On Friday night my current favorite library hosted “Craft Night : soirée bricolage autour du livre” for the first time. To participate in this free book-themed crafting event, I simply RSVP’d by email.
On the lovely airy second floor of the médiathèque, library employees guided participants in four activities: making ink prints, constructing small notebooks, practicing calligraphy, and creating paper butterflies. A generous spread of hors d’oeurves, fruits, sweets, and drinks added to the soirée atmosphere.
I would have liked to do all of the projects, but since I took my time on my string of butterflies, I only tried my hand at calligraphy afterward. Recently I’ve felt rushed in my professional and personal life, and this evening I refused to let myself be rushed by anyone. The peaceful space was perfect for relaxing and quietly creating with fellow crafters. Using clear plastic shapes the library had provided, I traced butterflies of different sizes onto old sheet music. The lyrics of the piece I picked up happened to be quite romantic, so I took advantage of this luck and deliberately positioned my tracings over specific phrases that struck my fancy. I cut them out and strung them on a nylon thread. They now flit across my wardrobe. The most interesting part of the calligraphy table was the man who explained the art to me. It’s always a delight to see someone passionate about their craft. When I sat down and expressed interest in trying it, he showed me how to fill the ink pen, blot it on the paper to reduce the ink at the point, and position it at a 20 degree angle to the paper. He set down a piece of paper that displayed the alphabet in Carolingian, a font from Charlemagne’s time. He then proceeded to demonstrate the technique by writing commonly-used letters—‘a’ and ‘o.’ There is a specific order and direction in which you make each stroke. Much like other arts, the result appears to flow freely but is actually very precise in practice.
After his detailed presentation, he invited me to give it a try. I picked up the calligraphy pen, and he immediately reacted in dismay, “Vous êtes gauchère ?” (“You’re left-handed?”) Yes, I said with a laugh, Does that change everything? Well, it changes quite a bit, he said. This font, all of the order of strokes that he showed me—they were made for right-handed people. He showed me a couple of options, one of which was to turn the paper at an angle and write that way. I guess if I lived in Charlemagne’s time, I would have worked as a butter churner.