Tag Archives: Sheila Waters

‘Waters Rising’ – Sheila Waters


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This month, November 2016, marks the fiftieth anniversary of a devastating disaster in Florence. On the night of November 4th a series of disastrous weather combinations meant that a vast wave of water rushed through the city, with the narrow roads acting as funnels and the bridges impeding the escape of the flood. Sadly over 30 people were killed and millions of precious artworks and books damaged or destroyed. This new book by Sheila Waters, Waters Rising, is not only a fascinating personal insight to that event, but also an account of Peter Waters’ (Sheila’s husband) seminal work in Florence in book conservation. The majority of this book consists of their letters to one another during the separation while Peter worked in Florence and Sheila worked and looked after their three boys in the UK. The later letters, once Sheila had joined Peter together with two of their sons, were written to their mothers,

peter1990s2Peter Waters (right) was a prodigy, starting to train when he was only 14 with master binder William Matthews at Guildford College of Art in Surrey. He went on to the Royal College of Art where his talent and skills were noticed by the great bookbinder Roger Powell, and Peter later became his business partner. Sheila collaborated with Peter in many bookbinding designs, and their work is in the British Library and the V&A as well as other prestigious institutions.

 

 

imagesIt was in Florence where Peter pretty much revolutionised the process of book conservation. In that one dreadful flood, 1,300,000 items, a third of the collection of the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze (BNCF), was under water. On November 25th fifty years ago Peter was asked to select two other colleagues and travel to Florence to help. He was joined by craftspeople from many nations, some staying only for a short time and others staying years. Any secret book binding and conservation processes known only to a few individuals were freely shared when everyone saw the extent of the damage.

91cb83b645ccb547b8c6c92012a9ab9dPeter assessed the situation and then set up a process whereby the books, which were not only damaged by water, mud and sewage but also by oil from the overflowing tanks for domestic heating, were dried, pages carefully separated, mud removed, cleaned, and their repair and rebinding prioritised. Sheila was on hand to use her artistic skills to draw diagrams of the equipment that Peter devised to deal with the situation, and she took part in the processes too. The ‘Mud Angels’ helped to rescue books and artworks, often simply handing items from one person to another, but being covered in mud in so doing! The book contains an astonishing unique collection of photographs mostly taken by Peter which gives an insight into the situation they faced and the processes which were devised in coping with such a tragedy.

watersOne of the results of Peter’s work in Florence is that he was recruited by the Library of Congress in Washington and here he transformed the way they dealt with the conservation of their book and manuscripts treasures.

This is a highly recommended book produced to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of what could have turned out to have been a far worse disaster for the BNCF had not Peter Waters been there.

 

More Sheila Waters’ prints

50mbroundel-copy-2There are more Sheila Waters’ prints available in the UK. The quality of the prints is amazing; all are signed by Sheila, all are in a clear protective sleeve and printed on high quality paper. See my previous post here for others. The first available is her wonderful Roundel of the Seasons. This is a tour-de-force of subtle colour change and inspirational strong and delicate calligraphy. It is 33 x 33 cms and costs £40 + £3 p+p (quote Roundel).

Please contact me through my website for details of how to pay. In each message, please quote the relevant artwork (the reference is in brackets for each piece) as postage is different according to the size of the piece. Also, if you buy more than one it is often possible to use one envelope and so save postage. 

sw-decoratedalphabet-copy-2This intricate alphabet comes in green and pink. Notice how detailed the decoration is. Each are 27 x 40·5 cm and costs £25 + £4 p+p each. (Quote Green alphabet, or quote Pink alphabet)

 

 

 

 

 

sw-music-copy-copyThis strong black and white piece with a musical text is very much in harmony. It costs ££25 + £4 p+p, and is 42 x 28·5 cm in size. (Quote Harmony)

 

 

 

sw-whatisman-copy-2This dramatic piece really packs a punch – it is a masterclass in contrast. It is 27·5 x 27·5 cms and costs £40 + £3 p+p (quote Man).

 

 

 

 

 

sw-donotstand-copy-2A delicate piece but powerful piece. It costs £25  + £3 p+p, and is 21·5 x 28 cms (quote Not there).

