In late May of 2023, I attended my first ever calligraphy retreat with the Calligraphic Society of Arizona. It was the first retreat they’ve had in over 20 years!
A few months of planning and excitement went in to this event. Several members volunteered to present a small project for the guild to do. Unlike a conference, the retreat was meant to be relaxing with plenty of downtime!
The guild chose to return to Emmanuel Pines in Prescott, Arizona, which is where they also held past calligraphy retreats. The guild rented 2 cabins. Most of us lodged in one of them, while the other is where we set up our supplies, much like we would at a meeting.
We got plenty of scenery in by traveling between the cabins and the dining hall!
It was my first time in Prescott, and I loved being around all the trees for those few days! Just after we arrived, the sky opened up and treated us to a nice long thunderstorm. So, we made a pot of coffee and caught up in the Arizona room as it rained. What a perfect treat to start the weekend!
Kicking off the Calligraphy Retreat
Our treasurer, Karen Borggren, had tote bags screenprinted with our guild banner. Members of the guild contributed all kinds of goodies and supplies to fill them with. I think all of us were truly humbled by each other’s generosity!
There were some “writing tools” laid out — twigs, clumps of pine needles, sticks, silicone basting brushes, pipettes and more. To get the ink flowing for our calligraphy retreat, we took turns making marks on large sheets of paper.
While the mark-making pages were drying, we played an ice-breaker game. Each of us had a calligraphy-related word taped onto our back. Everyone went around the room asking each other questions about their word. Some were harder than others, but we eventually all figured out what we “were”.
After the pages were dry, we each chose one and made a little instant book out of it.
We finished the night by penning weathergrams to hang up in the forest. They’re short phrases written on paper grocery bags in black ink. The first letter, however, is written in red.
Such a fun night of friendship and laughter!
Full Day of Calligraphy
We started the day with a mini-lesson on posture and breathing, taught by yours truly. I think we all needed at least a little stretch after sleeping in our bunk beds the night before . . .
Mary Havenor and her husband put these kits together for the guild to letter during the retreat. Each set had 3 wood slices, beads, and twine. Mary also provided nature quotes and an exemplar for us!
We stained the wood with alcohol inks and chose a nature related phrase to letter between the 3 wooden pieces. Mine reads, “Sometimes grace is a ribbon of mountain air that gets in through the cracks”, a quote by Anne Lamott.
This was an easy and beautiful project — and the wood smells soooo good!
After lunch, Susan Liming led us through creating pastel backgrounds for calligraphy. We cut stencils by tracing leaves onto contact paper. Then we used pastels, sponges, and matte medium to create layers of color.
I worked with yellow, orange, blue, green, and purple for my background. Can’t wait to show you the calligraphy I added!
For our last structured activity, Veronica Phillips led us through making an envelope book.
We all have paper laying around, and this is a fun way to give a greeting card with additional treats tucked inside.
Wrapping up the Retreat
After dinner on our last night, we all went back to the studio cabin and played around with everything we did that day. We talked more calligraphy with one another, shared our other projects and laughed. In the morning, we packed up alllllll our stuff and got back on the road, tired, but fulfilled.
The retreat was just how I imagined it, like a meeting, but longer. I am so grateful for the new, delightful friendships I made. I also more deeply treasure the friendships I already had!