Our History

(by Sharon McGreevey and Julia Silbermann)

The first organization formed specifically for the study and advancement of the calligraphic arts was established in London, England, in 1921, and was named the Society of Scribes and Illuminators (SSI). It was started by students of Edward Johnston (1872-1942), who is credited with reviving the methods and techniques of the mediaeval scribes, which knowledge had been largely lost following the invention of moveable type in 1453 and the subsequent explosion of the printed book industry. Those early calligraphers trained others, who in turn educated another generation, and another. Beginning in the 1960s and 1970s, several members of SSI were invited by knowledge-hungry calligraphers in the United States to come here and teach their craft, and organizations started forming around these visits and workshops.

The Triangle Calligraphers’ Guild (TCG) has been active in the Triangle Area since 1979. It was in that year that the Carolina Lettering Arts Society (CLAS) was born out of a vision by Mr. Michael Hughey of Asheville, NC, and a handful of calligraphers across the state. To initiate the new organization, Peter Thornton, a scribe from Lichfield, England, was invited to come to Raleigh to teach, and that invitation turned into a tradition that has continued almost continuously for over thirty years.

The Raleigh Chapter of CLAS was the first, and by 1983 there were chapters in the NC Triad area (Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point); Wilmington, NC; Charlotte, NC; Greenville, SC and Charleston, SC. In the early 90s the chapters adopted their own individual names while maintaining their close working relationship with CLAS. At present, there are three calligraphic organizations in NC: TCG, the Mountain Scribes in the Asheville area, and the Coastal Calligraphers in the Wilmington/Southport area.

The Guild was registered as a not-for-profit 501(c)3 educational organization in the early nineties and has been striving since then to deserve that status by living up to its two purposes, as stated in our bylaws: To facilitate the calligraphic and artistic growth of our members and to edify the general public concerning the calligraphic and related arts. We accomplish these goals through our regular monthly meeting/educational meetings, special workshops (sometimes open to the general public), public demonstrations and displays, distribution of literature, and public announcements of our activities.

Members of the TCG have access to an extensive collection of books and videos of calligraphic and related subjects, maintained and supervised by our Librarian. Through this valuable resource, enhanced by the mutual education derived from small, informal gatherings, and the ongoing exchange of ideas, information and inspiration among the members, we all grow in our knowledge and competency. We learn from each other, professionals and dabblers alike.

Each summer the Board of Directors meets to plan the programming and other activities of the guild for the coming year, based upon the stated wishes and interests of our members and the goals of the organization.

Each year in April, CLAS holds its Annual General Meeting (AGM), hosted by one of the three local organizations. In 2012 it was the TCG’s turn, hosting a weekend of calligraphic inspiration and the renewing of friendships. The featured instructor was Lisa Engelbrecht from Long Beach, California. One part of the AGM was an exhibition with works by CLAS members around the theme of The Fanciful Letter, matching our 2012 program subject. The exhibition was open to the public at the Cary Arts Center from March 21 to April 21, 2012.

During the month of August, the Sunflowers Café in Downtown Raleigh hosts an exhibition of members’ art.

The guild’s long-range intentions include collaborative activities with other local and state arts organizations, a growing working relationship with the Cary Cultural Arts Council, and public education projects with the NC Museum of Art (as with TCG participation in the NCMA Renaissance Fairs) and the Museum of History.

While our vision is strong and forward-looking, we intend to maintain the close-knit, friendly, and mutually-supportive personality that has come to mean so much to each and every member. We want to grow in order to be able to accomplish good things for our members, our community, and our art.