snack to share

See you then!

~Victoria, Anne, Jacob, Mary, and George

An Interview with Heather Victoria Held: The Peace Behind the Pen


HVHIn anticipation of Heather Held’s first Binders Art School workshop this April 11th & 12th, The Story Of Spencerian Script, we’ve gotten a beautiful glimpse inside the artist behind the pen. Read on for inspiration and beauty and trust that she is even more amazing, and compassionate in person.

Taking a workshop with Heather feels like a celebration and unearthing of the most beautiful parts of yourself. She gently pulls it out of you, and at a pace you’re comfortable with. After two days of instruction from her, you’ll leave with a wealth of knowledge from a masterful teacher, after ingesting a giant two-day dose of peace and happiness. She is that amazing.


Anne  Elser: What is your favorite word?

Heather Victoria Held: Peace.

AE: What is you least favorite word?

HVH: No.

AE: What turns you on?

HVH: Thunderstorms, the smell of rain. 

AE: What turns you off/makes you angry? 

HVH: Indecision and lies.

AE: What is your favorite curse word? 

HVH: This is mild…but Jackass is my favourite!

AE: What sound or noise do you love?

HVH: The sound of a chickadee. 

AE: What sound or noise do you hate?

HVH: The alarm clock.

AE: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? 

HVH: Costume Design.

AE: What profession other than your own would you not like to do? Anything medical

HVH: Anything medical.

AE: If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates? 

HVH: Here is your pen room!

AE: What was your earliest creative memory?

HVH: I remember the smell of opening a new box of crayons. Seeing every perfect colour and wanting to keep them all beautiful but still be able to use them. I remember getting the huge box set that had the metallic colours in it with the sharpener built into the side.  

AE: What was the best part of your childhood?

HVH: My home was always very creative. There was always music playing in the background. My Mom taught oil painting classes every Tuesday afternoon. I would come home to the smell of turpentine and see the paintings and sketches done by the students. My Dad had a printing press in the basement. We would fall asleep to the sounds of the printing press being operated and wake up to see the stacks of prints. We spent a lot of hours visiting print shops, playing with type and coming home with armfuls of off cuts from the print shops. 

AE: In comparing the differences and similarities between your home in Canada, with the US, what do you love/dislike? 

HVH: I don’t see a lot of distinctions between the people. I find good people everywhere I travel. The climate changes intrigue me. My part of Canada has four distinct seasons. Sometimes winters can be a little to long and too grey. It always seems like such a treat that a short flight will bring me into sunshine and warmth across the border. I love the colours of a Canadian Autumn as the Sugar Maples put on a vibrant display even though those colours are short lived.

I find it funny that some of my American neighbours think they will see a snowsled and igloo as soon as they cross the border into Canada.

I must say, I think Canadian money is much prettier.

AE: How large is your studio and is it generally kept clean or messy?

HVH: My studio is not large.  Every square inch of usable space is taken up. My bookshelves are overflowing. Everything is close at hand and does have its own space, but I am not always good about returning my tools to their right place. But aside from being left out on the desk, I do treasure my tools.

I am notoriously messy while I work, but once I complete a project, I clean up my work surface to point of washing down the desk. It symbolically washes away the previous project and prepares me to start work on the next one. 

AE: What gets you up in the morning?

HVH: The desire to work. Always a new idea brewing! 

AE: Have your previous life experiences had an impact effect on your calligraphic work and if so, how? 

HVH: Without question, my floral training has had a big impact on my calligraphic work. I put together a flourish the same way I put together a floral bouquet. The principals of design were transferrable. I used to do hand sewing and hand embroidery as a hobby. My embroidery designs were always freely embellished and very much a pre-cursor to my offhand flourishing.

AE: What artist, art movement, or point in history has influenced your work the most and how?

HVH: Artists that have influenced my work are Walter Crane,  Beatrix Potter, Kate Greenaway, and Charles Van Sandwyk. I am drawn to children’s book illustrations and the Victorian era.  I love the opulence and ornamentation of the era. When in doubt, they added more gold!

AE: What advice can you give to all calligraphers at any level of experience?

HVH: Never stop learning. I don’t think we ever achieve a level where we have discovered all there is to learn about any art form. There are always new discoveries to be made.  Enjoy whatever level of expertise you are at and experience all that it has to offer.

AE: What do you love most about teaching?

HVH: Sharing the creative spark with new students. Helping to empower people to tap into their creative sides. Dusting away some of the negative comments that have been spoken over students as they were growing up and trying to reverse the damage.

Art is healing.

I have watched it etch away pain and bring joy to so many people.


Click here to read more about Heather, her history, and to view her amazing work.

Click here to sign up for her workshop at Binders Art School in April 2013!

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The Story of Spencerian Script with Heather Victoria Held
2 Sessions | All Levels $230
ARTZ1334 | Thursday & Friday, April 11 & 12, 9:30am – 4pm
This is an intensive study of historic Spencerian Script developed by Platt Rogers Spencer to its contemporary application. The student will learn the rhythm and strokes of this elegant handwriting and develop their own unique style. The elegance and grace of this hand will captivate the interest of the student.

HEATHER VICTORIA HELD resides in St. George Ontario with her husband Chris and their daughter Holly. Heather’s passion for Spencerian Script was kindled when she met her friend and mentor Master Penman Michael Sull. Early in her ornamental penmanship endeavours she was guided and encouraged by Dr. Joe Vitolo through the Ornamental Penmanship discussion group and IAMPETH. She is a member of Master Penmen Brian Walker’s Spencerian Study Group of the UK and is thankful for Brian’s guidance in her penmanship journey. Heather’s work has been published in Bound and Lettered, Somerset Studio, The Penman’s Journal, The Spencerian Review, Romantic Homes, Good Mail Day and 1000 Homemade Cards. In 2009 Heather was awarded the Spencerian Heritage Award by Michael Sull and is honoured to take her place as a storyteller of the golden age of American Penmanship and specifically offhand flourishing as she teaches throughout North America.