Special to Writing Dailey’s Organized Rambling!
A review of Alex’s experience taking a calligraphy workshop
at Flora Bae Home with Ciarra Claire.
It was 5:40 p.m. on Wednesday, April 6. I parked on deserted Bay Street and took a walk around the block because I am my habitually early self, and I was a tad ahead of schedule. Pre-punctual. The catalyst of this blessing/curse falls on my fourth-grade teacher, who halted class when I arrived late one morning and made everyone watch me as I tied my brand new, bright white (ugly) tennis shoes after changing out of my snow boots. Ever since that day back in 1999/2000, I’ve dreaded being late for any class, function, or event, and therefore, I am always earlier than is fashionable. But, I digress on slight childhood trauma to focus on an adult life highlight: Trying something new, not being great at it, and still enjoying myself.
The spring evening was crisp, and the sun still shone. With each passing day, it was beginning to feel less and less depressing as we carried on toward June’s solstice. Needing to distract myself from the still lacking color outside, I wore my bright red Pendleton jacket. I needed that pop of poppy red and a hood to fend off the spitting and dreary drizzle. Whenever I wear this piece of outerwear, I feel like a wolf might end up stalking me, but with it being not even a week into April, the streets of downtown Petoskey’s Gaslight District were quite quiet.
The drabness of the season is irksome when you’re dying for vibrancy after a long winter–hence the unmissable red jacket–but once I crossed the threshold into Flora Bae Home, any low feelings caused by gray and rain were dashed away.
Bright, fresh, and colorful, the pristinely stocked boutique was filled with high-quality items–not overwhelming or sparse–just the right amount. And the merchandise, all curated and sourced by owner Natalie Lauzon, is ever-changing. Natalie regularly discovers new artists to feature and small businesses to partner with, especially those owned and operated by inspiring female creators and entrepreneurs (if you were wondering, there are over 50 represented in the shop).
Each time I visit, I find perfect gifts for loved ones (or myself), and this Wednesday night was no different. Now, you may be wondering why I was at Flora Bae Home on a rainy spring evening after its typical closing time. Well, I had signed up to try my hand at calligraphy, and this is where the workshop was taking place.
Upon entering the shop, I was welcomed by Natalie, who had sparkling rosé (Mawby), charcuterie treats, and mini cupcakes waiting on the counter. I had time to nibble (nib-ble–calligraphy joke), stroll the shop, and meet the other attendees before taking my seat.
Five attendees, one instructor, and one business owner/hostess gathered around a beautifully decorated table outfitted with a sparkly table runner, floral arrangements, antlers, and tall tapers. In addition, each of our places was prepared with Flora Bae Home totes, ink, lined guide sheets, nibs, and oblique nib holders (for which to better see your clumsy attempts turn into passable ovals, compound curves, and ascender loops).
Led by local calligrapher and printing press owner Ciarra Claire, the workshop was an introduction to calligraphy–ideal for beginners like me. Okay, that’s not entirely true. I was not an entire novice. A few years back, I tried to teach myself calligraphy. I had taught myself to knit, crochet, and stitch letters on glove knuckles with embroidery floss, and, being someone who wrote by hand every day, I boldly assumed I could figure out how to use that special pen and ink just like the scribes and monks of old. I was going to write fancy letters to my friends and seal them with wax, living the old-timey life that is just too legit to quit for an old soul like myself.
However, attempting to use a workbook, instruction book, and a straight nib holder was challenging to say the least, and after several concerted efforts, I gave up, which is not like me. I’m the kind of person who keeps trying and trying until I get something right. I’ve written columns and articles countless times before finally landing on the “right” angle and introduction. I’ve started crochet projects or drawings over, again and again in order to get it “right.” But, for this endeavor, I needed someone to explain, demonstrate, and correct me in person, which Ciarra did perfectly.
Kind, approachable, and highly talented, Ciarra put everyone at ease. A few of us had tried calligraphy, and a couple hadn’t. We were all in the same inexperienced boat with a seasoned guide at the helm, and with Natalie refilling our glasses, we all seemed to feel less inhibited about messing up, something we all did during our time together. I’ve often refrained from taking a class or workshop–nerves, introversion, fear of failing–but I’m so glad I had this creative and informative experience.
Us attendees all agreed the upstrokes felt unnatural, and none of our letters were perfect. Still, the atmosphere of camaraderie and curiosity made for a thoroughly enjoyable evening. By the end, we were all writing our names, some laughingly lamenting the lack of ascenders or descenders in our monikers. I’m particularly a fan of lowercase Es and Xs, while the attendee to my right found Fs to be fun. And by the time 8 p.m. rolled around, we were all packing up and putting our coats back on, preparing to walk away with new knowledge and something to practice, all thanks to the collaboration of Natalie and Ciarra. Natalie plans to continue offering more workshops on various topics, and she and Ciarra want to host more calligraphy, letter-writing, and wax seal one-night classes–I can’t wait to sign up!
As I walked back to my car, I contemplated how it wouldn’t be too long before I was once again making a beeline down Howard Street to do some birthday shopping for friends at Flora Bae Home. And, if I were getting married or throwing a lavish soirée, I’d absolutely hire Ciarra to address my envelopes and assemble my invites with wax seals. The landing page on Ciarra’s website greets you with: “Handcrafted paper goods for old souls & new romantics,” which speaks to my dual-minded Gemini spirit. A lover of all things handwritten–from grocery lists to love lovers–the art of calligraphy, cursive, and letter-writing are essential to my writerly themed lifestyle.
If you’re looking for something new to buy or try, check out Flora Bae Home at 209 Howard Street, or visit florabaehome.com to see what workshops are coming up. You won’t regret taking a creative stab at something new or exploring the shop itself. I promise!
Also, be sure to check out both Flora Bae Home (Facebook: @florabaehome & Instagram: @florabaehome) and Ciarra Claire (Facebook: @ciarraclaire & Instagram: @ciarraclaire) on social media!
Coming up next:
Monday, May 16: The glamorous life of a writer
5 responses to “Organized Rambling: Calligraphy on Howard”
This article was so beautifully written, it took me on an amazing adventure as if I wasn’t the owner of Flora Bae Home! Lol! Loved every last word of it! Thank you for portraying my shop and our workshop so eloquently!
Thank you so much, Natalie!! And yay for reading adventures, lol! The workshop was a pleasure to attend and a joy to recount in words for others to enjoy <3
I love calligraphy! Haven’t done it in 20+ years though haha! I became weirdly obsessed with different forms of calligraphy in 5th grade and actually got pretty good at it. It was fun for a hot second.
Oh wow! I didn’t know that! Calligraphy equally fascinates and challenges me. My goal is to address envelopes in a fancy way, make cool signs (for what, idk), and to get even craftier with Christmas cards 🙂
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