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Typism Member—Sharlene Vagg

typism member feature May 13, 2022

Our fourth featured Typism member for 2022 is Sharlene Vagg, a calligrapher/lettering Artist living on the Sunshine Coast, Australia. 

Sharlene has been studying calligraphy for over 20 years. She is passionate about exploring and understanding the 26 Latin letterforms and more recently, the letterforms of other cultures. She is also very interested in artist books and likes to incorporate her lettering into hand-bound artist books.

How did you start out as a lettering artist or designer?

I have always loved writing. I remember playing with letters and altering their forms back in primary school. I found a Calligraphy course, in Sydney, back in the late eighties and things have evolved from there.

I also have studied a lot of subjects that I can combine with my Calligraphy work. Like paper-making, book-binding, embossing, and collage. Over the last two years, I have had the privilege of being able to study under many great International Calligraphers that I have had on my wish list—thanks to Zoom! I am also a left-handed Calligrapher.

That has its challenges. But, I didn't let that put me off. I just learned to work out the best way for me to get the same result as a right-handed Calligrapher.

How do you hone and refine your skills?

I am constantly doing workshops when they are offered by Calligraphers that I admire. There is always something new to learn, even after all this time. I am a member of the Calligraphy Society of Victoria.

They are a great group and very proactive when it comes to offering both in-person and online workshops. And, I spend a lot of time in my studio, practising my letterforms and exploring new ways to express them in my work.

What's the best advice or tip you've received so far on your lettering journey?

If you are left-handed, you can still create beautiful letters. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. And, those that tell you that all you need for Calligraphy is paper, ink and a dip pen. That's not true. I now have a whole studio full of "Calligraphy supplies" that I can't do without.

Tell us about your creative habits. Do you have any daily rituals?

I like to get in the studio every day - even if for a short time. Muscle memory is important when keeping your lettering up to a standard that you are happy with. And, I find that lettering is a great way to distract you from the outside world.

You enjoy the peace and quiet and get into a meditative zone when you are focusing on your letters. I also like to check what other Calligraphers are doing on Instagram. It brings the whole lettering community together and you feel closer to your "tribe".

Tell us about your top three lettering projects so far

Three recent projects:

  1. A commission to create a client's favourite quote. I quote that has helped her through good times and tough times. A ruling pen and the blending of multiple inks were used for this piece.
  2. A modern piece incorporating canvas and collage with lettering. And, a touch of gold. Again, a ruling pen was used for the lettering.
  3. Three artists' books which explore the negative space between and around letters. This is a different way of looking at letters. The possibilities are endless when exploring the negative space.
What are your time and energy management strategies?

I am an early riser and love to get into the studio when the house is quiet and my mind is fresh. This is when I seem to do my best work. But then, if I am having a crazy day, I like to come into the studio and zone out with some lettering.

Always helps to clear the head. I am very lucky that I have a separate studio where everything is set up and within easy reach. So, I don't have to pack up after every studio session.

But, I am a bit of a tidy freak so my studio is always quite organized. I have visitors to the studio who must wonder if I actually do anything as it is always very tidy.

What is your favourite aspect of the Typism membership or community?

Being in a community of like-minded people from all over the world. Typism is invaluable for this. Not everyone understands the attraction of those 26 letters, but I know that the Typism community are all on the same wavelength as me.

What are your plans and dreams for the future of your creative practice?

Late last year, I was asked to teach a five-day Lettering Workshop in South East Queensland. After much planning, this "Summer School" was held last week. A great group of Calligraphers immersed themselves in five whole days of lettering and book-binding with me. What a privilege to have this time with no disruptions or distractions from the outside world. I look forward to offering more workshops, this year.

What do you currently struggle with most when it comes to your lettering?

There are many different lettering scripts and I love them all. But, I have come to realize that, as much as I would like to, I can't be perfect in all lettering styles. There is just not enough hours in the day. So, I am trying to focus on my favourite style and really explore where that will take me.

Who are your favourite lettering artists and why?

This is a hard question, as I admire so many different lettering artists. I have always loved the work of Massimo Polello. He is an Italian calligrapher that makes beautiful works using modern calligraphic marks.

Yukimi Annand is an American Calligrapher that makes handmade books using modern calligraphic marks and textures. I have been lucky enough to study with both of them over the last two years.

Who would you like to see interviewed next on the Typism podcast and why?

Tania Hearn. Tania has a calligraphic background and has used that to move into the digital world by turning handwritten letterforms into colour fonts.

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