 

 

 

 

 

 

sw-forman-copyAnother wonderful dancing black and white artwork. It’s 42 x 28·5 cms and costs £25 +£4 p+p (quote For Man).

 

 

 

 

sw-sonnet-1-copy-3The last one shows Sheila’s terrific sense of colour, with a dancing delicate script. It costs £50 +£4 p+p and is 28 x 42 cms. (Quote How do I love thee)

 

 

 

 

St Clement Danes and the RAF

st-clement-danes-geographSt Clement Danes, an ‘island’ church in the Strand in London, is thought to be situated on a previous church founded by the Danes in the ninth century; it is named after St Clement, patron saint of mariners. The other island church is St Mary-le-Strand and they are both situated on islands in the middle of the road. The building was completed to a design by Sir Christopher Wren in 1682 but was badly damaged by the Blitz of London during the Second World War, and it was only restored in 1958. There is some dispute at to whether this is the ‘Bells of St Clements’ in the nursery rhyme ‘Oranges and Lemons’ or whether that church is St Clement Eastcheap.

 

641DFA22_5056_A318_A87B4CAFF2FA914CThe church is the Royal Air Force Church mainly as a result of an appeal for funds for the rebuilding after the war. The Welsh slate floor of the church is engraved with the badges of over 800 RAF groups (stations, squadrons etc), and there is also a memorial to the Polish airmen who died in service during the war.

3-st-clement-danes-book-of-remembrance11Along the aisles are ‘shrines of remembrance’ – illuminated cases which display the Books of Remembrance for those who lost their lives in service to the country. There are eleven books displayed; the first book, nearest the altar, contains the names of those who died before the RAF came into being. Books two to nine have the names of those who lost their lives in the second World War, book ten contains the names from VJ day to 2013, and the eleventh book is from April 2013. The pages are turned every day by a turner that looks a little like a military sword (see on the left in this photo).

Sheila WatersIn my book The Art and History of Calligraphy (published 2017) I feature one of these pages with names written by the great Sheila Waters (se right). Sheila was one of a handful of the best scribes in the country, including Dorothy Mahoney, who took part in this immense project supervised by Alfred Fairbank. Sheila said: ‘I wrote a lot for the St Clement Danes’ Roll of Honour. It amounted to about 33,000 names over a period of six years, during which I had two children so it had to be fitted in with changing nappies and feeding babies!’ Her, and the other scribes’, precise rhythmic script is a fitting memorial to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

 

Sheila Waters – prints now available in the UK

Layout 1When Sheila Waters, the ‘Queen of Calligraphy’, according to the great Hermann Zapf, visited last summer, she left me with some glorious prints of her works. Colour sings out from all but those in black and white, and the quality is so fine that you can really see Sheila’s supreme skill and artistry in each one. (Right – Grandeur of God)

 

 

 


Layout 1I’m selling these prints to those in the UK – other countries may prefer to contact Sheila directly as it may be cheaper on postage – just contact me if this is what you want to do and I’ll pass your request on. Each one is signed by Sheila and in a transparent plastic sleeve for protection. They will be sent first class post in a stout cardboard envelope. Please add £2 p+p for individual artworks. I’ll weigh the package to see if you need to pay more if you order more than one print. (Right – Love and Peace)

The prints are: Top – Grandeur of God £20  (Total dimensions including margins 216 x 280 mm, approx 8.5 x 11 inches)

Below that – Love and Peace £20  (260 x 123 mm, approx 10.2 x4 .8 inches)
Layout 1Right – I wandered lonely – £20 (280 x 324 mm, approx 11 x 8.5 inches)

 

 

 

 

 

 
Layout 1Right – The Lord bless you £18.50 (216 x 273 mm, approx 8.5 x 10.75 inches)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Layout 1Right – People are in bondage – £20 (254 x 210 mm, approx 10 x 7.75 inches)

 

 

 

 

 

 
Layout 1Right – Ponder £20 (246 x 101 mm, approx 9.75 x 4 inches)

 

 

 

 
Layout 1Right – ABC £20 (216 x 280 mm, approx 8.5 x 11 inches)

Actual title – Timelime Triptych

Sheila Waters’ wonderful interpretation of ‘Under Milk Wood’

Under milk woodOnce in a generation you come across a real tour-de-force, a masterpiece, and this is the case with Sheila Waters’ illustrated and calligraphic interpretation of Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood. It is simply stunning! In the accompanying notes to the book Sheila writes: I realised that the manuscript I was making would be a legacy that I would leave behind, that should long outlast me ….

