As the holidays arrive, we embrace those we love and enjoy their company. Yet, there are those who we love, that are missing from our midst, as they have ‘graduated’ from this life. It can be painful and lonely without them so it helps to remember them in a warm and sensitive way.
As a calligrapher, I attempt to do just that. I have been called upon to create either framed Eulogy’s or Books of Remembrance that capture special traits and memories of a loved one’s life….a treasured tribute that can be passed down through the family. I will share with you one book in particular, that I created in 2017.
My college room mate’s husband, Hector Dalton, called me to memorialize Beth’s father, Dr. Robert Lincoln Mather. A gift that would go to Mrs. Mather. Hector gave me a lot of freedom in creating the book, but said that he would: 1. Like it to be in blue (family favorite colors) 2. Bring in the 1950’s as that was Dr. Mather’s special era. Since I knew Dr. Mather, I threw in a couple of interpretive ideas as well. He was an eye doctor with 4 fashionable daughters and a wife, so I wanted to include eyes and glasses to bring out his career and family in a lighthearted way. Some of the pages lent themselves to illustrations so you will find a goat, cat, dog, skunk, chickens, a car and a harmonica, as well. Below, I will share the cover and title page and then back up to show you a little of my behind the scenes work.
Credit goes to Jim at Ohio Book (Cincinnati) for creating the lovely binding, debossed gold name and decoration, sewing the pages together, plus attaching the hand marbled end papers that I purchased from Talas in New York. (It took me quite awhile to pick a paper that matched the goat skin. Since I was in Oregon when I created the book, I actually bought and shipped 4 sheets of 2 different colored patterns, so Jim could pick the closest match for the blue leather cover). The cover is Hudson Calf Leather in Electric Blue from Pergamena in New York. I so appreciate their quality calfskin and leathers for my projects. They are one of the few tanners left in the USA, so help me keep them in business!
Above is the title page for the book. It includes some simple vine work, the color blue, eye glasses from the 1950’s era and one set, signifying Dr. Mather. Note the stethoscope, since he was an Opthamologist. I especially love to work on Twinrocker Paper because of the handmade quality and deckled edges. Note that the top edge is straight. I had to cut one large sheet into two, losing a deckled edge. Therefore, I had to alternate the deckles with straight edges within the signatures.
Now, I’m going to back up a little and show you some of ‘roughs and research’ as the project unfolded. Pinterest and the internet were helpful resources. An old Speedball Textbook had some lettering styles for the simple Decorated Capitals.
I laughed my way through researching the unique eye glasses from the 50’s.
Below you will see some of the unique shapes often found on signs or advertisements in the 50’s. These made a nice little field for the Drop Caps to sit on.
After collecting ideas for the pages, I cut tracing paper to size and penciled in all of the words. I discovered that I had to add more pages than I thought. I initially thought I’d need 18 pages, but went to 24 in all. As mentioned, I left room for small illustrations as they came up in the stories that Hector shared at Dr. Mather’s funeral.
After transferring the pages to the Twinrocker paper, I began lettering in the simple Foundational style, so the text wouldn’t conflict with the artwork and caps.
Next, I painted all of the little decorative caps with their funky background shapes and little 23k gold stars. Remember how the 1950’s art sometimes had those twinkly little stars to show a gleam? The blue matched the cover of the book and the gray was a color in the marbled paper.
The little illustrations and 19 eye glasses with eyeballs came last….below are a few of the pages with illustrations.
This book took me about a month to create. Between designing, ordering supplies, laying it out on tracing paper, lettering 20 some pages, painting and illustrating, it took 5 times what I originally thought I would take. (BUT, it would be far too boring to just have text, when Dr. Mather was full of personality. So in came the illustrations for the stories).
Side note: If I were to add one thing to this project, I would like to see a leather slip cover/case made to slide the book into.
So I hope that this gives you a little insight into my process. Now you know a unique way to memorialize a loved one, in a way that reflects their personality – a special book that can be cherished and passed down through the generations. Commissions welcomed.
This is an incredible work, Holly! Your creativity has no bounds.
Oh Holly your work is so beautiful. Actually I can’t think of a word that’s does it justice. You are an inspiration. So glad to have some prints framed at my home.
This is amazing! So nice! I'm in awe!