It is mid July 2019 and I am in Denver attending the IAMPETH conference. This is my fifth time attending, and I grieve for all the years I didn’t know it existed. Two thousand nineteen marks seventy years of this International Association of Master Penmen, Engrossers, and Teachers of Handwriting, offering the absolute finest of teaching and sharing the art of beautiful handwriting at their annual conferences.

 

I have practiced calligraphy for over thirty years, for the first twenty-one I would say, mostly self-taught. It was difficult to find local teachers with whom to work, and it wasn’t until on line resources were available that I actually found my first one-on-one lettering mentor. This was in the form of a correspondence course with Thomas Ingmire, a calligraphic artist in the San Francisco area.

 

Thomas sent me a thick packet detailing what paper, pen, nibs, and ink to buy, with meticulous instructions about lining my paper and creating exact margins. Each lesson included exemplars for crafting perfect Versals. I would do my homework, and mail it back to him in San Francisco, in a white cardboard envelope with lots of postage stamps. Within two or three weeks, Thomas would return my work in the same envelope, with his exquisite red correction marks and suggestions for improvement penned into my precisely measured margins. 

 

As with many things in life (all?), as I began a deeper study of calligraphy and working with a master, I had a glimpse into the vast chasm of what I didn’t know. I become aware of many of the self-taught mistakes I had been reinforcing in my practice.

 

But oh how I loved lettering and attempting to master these beautiful forms.

 

You’ve undoubtedly heard the concept of Flow. Per Wikipedia:

 

Flow…also known colloquially as being in the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting loss in one's sense of space and time.

 

There is a fine line about being in Flow, according toMihaly Csikszentmihalyi. That sweet spot of being challenged, but not so much that you are frustrated enough to give up…so that every tiny effort you make to learn something new, keeps those little hits of dopamine coming and coming.

 

That’s what studying and practicing the art of beautiful handwriting is for me. I love the challenge of spacing letters, becoming engaged with the nuanced movements of a pen nib, translating the correct angle or slant line, flourishing a letter, or exploring how different inks work on different papers.

 

I now not only attend calligraphy and lettering conferences taught by masters from around the world, I also study with mentors and teachers in on-line live and recorded classes. Rarely does a day go by without my practicing this beloved art form.

 

All of this is reflected in the love and attention I put into my Letters from Santa.

While my stories and drawings are more folk art than fine art, the continued effort and appreciation I bring to my work culminates in each package I lovingly send out.

 

I hand-write and illustrate all of my Letters from Santa. They are printed onto parchment and water-colored by me or another delightful elf.

 

As I look back on the fact that this has been a thriving little enterprise for over 25 years, even when my calligraphic efforts were so humble (they still are, but my technical skill is much better), I believe the reason my customers order for five, ten, twenty plus years, is because of the p.s. at the end of the letter.

 

Parents will give me information about the important things that happened in their child’s life over the last year. Sometimes it’s a missing tooth that scored them a silver dollar under their pillow, sometimes the birth of a sibling, or a valiant attempt at running for a class office. I hand-write the p.s., either wording it myself, or using words specifically requested by the parent (or whomever has ordered). For customers who have continued this tradition, the most memorable life events are archived in Santa’s letters to be re-visited over and over again.

 

Each envelope is hand-lettered in a beautiful shade of ink, affixed with a North Pole stamp of my creation, and embossed with the current year’s postmark. This envelope, unsealed so the parent can check for errors or necessary updates (a certain requested gift won’tbe available, or the hamster died…etc) is enclosed in an outer envelope addressed to the parent.

 

I refer to parent and child, but my range of products has expanded to include letters for grown ups and older children. Once a family has started their Christmas Letter tradition, they often wish to continue, even when the children know ‘The Truth’ about Santa.

 

So, I have yet to see another Santa Letter priced the way I have my letters priced. I have also never seen another Letter from Santa that may be a keepsake piece of artwork for years to come. I invite you to browse my letters and find one to delight your child or a special adult in your life. You may find this small investment is the beginning of a priceless tradition for your family.

 ACANTHUS AND ELVES