Calligraphy Guild Showcase: Capital City Scribes
Capital City Scribes: Austin’s Calligraphy Guild
Capital City Scribes (CCS) is the calligraphy guild of the Austin, Texas area, the capital city of Texas. It all started in 1982 with a handful of calligraphers in need of supplies. At the time, the only source of calligraphic supplies in Austin was the art department of the University Co-op East bookstore. One evening after hours, Thelma Matthews, the art department manager, brought together the calligraphers she had met so that they could meet each other. Needless to say, they were hungry for exchange and support. That resulted in an effort to form a guild to meet the needs of these artists. With 29 calligraphers in attendance, the first meeting of Capital City Scribes was held on January 7, 1983 in the basement of Hancock Recreation Center with a contra dance group thumping on the floor above. Founding members included Paula Webb, Anne Gunter, Carol Sims, Barbara Whitehead, Joan Kilpatrick and Donna Livingston. They became the first officers, with Paula as first president. Paula later served for a second term and is still active today.
The guild’s first years were fruitful and exciting. Calligraphers came out of the woodwork! Forty-nine members were listed in the 1983 yearbook and meetings included programs such as The Art of the Scribe slide show by Betty Jennings, Illuminated Manuscripts and the Making of Books with Randolph Moerke, and Paula’s Yuletide Celebration. By the start of 1984, membership had increased to more than 60. At least 20 added during the guild’s second year. Exhibits during the guild’s first decade included those at the Texas Memorial Museum (1986, 1988, 1990), the Barker History Center (1989), and St. Edwards University (1991).
Many members played key roles in the early days of Capital City Scribes and continue to do so today. They modified the structure of meetings, led presentations and workshops, and supported the guild during the turn-of-the-century transition. Trish Taylor created CCS’s first website, inaugurated the Newbies Educational Series (NES) to encourage new members, and served as president. Current president Dana Leidig is leading the growing guild to offer specialized programming for members and creative exhibits for the Austin community.
Capital City Scribes has undergone many changes over three decades, always with enthusiastic folks keeping the organization buoyed. Today CCS calligraphers incorporate lettering into various professions, lead workshops throughout Austin, and invent scripts.
Capital City Scribes is flourishing. Literally! Current membership is about 134. It includes novices and experts; bookmakers and cartographers; artists, designers, and career calligraphers; and even some calligraphy legends. CCS officers participate in the regional Southwest Calligraphy Conference (SWCC), which meets yearly to share the problems and inspirations of running a guild and coordinate teaching schedules to help share teachers’ travel expenses. The SWCC has included over the years the Waco Calligraphy Guild, Houston Calligraphy Guild, Kaligraphos (Dallas), Calligraphy Guild of Oklahoma (Tulsa), San Antonio Calligraphers’ Guild, Ft. Worth Calligraphy Guild, and New Orleans Calligraphy Guild.
The general meetings of Capital City Scribes are held on the second Thursday of each month from September through May. Programs feature a wide variety of topics from lettering forms, the history of writing and numbers, to paper making, marbling, watercolor, design layout, and book arts. In addition to frequent major and mini workshops, beginning members are invited to free Newbie Education Series workshops. A variety of study groups meet year round, and exhibits of members’ work are mounted annually. In February 2018, CCS installed The Treewhispers exhibit at the Georgetown library that will run until March. The guild also has an extensive library that has been hosted and housed by Teri Gaus for nearly ten years.
To learn more about Capital City Scribes, CCS monthly newsletters, and for a gallery of members’ work, visit www.ccscribes.com, where you can also find a listing of calligraphers for hire.