Wednesday, February 6, 2008

That's Fontastic

There's a long list of things I wish I could do. It's tucked away in the back of my brain, plaguing me only mildly, once in a while. I wish I could play the piano, rewire a lamp, watch Oprah without crying. Also, I wish I knew how to create a font, one to replicate my own handwriting.

I was one of those kids, weird and scholastic, with a deep fondness for stationery supplies. Those terminal August days before the new school year were some of my favourites, filled with sharpening pencils, organizing my Note Tote binder, and deciding what I'd wear. I was happy to get back to my teachers and my Hilroy notepaper, 4 for a dollar. I loved pens, in particular. I collected and stockpiled them in my bedroom, where I'd take them out, lay them on my desk and marvel at my growing assortment. I loved to write on all types of paper, to see how the ink would react, to really decide if I was a ballpoint man, or a rollerball. Did I mention I was totally insane? I had dozens more pens than I could ever use and spent far too much time perfecting my signature.

I joined the Calligraphy Club (you're not surprised, are you?) when I was in grade four, strictly motivated by the promise of a new pen, I'm certain. I loved the tiny vials of ink, a full spectrum of colours. They were expensive and made me feel like some kind of intellectual, part of a British aristocracy. I wrote letters to my Grandma with these pens, impressing her with my penmanship, something not everyone in her day could quite figure out. When we were young she was our greatest fan, I think deeply satisfied by our bookishness. Tidy longhand assured her we'd be okay in the world. She'd get teary, holding my notes, shaking her head, telling me how "beautiful" my writing was. She loved to use that word to describe almost anything - my shirt, my singing voice, my bad mood. It mortified me because I knew I shouldn't want to be associated with a word so delicate, though, of course, she meant no malice. "Handsome, Grandma!" I'd hiss, hoping my Dad hadn't heard her description of me.

The advent of the computer replaced my love of traditional office supplies. It also had a degrading effect on the quality of my handwriting. But I soon fell in love with fonts; accurate and consistent, they never ran out of ink or hit an invisible scuff on the page, ruining half a greeting card. There are endless styles, infinite variables, and my calligraphy was never as good then as it can be now. I wish I could make one based on my own dilapidated scrawl, so I could at least pretend to fill out my Valentines by hand this year. I think it breaks my Grandma's heart that the only bit of my penmanship she sees these days is my name, chicken-scratched at the bottom of my word-processed-letters, even the envelope etched out on my computer. I think this is why old people hate technology; in it, their loved ones are nowhere to be found.


  1. Recently I've found my mind searching, virtually, my parents' basement - going through old boxes, looking for the bottle of watered-down ink and box of nibs I bought when I was 14.

    Oh yes. You are not alone. There are lots of calligraphers out there, if you know where to look.

  2. I have the solution you have been searching for!!

    With this service, you can send personalised greeting cards and even create a font using YOUR hand writing!!! All cards are mailed for you and they have a huge selection of designs. Go ahead, make your day! PS. You can even add your own photographs to the cards...

  3. Oh God.
    First, the font change in your blog title caught my attention IMMEDIATELY.
    Second, I want you to know that your blog was the second thing I checked on the internet upon my return from Shanghai (Facebook was first, obvi).
    Third, I'm a maniac, I can't! stop! downloading! For no! reason!

  4. If "Helvetica" ever hits theatres in Toronto, we're going.

    If not, I'm just going to rent the DVD and break into your house in the middle of the night and watch it in your basement while you're asleep.

  5. As my roommate Jess jokingly pointed out, I rented 'Helvetica' and ATE THAT SHIT UP. I too have been fascinated by fonts...and stationery. Moreover, I remember being a VERY DETERMINED Grade 2 student who worked and re-worked his French-language script until it was...perfect.

    (As a final note: you and your grandmother were only partially right - you're handsome AND beautiful!)

  6. Ha! What timing. Yesterday, I spent over two hours on dafont and 1001fonts trying to find THE perfect font for one of my little redecorating projects. You are not alone in your obsession.

    Took a handwriting analysis class a while back. Teach said handwriting is brainwriting and if you like someone's penmanship, chances are very good you'll like the person too. Your grandma was wise :)

  7. Meant what timing to find this post. Obviously, the coinkidink is not in real time ;-) (I decided to read your blog from the beginning.)

  8. This post makes me realize I'm not certain I have a real sense of what your handwriting LOOKS LIKE. That strikes me as so weird.

    And a Calligraphy Club? Amazing.