The work of my life has always circled around words. Written, read, spoken, sung. Drawn, decorated, stitched and bound. Illuminated with paint and gold, or scrawled in journals and messages. I have found myriad ways to craft with words. They are my first tools.
I was always meant to be a writer, when I was ten, when I was twenty, when I was thirty. The remit came from my fifth-grade teacher, and was echoed and nurtured by my paternal grandmother.
At the same time, I was handy, and loved to make things. Over the years, I took up sewing, embroidery, quilting, knotting, braiding. Eventually I took up a calligraphy pen. This was a skill I could practice with my hands and still use words as my material. Its advantage over creative writing was that I could pick it up and put it down while I was raising a family.
The letters of the words became fascinating to me. I rejoiced when I could make my calligraphy look like a strand of pearls, each round and rhythmic.
For many years, I have enjoyed being a scribe and book artist, weaving words from the wise into calligraphic art and handmade books. Many of these creations became greeting cards and prints, still available through my storefront, Prose and Letters. Soon enough I discovered the lure of putting my calligraphy art into books, the natural storehouse for words.
My artist books have been acquired by many private and public collections. My longtime interests in the natural world, ancient inscription, folkway and enchantment have found expression in beautiful book forms. I look on them as bearers of secret and sometimes subversive knowledge, reaching backward and forward in time.
When I began to make books, an old yearning stirred in me. A few years ago, I picked up a ballpoint pen and some old school lined paper my children had left behind, and began to write. Not pretty letters, but prose. Stories that had been biding their time inside me for years needed to be on the page. Needed, perhaps, to be in a book. Or two.
The time has come to write books as well as make them. I have come full circle.
And so I am still crafting with words, forging them into stories, tall tales and humble memories. I play with the forms of fiction and memoir, moving between what is remembered and what is imagined, for truth is indeed stranger than fiction. My family stories may be much like your family stories. They bring the past to life, and reach into the future. Words that are good and true, and the courage to share them, can change the world.
And when inventing sentences, I glory in stringing words together like shining beads on a thread of meaning. I gather and polish, embellish and discard. This is my delight, my work and my skill. Words are my ground and my magic.
For more about my exhibitions, collections, and publications, please visit my Gallery page.
portrait by T. Mallie Braithwaite, 2022