In mid-May, I attended a 4 and a half-day workshop in a small town in Tuscany near Palaia. It was a calligraphy and composition class called "Shape, Color, and Composition," co-taught by Massimo Polello from Torino, Italy and Kitty Sabatier from Toulousse, France. One of the perks of the class was that a good chunk of the participants were Italian, a few French, and the rest English speakers. At any given time, there were three languages spoken and two translators actively helping us understand each other. Kitty Sabatier used to be Massimo's teacher in France and she has been teaching university students graphic design and calligraphy. Her work is exquisite. Massimo's own lettering style and his openness and freedom in breaking down formal letters, which I had only experienced through Zoom workshops, are what motivated me to join this workshop in the first place. It was the perfect union.
On day 1, we started with writing miniscule Humanist letterforms with an automatic pen, then cutting out the letter shapes. We chose a couple of letters to create a handful of logos, and then studied their negative spaces. We chose one logo and cut out the negative shapes on colored paper. There was a lot of cutting - we were cutting into the night! We then composed the cut shapes in a confined frame with the help of Kitty and Massimo. Kitty's natural eye for design and layout and her gentle teaching style were beautiful to observe. Once we composed ten pieces, Massimo showed us how to bind the pages into a simple accordion book. It was exciting to see everyone's books - different color choices, shapes, all coming together as one big art piece.
I can't fail to mention that our Tuscan villa had the most delicious homemade food. All the pasta, salads, soups, cakes, tiramisu, fruits, cheese, so much nourishment to keep us full and energized the entire time.
On day 3 we had a half day to explore a nearby town called San Miniato. It was a lovely city and Debra from our group showed us around. We walked around, snapped some photos of flowers, quintessential Tuscany landscapes, got gelato, and best of all, left with some amazing handmade hats!
So the earlier part of day 3 and day 4, we worked with different tools for replicating one of the original logo designs we made. We were collaging, painting, using graphite, watercolor, masking tapes, threads, simply experimenting. This was the toughest assignment for me because it really pushed me out of my comfort zone and I felt overwhelmed with the idea of "just doing it." A few of the pieces I really didn't like and I set them aside. Kitty let me know that part of the process was trying to fix our mistakes and to work with the failures. This was really eye-opening because most of my pieces that I ended up liking from this project were originally what I considered failures.
On day 4 and the next morning, Massimo got us breaking rules. He showed us how to look for lines and shapes from the enlarged (photocopier-aided) logos. We started drawing lines with a pencil first on tracing paper and then moved onto larger paper. My favorite tool here was the automatic pen as well as the Brody pen. Actually, the automatic pen really just makes my heart melt. And watching Massimo demo how he uses the pen to splatter but also draw more smooth lines was so fun to watch. It inspires me to experiment more with the automatic pen, the best tool ever! We then worked to enhance the lines a little more by adding collage elements and in my case, I made some stitches and knots with bookbinding thread. One of the talented veterans, Daniella, showed me how to properly create the French knot. I will be using this probably a lot more when I further develop my pieces at home.
On our last day, we all sat around and observed the pieces we created and posted on the walls. It was magnificent. The feedback from my classmates and the two teachers were inspiring, motivating, and heartfelt. I felt like a caterpillar coming out of my cocoon by the end of this workshop. What a beautiful time. Deep gratitude to Massimo and Kitty, my classmates, and Italy!
The 8 days post-workshop were spent in Barga, Bologna, and Torino before I returned home to Los Angeles. Three beautiful cities, the latter two which were completely new to me. In Barga, I visited my former professor from USC/Syracuse U. - Florence Center who I learned intaglio printmaking from back in 2005. Bologna was short and sweet but I got to rest and have some good food of Emilia-Romagna and climb the tower for an aerial view. In Torino, I got to visit Massimo's studio with Linda, the best local guide (!), and shared a couple of delicious meals in this wonderful city with excellent chocolate and gelato. I wish to go back again, definitely with my husband next time.