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South Valley Journal

Bluffdale Resident Transitions to Modern Calligraphy

Oct 06, 2016 02:31PM ● By Tori LaRue

Lori Howell holds a piece of artwork she created using calligraphy of the Gettysburg Address to form the image of Abraham Lincoln’s Face. (Tori La Rue/City Journals)

By Tori La Rue | [email protected]

Lori Howell attributes her picturized calligraphy artwork to her 16-year-old daughter’s crush on celebrity singer Shawn Mendes. 

“She was going to a meet and greet at one of his concerts and wanted to give him something special,” Howell said. “She asked if I could write his name fancy, but I thought, ‘Everyone can do that,’ so I began thinking of other options.”’ 

Howell, a professional calligrapher, used the lettering of Mendes’ song lyrics to create the outline of his portrait in June. Guards at the meet and greet accepted the gift on Mendes’ behalf, so Howell’s daughter never got to see Mendes’ response to the art, but Howell said the project wasn’t all for naught. 

Howell enjoyed the project, so she replicated the style in an image of Abraham Lincoln, shaping his face using the words of the Gettysburg Address. Bluffdale showcased the Lincoln art at their Old West Days festival in August, and several people offered to buy it. Now Howell’s planning to create a line of calligraphy depictions that she’ll eventually sell on Etsy beginning in January. 

“I’ve never done anything like this before with calligraphy—doing art as opposed to just writing things,” she said. “You are usually doing calligraphy for other people. This is the first time that I feel like I am doing something for me.” 

The ebb and flow of calligraphy’s popularity has conveniently played out in Howell’s life, she said. Her chances of becoming a graphic designer after graduating from BYU in the mid-’80s seemed bleak as computer programs started taking over the jobs she was trained to do, so Howell put her phone number in the phone book and started doing calligraphy work, including wedding invitations, certificates and poems. 

She continued her work as a calligrapher from home for 15 years until her fifth child came around. Howell said she wasn’t sure she could keep up with her calligraphy work and the day-to-day work of being a mother. 

“I doubled my prices, thinking that would make it half of the work, and I’d still make the same amount of money, but I doubled my business,” Howell said.  “I finally had to pull it out of the phone book and just do word of mouth because it was too crazy busy.” 

Two more children joined the Howell family, and Howell began spending her time almost exclusively as a mother. Around the year 2000, Calligraphy took the backseat, which was just as well because the demand for calligraphy began to decline. 

“Calligraphy tanked,” Howell said. “That was right along the time that everybody started saying, ‘Oh, I can print my envelopes on the computer. I can print my certificates on the computer, and they look perfect. I really thought calligraphy was dead. I really did.” 

Howell’s children grew, and in 2011 she had more time to work outside the home, she said.  She secured a job at Salt Lake Community College teaching calligraphy. It was then that she began to notice the resurgence of calligraphy on Pinterest and Etsy. 

“Now it has gone all the way back around,” Howell said. “People are saying, ‘I don’t want it to look like I can just print it off of a computer because anyone can print it off of a computer now.’ They want it to look hand-done—hence, modern calligraphy.” 

Modern calligraphy has evolved into more than calligraphy pens and paper. Chalkboard drawings based on calligraphic styles are increasing in popularity. Howell’s been playing around with this idea for the past few months. 

“For me, calligraphy is creativity,” she said. “There are new things all the time. I would have never thought of chalk two years ago, but then I started seeing it out there, and I thought ‘That’s cute; I should try it.’” 

Her chalkboard designs include decorative, wedding and menu signs. She creates these pieces by mimicking calligraphy styles using chalk. She thickens parts of the letters with additional strokes, instead of moving the pen in a particular way. 

Howell has also started glass engraving. She etches names and messages into vases, jars and perfume bottles using a dentist drill. Dillard’s and other stores hire her to inscribe personalized messages on perfume and cologne bottles around Christmastime. It’s a way to give a gift that’s personalized, she said. 

Calligraphy may evolve, but its rebirth has given Howell hope that there will always be a place for the lettering art in the world of art and design. 

“We place more value on the hand stuff and the work, love and time put into it versus something that has been manufactured,” she said. “I think people like the hand-look of stuff. It is maybe not perfect, but it’s still beautiful.” 

For more information about Howell’s calligraphy, email [email protected]