Maybelle Imasa-Stukuls — Part I

Photograph by   Elizabeth Messina

Photograph by Elizabeth Messina

Photograph by  Elizabeth Messina

Photograph by Elizabeth Messina

I feel so very lucky always that calligraphers and lettering artists that I admire have been generous enough with their time and knowledge to do these interviews for us. I am especially grateful for Maybelle’s interview as I feel (and I think most will agree) that she is the grand dame of modern calligraphy, she has been a favorite of Martha Stewart, art directors, brides, the blogosphere, etc. Maybelle was a pioneer in sharing her creative genius with the world and bringing in the modern calligraphy workshops which has spawned a whole industry making calligraphy/lettering accessible to us mere mortals. I love her dedication and passion for her craft and her endless creativity to whatever project she is working on. If you are interested in this medium then you must try to take one of her classes, I think you will be blown away by her talent, her enthusiasm and her sunny disposition. I have never met anyone this talented and successful and so humble (except for maybe Elizabeth Messina). I hope you enjoy the first part of her interview and stay with us this week for the second part, more photos and a giveaway!

Where are you located?

Oakland, California

How did you get started in lettering?

My background is in Graphic Design and Ceramics. In school we learned create entire alphabets by hand. I have always enjoyed this much attention to detail. After college, I didn’t take the usual path that a graphic designer would, instead I was hired as a flight attendant for a major US airline. I lived abroad and would send letters to my family and friends back in Hawaii. Like most designers I collect anything and everything with type, in particular anything written in script. I love it all. I fell in love with a hand written menu at Chez Panisse in Berkeley. It was unlike anything I had seen before. It wasn’t classic, or perfect copperplate calligraphy that I was used to seeing. It was expressive and it had a lot of soul. You could tell immediately, it was written by hand. I found out that it was done by Lauren McIntosh, an artist and painter, who is self taught. I learned that she co-owns a beautiful shop called Tail of the Yak and that she offered classes in her studio. My husband purchased a series of classes with Lauren as a Christmas gift one year. Soon after, I sent samples of my invitation designs to Martha Stewart Weddings, the designs did not include any work in calligraphy but I did follow up a week later and sent them a letter, one of the editors noticed my lettering and asked me if I was a calligrapher, and that’s when I became a professional calligrapher. Her wedding was featured as an 8 page story in their beautiful magazine. The rest as they say is history.

Photograph by   Elizabeth Messina

Photograph by Elizabeth Messina

What are some of your favorite supplies?

I love onion skin paper. You can find them at antiques markets, or on eBay, but I just found some here.  I love Clairfontaine or Rhodia paper. They are basically the same paper, except the Clairfontaine paper has gold foiled cover (swoon!). This pen was the one Lauren gave me in her class. I used it for many years until I started offering workshops and realized that its not ideal for beginners. For my workshops, I use Nikko G and a straight pen holder. I love Dr. Ph. Martins Matte Star black and Sumi ink (Moon Palace No. 170 to be exact). But here's my new favorite pen and nib.

Can you name some of your inspirations?

I love to travel. I ditch guidebooks and spend lots of time in stationery stores, drug and grocery stores. Artists that inspire me:

Bernard Maisner
Sabine Pick
Stephanie Fishwick
Magpie Paperworks

Edward Gorey
Sara Midda
Maira Kalman
Cy Twombly
Eliott Puckette
Elvis Swift
Isamu Noguchi
Louise Bourgeois

Continue reading part two of Maybelle's interview here.


Maybelle's Shopping List

Clairfontaine paper
Rhodia paper
Brause Drawing Nib 515B with Penholder
Nikko G nib
Koh-I-Noor Cork Tipped Penholder
Dr. Ph. Martins Matte Star black
Moon Palace No. 170 Sumi ink
Mira Calligraphae Monumenta
Scripts by Louise Fili
Missing Ink: The Lost Art of Handwriting