Calligrapher’s Corner: Consulting with the Experts, Volume 3-Carrie Imai
Describe how you began your love of lettering and how you started your career in calligraphy.
I have had a fascination of letters since I was young, making curlies to “fancy” my writing. In 1979, when I finally had the opportunity to take formal classes at the local high school adult education, I quickly developed a passion. I searched out other classes to develop my passion. I was lucky to find Nancy Ouchida-Howells who was my excellent first true instructor. I followed that with every workshop and class I could afford…there weren’t very many in those early days. In 1987, my then teacher, Ed Fong, asked me to submit my portfolio to the Brandes Art Institute to apply for a teaching position, which I got and began my teaching career. It was then that I found my true calling as a teacher of the thing I loved most, calligraphy. Since then I started a freelance business, started teaching locally and now teach at UCLA Extension and for guilds cross the US and in Canada. Life is good.
What would you consider to be your area of greatest expertise?
The art of manipulation and dancing the pen have become my speciality and it has infused all my lettering. I have incorporated this technique into all my classes and have even published a book entitled, Dancin’ Pen of which I’m very proud. Purchases of my book have said that it is like having me with them – exactly what I wanted to achieve.
What advice would you give a new calligrapher?
First of all, find a good teacher who you can trust. Someone who cares enough to find out what you need and has the skill to give that to you. Take as many classes as you can. That continual work and the discipline that requires will move you forward. Try finding a small group of like-minded artists and form a study group who work independently on projects with the input of your fellow group members. Lastly, enjoy the journey. Embrace failure. You learn best from your failures and what you learn will lead you to successes.
What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
I have the same fears and trepidations everyone does. I don’t know any good calligraphic artists who don’t have any fear and doubt. The difference that experience makes is that I know that if I just begin to work, I will have a draft which I can work with and “adjust”. And if I keep working and trust the artist, I will come to a conclusion. And that conclusion may be simply learning something along the way. And sometimes I will create something that pleases me. But if I don’t start, nothing happens. Fear gets bigger and bigger the longer you think about it. Just begin.
When you are not lettering, what do you enjoy doing?
My husband and I enjoy working out at our gym. We have promised each other that we will do our best to maintain our health for the other. My husband has been very supportive of my passion and my traveling and teaching. I am so grateful to him and for finding my true calling of teaching. It has given me joy and fulfilled me to the core.