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The Art of Beautiful Writing

I've always wanted to try my hand at calligraphy so jumped on a Gisborne Artists Society workshop recently with Ray Crafts, a renowned master calligrapher from Tauranga. Ray is currently exhibiting his work alongside his sister Heather Van Wyk’s ceramics in ‘The Creative Gene’ at the Tairāwhiti Museum.

Calligraphy, or the “Art of Beautiful Writing” is as old as writing itself and is a living link to past cultures and extinct civilisations. It flourished in the hand-lettered tablets of Greek and Roman scribes and survived the dark ages in the illuminated manuscripts of cloistered monks.

Ray is a fascinating man whose passion for calligraphy is palpable. Now in his 80’s he has been honing his talent for seven decades. His interest in calligraphy started at the age of 8 when his grandfather gave him a lesson in copperplate writing. With an interest in Celtic Art and later on the illuminated manuscripts of the 13th to 15th century, he has always been intrigued by Europe and has continued to study and reproduce the manuscripts ever since.

During the workshop we learnt not only about the tools of the trade, but also the importance of the correct sitting posture. Both feet need to be flat on the floor with the left arm resting on the table and not moving from this position. I was caught out of position a couple of times! The positioning of your writing arm and pen or brush is integral as well, all of which combine to activate the motor areas of the brain, including the cerebral cortex, the basal ganglia, and the cerebellum. At the same time, it engages the language portion of our brains.

Another novice Marie Cramp found it was an enjoyable day spent with ink and nibs! Receiving instruction from a Master in the Art, the experience engaged parts of the brain never reached before and rekindled her love of letter writing.

We practiced calligraphy roundhand script including italics, and gothic, and spent time in the ‘Creative Gene’ exhibition. I was blown away by the intricacy of the calligraphy - with every single piece delicately crafted and framed, the images that feature within the calligraphy letters are so unreal. You have to see it for yourself!

Ray styled each of our names onto a card to take away. He just knew how to add those finishing touches, “just give it a flick at the end” he would say. I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop and would recommend it to anyone wanting to explore the art of beautiful writing. You don’t have to be an expert, it is a comfortable environment in which to learn, and I left having grasped some basics which I intend to practice, practice, practice.

Learning something new can be as good as a holiday! As you awaken different parts of your brain, work through blocks and challenges in a supportive environment and meet people you might not otherwise have come into contact with, these kinds of experiences can propel you into a new hobby or practice and sometimes a whole new phase in your life!

Keep an eye on the Gizzy Local events calendar for one-off workshops, workshop series and free classes such as those offered at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa. The Gisborne Artists Society and Gisborne Boardriders regularly put on different opportunities to hone new skills. Make 2022 your year for learning something new!

The exhibition ‘The Creative Gene’ Raymond Crafts, Heather Van Wyk runs until 23 January 2022 at the Tairāwhiti Museum. Ray is planning to return to Gisborne next year to hold another workshop, keep an eye out for information on the Gisborne Artists Society Facebook page and

Story by Sandra Groves

Hosted by Gisborne Artists Society

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