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Modern Calligraphy · Maybelle Imasa-Stukuls for The School


19th September, 2013
Lucy Feagins
Thursday 19th September 2013

Modern Calligraphy by Maybelle Imasa-Stukuls, who is travelling from San Francisco to Sydney next month for two dedicated workshops at The School!  Photo - Elizabeth Messina.

A letter to Sydney! Calligraphy by Maybelle Imasa-Stukuls.

Calligraphy by Maybelle Imasa-Stukuls.

Modern Calligrapher Maybelle Imasa-Stukuls at home in Oakland, California.  Photo - Elizabeth Messina.

I tell you what, we very rarely feature an international creative here... but when someone this AMAZING schedules a trip all the way to Australia, we sit up and take notice!

California based Maybelle Imasa-Stukuls is a modern calligrapher.  After her early career as a flight attendant instilled a love of hand written correspondence, Maybelle eventually found notoriety as a professional calligrapher, scribing and illustrating countless wedding invitations and other special projects before catching the eye of the powers that be at Martha Stewart Weddings magazine.  The rest, as they say, is history!

Maybelle's work has since been featured in countless editorial spreads for Martha Stewart's various publications, and she's undertaken a great variety of amazing creative assignments, some of which you'll read about below! As Megan Morton says - 'In the world of penmanship, Maybelle needs no introduction. Basically, she is the Queen Bee of all things written!'.  A visit to Maybelle's portfolio website and blog is the perfect introduction to her style, and showcases a stunning collection of work which encapsulates Maybelle's ultimate creative goal - to create work that is 'perfectly imperfect'.

Maybelle will travel to both Sydney and Melbourne next month to run just four classes with The School!  'As a Martha fan from way back I have always loved Maybelle's script. It's drop dead beautiful, but most of all effortless' says Megan Morton of Maybelle's unique approach to her craft. 'We want to bring teachers to the school who are the best at what they do, and for me, Maybelle is to calligraphy what Darcey Bussell is to ballet.  I am now totally stuck for what to serve for the queen of cursive?!  I mean I have done three tea tastings already and not convinced I have a snack station match for her goodness!' OH Megan, don't fret, we know you'll nail it!

We were so intrigued about Maybelle's work, we just had to ask her a few more questions about her craft, celebrity wedding invites and dinner with Hillary Clinton! -

Hi Maybelle!  We're thrilled to hear you're coming to Australia!  Would you mind briefly telling us little bit about yourself and background – what did you study and what led you to what you're doing today?

I was a graphic design student at the University of Hawaii (where I grew up), but I didn't take the traditional path of working in a design office after college. On a whim I applied for a job and was hired as a flight attendant for a major US airline. I found myself travelling to international cites that most people would maybe get to visit once in their lives!  I lived in Hong Kong and whenever I was in a new city I would write to my friends and family back home. I love beautiful stationery and sending mail with an exotic postmark, but most of all, connecting with people dear to me through the letters. I wanted the recipients of my letters to know how special they were to me. So I began trying to teach myself calligraphy.

I was furloughed from the airline after September 11th, and it was a very difficult period of adjustment, not just for myself, but for the entire world. Calligraphy practice was very meditative and calming and therapeutic at that time.

After ten years of working as a calligrapher and designer I started offering workshops in San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles. I enjoy sharing what I know and seeing how excited people become when about learning this beautiful art form.

I would like to change the perception of calligraphy. Whenever I meet someone new and mention that I am a calligrapher, they immediately think of a particular style of calligraphy that involves a chiseled pen, and they are often surprised to see that what they had envisioned was something entirely different. I use a pointed pen dipped into ink to create my letterforms, and I have somewhat of an unconventional approach to this art form - a modern approach.

How were you originally introduced to calligraphy? Was it love at first ink well? Are you self taught in the art, or where did you learn this craft?

A friend gave me a very nice calligraphy kit so I started dabbling in it. Full disclosure: I was horrible at it. I would offer my newly found hobby to friends and family who were getting married. They would politely decline. Shortly after moving to San Francisco, my husband gave me the gift of calligraphy lessons with Lauren Macintosh, who is a calligrapher and painter based in Berkeley, California. Lauren is a self taught calligrapher, and has had the biggest influence on my work. Her style is unique and she encourages her students to develop their own style.

Since then I have studied with a few masters, learning traditional methods of calligraphy as well. Whenever I feel that my work is looking too perfect, I revert to the instruction by Lauren. I like when my work is perfectly imperfect.

How did you come to be Martha Stewart's most trusted 'living pen'?

