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Valley Calligraphy Guild

The History of the
Valley Calligraphy Guild
Eugene Oregon

Based on an article written for the March-April 1986 issue of The Valley Calligraphy Guild Newsletter by Edie Roberts. She included portions of an article about the Guild that appeared in the charter issue of the Calligraphy Idea Exchange which was written by Edie and Fran Strom Sloan, plus additions and updates. Edie handwrote this article for the Newsletter. From the beginning of the VCG until recent years, everything in the newsletter was written by hand.

Oregon has had a love for calligraphy ever since Lloyd J. Reynolds began teaching it at Reed College in Portland. His students carried calligraphy into other schools and continued this renaissance.

 

A few teachers had been giving classes in Eugene, and in February 1976, six people met to explore ways of obtaining supplies and of financing classes and workshops with more experienced teachers. The Original 6 were: our teachers Nancy Shutt (now Rausch) and Fran Strom (the late Fran Strom Sloan), and students Joan Bray, Barbara Mundall, Sandy Tilcock and Edie Roberts.

 

Our name, The Valley Calligraphy Guild, came from a desire to include other cities throughout the Willamette Valley. And the support was immediate! Our very first workshop was with Judy Aiello, a Portland graphic artist. We nearly overflowed the classroom. There were people there that day who remained members to this day. Fund raising has been an adventure. At the first meetings we brought our used paperback books to sell to each other and donated the money to the treasury. We also sold recipe cards (a dime) and plant cuttings (15 cents). As treasurer, I'd go home with an envelope full of nickels and dimes and gradually our treasury grew. In the earliest years, we had wonderfully successful Christmas sales, including all sorts of calligraphic items and even fresh-cut greens, donated, cut, ribboned and trimmed by volunteers. The guild was known for lots of enthusiasm and fun.

 

Our first serious printed project in the fall of 1976, was our cookbook/ideabook, Pots & Pens. We needed a fundraiser that would sell to everyone, not just calligraphers. Part of its charm was that it was entirely handwritten, as was our newsletter, a philosophy from Lloyd Reynolds, to get art into everyday life.

 

All of that first book was collated by hand (stacks of each page were arranged on a pool table, and we would walk around and around the table, chatting and collating and trying to forestall attacks of vertigo); and punched by hand (we had a little machine that would punch three pages at a time!); and bound by hand (same little machine). One thousand copies sold out!

 

In the fall of 1977 we had a show
at the Eugene Public Library. As
part of the show, an original hand
bound book Once Upon An Alphabet was created by VCG members. It became so popular (each artist designed a page featuring a letter of the alphabet, number or ampersand), that we had copies printed and bound, with an embossed cover. It was our 2nd publication.

 

Then in the summer of 1978, we prepared Pots & Pens Two, an all new version, bigger and more tightly organized. And this time we let the printer have the joy of collating! As we grew, and as the work (and the postage expenses) expanded, we realized we needed some professional advice. So we talked with a lawyer who worked with art groups. By January 1979 we'd become incorporated and then received nonprofit status from the government. (It was time-consuming and sometimes hair-raising, but worth it.) Fran and Nancy continued their teaching. First with beginner classes; then at intermediate level; finally an advanced class taught by both teachers at first. When Nancy moved from Eugene, Fran continued classes on all 3 levels. Her enthusiastic encouragement was always stimulating more students and more VCG members. Over the years we've had outstanding calligraphy workshops with teachers from Oregon including: Elizabeth Anderson, Bettye Lou Bennett, Dorothy Dehn, Inga Dubay, Barbara Getty, Joyce Grafe, Mary Greely, Louise Grunewald, Lois McClelland, Marilyn Reaves, Eliza Schulte, Fran Strom, Jaki Svaren, Keith Vinson and Allen Q. Wong.

 

    In 1977, LLOYD J. REYNOLDS
    came for workshops and an
    evening lecture. The public
    library auditorium was jam-packed.
    It was a once-in-a lifetime
    experience for many people.

We never knew for sure which of our projects would actually "take". In September 1976, we had our first Retreat at Camp Wilani in Veneta. It was a fun weekend, but the next summer it didn't repeat.

 

class notes 2On the other hand, in March of '77, LOIS MCCLELLAND came from Portland to teach a fraktur workshop. She was a favorite and returned often. In the fall of 1981 she offered an advanced seminar in Eugene, which continued several seasons until her death in 1983. Two volumes of CLASS NOTES, a written record of each day's classwork, including illustrations, were an offshoot of Lois' memorable classes.
We've had so many great teachers from outside Oregon. I'll mention two special ones:

 

In January 1978
PAUL FREEMAN blew in to
U-Gene from New York City, and changed some things forever "The daring and freedom with which he used letterforms, not just as words, but as textural and design elements affected us all.

This is his "Man of Letters" self portrait.

Hella Basu came from England to visit and teach for a whole week in the summer of 1979. She was an excellent teacher and encouraged us to try new things. As Fran said, "She taught us to take chances and enjoy life to the fullest."

Frequent calligraphy shows have given us the chance to share our work. In the summer of 1981 we had a show for the first time at Mt. Angel Abbey, near Salem. This peaceful, beautiful place has become the location for our annual all-members' show every year since then.

In November 1981, we took part, with Salem and Corvallis, in a three guild exhibit at the State Capitol Galleria in Salem, Oregon - Touch & Movement. For good balance we've also sponsored workshops in related crafts: bookbinding, papermaking, paper marbling, embossing, pen cutting, rubber stamping, etc. Pots &Pens Three became reality in 1984. Many new calligraphers contributed pages for this book.By the 11th year of the VCG, we had published six books, masses of newsletters and our membership had increased to over 850 calligraphers.
To be continued

 

Index to Valley Calligraphy Guild Newsletters 1981-2012 click for pdf