With swooping lines and intricate curls, Marie Latham ’18 began to calligraph the alphabet with a pointed pen while a group of campers gazed in wonder at the text’s professionalism. In an email to The Phillipian, Latham described her experience last summer teaching weekly calligraphy classes at Aloha, a summer camp in Vermont that she has attended for the past nine years.
“It was an incredible experience to help other people learn an art that most would consider obsolete; getting younger learners interested in such a lovely art helps keep the art form alive. Although I consider calligraphy to have been a ‘passion’ of mine before this summer, being able to pass on what knowledge I had immediately pushed me to jump back in and learn more,” said Latham.
Latham first explored calligraphy in sixth grade after she had a double-knee surgery. Restricted from physical movement, Latham was introduced to the art form by a family friend during her recovery and took immediate interest in it. While it helped keep her mind off of her injury then, calligraphy has continued to remain a steady part of Latham’s hobbies.
“I really like [calligraphy] because it’s calming to do, but also because there’s always more to discover. There are always more fonts being created and people innovating. A lot of people think that [calligraphy] can’t take you anywhere in life because that stuff can be done by computers nowadays, but it’s actually really helpful for the person to practice just for mindfulness and for taking a break from the normal stress of everyday life,” said Latham.
Calligraphy has allowed Latham to share her passion with the world and connect with others, particularly through professional sites such as Etsy. Before coming to Andover, Latham took orders from customers for wedding invitations, birthday cards, and custom quotes.
“I use [calligraphy] for fun. I used to stock my Etsy. Unfortunately, I can’t do that anymore since being [at Andover] is so busy. For other people, it’s so much fun to even just write something in the mail for somebody and having them receive that piece of art. It’s not that hard to make or create but having them be a part of your creative process is really special as well,” said Latham.
Latham’s path of developing her skills in calligraphy is mostly influenced by her friends, her family, and those interested in her work around the world. Latham was primarily encouraged by her grandmother, who helped develop Latham’s calligraphy career.
“My grandmother was my first patron actually. She commissioned a piece for my cousin as his college going-away gift when I was young and just beginning to learn. She was an incredible role model and caring person. Although I wasn’t able to stock my [Etsy] shop while balancing my course load here, she always made sure I knew she supported me. Unfortunately, she passed away this June; I was proud to write all of the placards used at the funeral. I love and miss her a lot,” said Latham.
Looking forward, Latham hopes to be more involved with calligraphy on campus.
“I think just the thrill of learning something new and putting it into practice [keeps me motivated]. It’s not that hard to do if you learn, and it gives you an immediate reward if you put enough time into it,” said Latham. “I designed last year’s Grasshopper’s program label cover, and that included calligraphy. Actually, I haven’t been able to do a lot with it yet on campus, but I’m hoping to do more.”