Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sustainable Gestures

The word calligraphy comes from Greek words meaning "beauty writing." Watching Sherrie Lovler wield a pen to make letters like the ones she created for the piece above is definitely watching beauty writing. It's also magic writing. From a stiff pen and a puddle of ink, Sherrie flows the arcs and swoops of the alphabet across the page. Each letter has its unique personality and emotion. The strokes delineate the birth, growth, decay and death that mark a lifetime. The gaps and spaces sculpt the formless into form. Together, the letters generate families of words, communities of sentences, nations of paragraphs, and worlds of chapters that express the story of creation. 

Using keyboards and electric mice to write letters and draw architecture, we are losing touch with the connection between imagination, our bodies and the physical shaping of matter. Our influence in designing the world is becoming more and more abstract. When our surroundings become abstract, we can become placeless, homeless. Life can become disconnected flashes of information. We can lose the threads of connection that weave life into a sustainable whole. 

Selecting fonts and composing words and sentences on a computer can be amazing and beautiful. Yet, when I see Sherrie making letters, I see the power of creating forms through a specific moment in time and place. Each "a" is a unique creation. Each "b" contains the forces alive in that now. Forms that have been used for centuries are given new life. They are renewed and sustained by the gesture of Sherrie's hand as it moves in a particular way that it hasn't moved before and won't move again. We think of sustainability as a long term endeavor, but it is moment by moment renewal that breathes life into forms that continue.

Years ago, I heard a story about a Japanese a school that was too poor to buy new paper for their calligraphy class. Instead of using ink for their letters, the students dipped their brushes into water and focused on sensing the shape of their hands and arms as they wrote invisible characters across the page. When each class was finished, they set the paper out to dry and used it again the next day. They knew that beautiful characters are the result of beautiful gestures. Recalling this reminds me that sustainable economies, relationships and architecture are the calligraphy produced by sustainable gestures.  

You can see more of Sherrie Lovler calligraphic art at


No comments:

Post a Comment