First of all, I don't think Martha Stewart knows who I am, but she did hold a sign that read 'Just Married' that I painted for a wedding related segment on national television for the Today Show. The story is that shortly after I started taking calligraphy lessons, I sent some samples of my invitation designs to Martha Stewart Weddings magazine. I followed up with a thank you note addressed to one of her magazine editors. She called right away let me know how delighted she was to receive a hand written (in calligraphy ) note and asked me if I was a professional calligrapher. At the time I had only taken just a few classes, but I answered 'yes'. The reason she was asking was because she was getting married and looking for a calligrapher, and my style was exactly what they were looking for. I was hired me to create an illustrated map, addressed envelopes and created calligraphy place cards and menus. All of these details were featured in a story on her wedding in Saratoga Springs, that was printed in the Spring 2005 issue of Martha Stewart Weddings. The rest, as they say is history.

From that point on, I have worked with their stylists and editors on numerous stories, and my work incorporated calligraphy on a small scale and then on to larger projects like back ground designs and illustrations for sets at their studios in New York. I have also had the great privilege to work with Darcy Miller, the editor of Martha Stewart Weddings magazine who has hired me in the past to work on special personal projects.

Megan Morton told us you didn't realise you were writing the invitations to Seth Rogen and Lauren Miller's wedding until you had to write 'James Franco' on one of the invitations! Have you come across any other 'celebrity encounter via calligraphy' stories during your time?

That was a fun wedding to work on. For that project in particular, the designer brought me on board. She didn't mention anything about it being a celebrity wedding when she provided me with the list. I proceeded as I normally would any other project and then while in the middle of addressing the envelopes, it dawned on me that perhaps it could be the wedding of an actor/actress when I reached the letter F on the alphabetised list for Mr. James Franco, I should have known from the get go at the letter A, an envelope for a Hollywood director and his wife Mr. and Mrs. Judd Apatow. It was later confirmed that it was Seth Rogen and Lauren Miller’s wedding. For a long time I could not discuss the details with anyone, but since it has been a few years now since the wedding, I think it's okay.

On another occasion I worked on menus and place cards for a special dinner with Hillary Clinton. When I went to deliver the items to the restaurant, the hosts of the special event invited me to stay for the dinner. I accepted, of course, I mean, who turns down dinner with Hillary?! We were introduced and photographed together, so I would not be lying if I told you that I have had dinner with Hillary Clinton - I was just seated at another table!

How did this trip to Australia for The School come about?

I am a HUGE fan of Megan Morton from her book Things I Love, after reading about her on a few blogs, and then followed her on Instagram. A friend, designer and online shop owner Jessie James of Supply Paper Co. in Sydney mentioned that I should contact The School when I started offering my workshops. I sent an email to The School’s general email account that basically mentioned that teaching a workshop would be a dream project for me. A few days later, I received a reply back from Megan Morton's personal email account. The subject heading was left blank, but the email said 'Yes. Let's do it.'

Earlier that day, I had been living vicariously through the posts of Megan’s Balinese holiday on her Instagram feed, I shrieked of course when I received a personal reply back and was in I was in utter disbelief that she personally emailed me from Bali! Of course I could have written her a hand written letter, but in this case, twenty-first century technology worked just fine. She received my thank you in the post later three weeks later.

What are you most looking forward to for your upcoming trip to Australia?

Wait, is this really happening? Please pinch me because I still can’t believe it. Sydney is one of my favorite cities in the world. In many ways, it reminds me of Hawaii. The people are lovely and kind. What's not to love about this beautiful city? One of my favourite things to do when I am there is to sketch in the Royal Botanic Gardens. I have been to Sydney over a dozen times, but I have not been to Melbourne and I have some relatives to visit while I am there, I am excited about seeing them as much as I am teaching my workshops.

What can our readers expect from your classes at The School?

The morning class is designed for beginners. You will receive my calligraphy kit in this class. If you have had previous experience please bring some of your own supplies with you and join me for the afternoon class where I will be sharing a few of my tips and tricks along with a few easy projects that will incorporate your new found skills. Come for the the morning or afternoon, but I would love it if we could spend the entire day together.

We will have tea and special treats, and loads of fun! The materials that I use in my workshops are exclusive, and I have designed everything from the practice books, letterpress alphabet and personalised ink wells with the highest attention to detail. If you cannot make it to one of my workshops, you can purchase my workshop in a box on etsy. I am bringing lots of extra goodies that I don’t offer at my workshops in San Francisco, New York or Los Angeles. I love adding small surprises. Please come ready to immerse yourself in this beautiful art form and be prepared to fall madly in love with Modern Calligraphy!

Maybelle's Sydney and Melbourne classes promise to sell out tout suite, so if you are interested, get in quick!

Modern Calligraphy by Maybelle Imasa-Stukuls, who is travelling from San Francisco to Sydney next month for two dedicated workshops at The School!  Photo - Elizabeth Messina.


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