Photos by Tonya Kehoe
Philip Hensher’s book The Missing Ink: The Lost Art of Handwriting discusses the vanishing act of the written word plays in our world today. The widely reviewed book claims that the diminishing use of handwriting is in turn diminishing our humanity. It seems Hensher may take his scribbling a little too seriously.
But, as I sit here texting my mom, typing my grocery list into my iPhone and clicking away at my keyboard, I begin to wonder if Hensher’s got a point. I can type 200 words in the blink of an eye, but I’ve forgotten how to write most letters in cursive. While gaining all of this new technology, are we losing something meaningful? Is handwriting really becoming a lost art?
Local artist and maker Heather Atkinson is keeping the DIY dream alive. Atkinson’s handwriting has become a part of her—and most likely, your—day-to-day life. She creates handmade signs and menus for local shops and eateries, including Artifacts, Home Ec. Workshop, Leaf Kitchen, The Paper Nest, Revival and RSVP. Her skillfully scrolled signage appeals to business owners and patrons alike. “The feel of our restaurant is kind of personal,” says Harriet Woodford, owner of Leaf Kitchen. “Everything is different, and that’s kind of our style. Having handmade signs is part of what we do. You can’t create what Heather does on a computer.”
“I feel like a lot of people are going back to handmade and smaller scale businesses and ideas,” says Margaret Roberts of Artifacts. “It just goes along with buying local, doing things the old fashioned way.” Here, Atkinson shares her secrets when it comes to putting pen to paper.
Part of “readopting” writing involves changing our habits. Flex your writing muscles by simply shifting your focus from your keyboard to a pen and paper. “Have you noticed people holding writing utensils like sporks?” says Atkinson. “Writing may not be a lost art yet, but it is definitely endangered. You can’t write neatly with your texting thumb!”
Handwriting takes more time, effort and creativity than letting your computer do the dirty work. So, why DIY? “Seeing something done by hand has an increasing attraction for people,” says Atkinson. “It’s a lost connection, a longing for that special touch of uniqueness you just cannot get with technology. It carries warmth and even the memory of human contact. It shows that you dedicated time to create something special and unique.”
Okay, you’re all in—you want to get crafty with cursive. Atkinson suggests mixing equal parts ink and inspiration to create your own handwritten projects. “I try and add some special flair to each set of signs. For example, on a few recent projects, I tea-dyed the paper prior to use. Oftentimes, I will do some research or look for inspiration in my book collection, magazines, online–-everywhere, really. Times can vary greatly depending on the amount of detail, and often the most time is spent in the inspiration and research phase.”
Megan Ranegar is wondering where all of her gel pens from 1997 have gone.