Delaware artist and calligrapher has the write stuff

Since 1976 artist Riva Brown has spun calligraphy from her pen as though it were magic. Some people think it is.

Calligraphy means beautiful writing,. When you see Riva Brown creates her beautiful words, it can seem like magic. Most people just can’t grasp that she does this by hand.

“People don’t get it anymore, I have to show them. If they’re here, I can show them some lettering and it’s like I’m a wizard,” Brown said. In this digital world with texting, instant messaging and to a lesser extent now e-mail, it’s refreshing to find someone hand writing anything. 

Brown specializes in corporate awards, wedding invitations and the Jewish ‘Ketubah’, a traditional wedding contract.

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Not content to just create beautiful words, Brown marries the words with her watercolor art, creating something truly unique. She is perhaps the only one you can find in the area doing such work.

“Around here, I’m kind of it, and that’s really great being the only one that does something, it makes me feel special,” Brown said.

Today you can still pick up beginners calligraphy kits in hobby and arts/crafts stores. When I was in grade school I had a Crayola kit, with different tipped markers and a guidebook to teach you how to do the calligraphy, I earned a fair share of ‘A’s’ from that kit. To see a pro like Riva do it though is a treat.

You can pick up one of these kits and be on your way, but it takes a bit longer to get good at it.

“It’s a pretty easy thing to learn, its a lot harder to get good at, to be any good takes 6-7 years,” Brown said.

If you haven’t noticed, many if not most schools do not teach kids how to either read or write script or cursive writing. My son who is six refers to it as ‘fancy writing’, and no he can’t read the fancy writing, though we are working to fix that. To say Riva is not ok with that would be an understatement.

“A child who is going to school now when confronted with the Declaration of independence will need an interpreter. That’s upsetting to me,” Brown said. 

Rita recently taught a class at her temple to teach 12 year old children about to be bar and bat mitzvah, how to address and write thank you notes for all of the gifts they were about to receive.

The kids had no idea what the alphabet looked like. She had to write it on the board for them. They had no idea how to address envelopes, or write the letters.

“They had no clue, yeah, it was pretty grim”, Brown said.

Riva keeps at it because the people that receive the work she does really appreciate it. It’s a personal thing, not just something spit out by an ink jet printer on nice paper.

Where it goes from here though, who knows?

“It might not go anywhere. So if I’m the last of a dying breed, than I worked it to the end”, Brown said.


You can see more of Rita’s work when you visit her ‘Living Letters Studio‘ on the web.

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