 

Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 14.08.11To have a sneaky peek inside the book, here is a short clip.

 

 

 

 

 

SW1

Special Offer! Sheila’s book is available full size in a strictly limited edition, together with her notes and explanation of the thought processes behind creating the book and how she did it. This article has details of Sheila’s ideas for the design, and page-by-page notes on the illustrations. Each copy of the book will not only be signed by Sheila, but she will also write your name inside. This is a terrific, once-in-a-lifetime offer. So the book (signed by Sheila and with your name in it), and the accompanying 27-page article (in a special folder) of the background to the manuscript, which has been set in typefaces designed by Julian Waters, Sheila’s son, costs £100. This includes postage to UK addresses. This is a wonderful opportunity not only to enjoy and own the book itself, but to use it for your own studies of a contemporary Caroline minuscule written by the supreme master who developed this hand from mediæval manuscripts. To get your own copy of this package, please email me through my website here with the title ‘Sheila’s book’.

 

Sheila Waters 1The cover of the book is stunning, with an impressive blind embossed panel on ivory paper (above). This panel is repeated inside the book, with Sheila’s typical majestical Roman Capitals in black with intricate drawings and vibrant colours as shown on the right. This panel alone took Sheila a month to design and execute.

 

 

 

 

SW2She took a long while to decide on the most appropriate writing style, and the accompanying notes about the book have examples of some of the lettering that Sheila considered and then rejected. Her final choice was a neat, very slightly sloping formal hand based on that in the 9th-century great bibles mainly from Tours in France – Caroline Minuscule. Being Sheila, though, it has been given a modern twist and her own distinctive style. This contrasts, on some pages, with a delicate light Italic for selected parts of the text.

 

 

SW1aSheila chose black and a specific limited colour scheme for the opening spreads, which was echoed in the layout of the pages. The one on the right is one of the green pages where the text columns are towards the centre of the book. This page also shows one of the extraordinarily detailed illustrations – Captain Cat and his dreams.

 

 

 

 

In the text Lord Cut-Glass owned 66 clocks ‘all set at different hours’, imagine trying to illustrate all of them! Sheila chose 22 clocks, all different and all authentic – and created an amazing design. Note Lord Cut-Glass’s face peering out of the grandfather clock at the top, his hand just above half-way holding a pocket watch, and his boots supporting the base of another clock. Ingenious!

 

 

 

SW 4This book is so much more than a sum of its parts. Dylan Thomas’ words are simply wonderful, but to have them written here in such a way, and illustrated so inventively and skilfully too, means that the result is a real joy and such a treat for the eyes. This is not a cheap offer, but it is a chance to treat yourself in a big way, and own what just has to be one of the true manuscript masterpieces of the twentieth century.

Sheila Waters at Eighty – A Retrospective

Sheila Water's workThis wonderful 50-page book was published when Sheila Waters was eighty, and encapsulates the incredible range and amazing creativity of her work. As written by her son Julian in the introduction: ‘Much more than a catalogue, this is the story of an artist, a part of family history and a snapshot in the timeline of the modern history of art and design’.

Perhaps Sheila is best known for the intricate designs and patterns with pure black Roman Capitals such as that on the right. These were developed by her for the title page of the book she created using the text of Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood.

Sheila Waters artworkThis led directly to the Roundel of the Seasons, which took Sheila over one thousand hours of concentrated work. Although she almost gave up on this piece when the central portion and the surrounding flowers were too dense (see right), encouraged by her husband Peter, the renowned book binder, she scraped out several weeks of work and replaced this section with calligraphy. Such a brave move!

 

Sheila-WatersBut this Retrospective does not rest there. It also includes Sheila’s later work, and some of the spontaneous pieces she has done for her granddaughters.

As well as this there are examples of Sheila’s maps and the collaborative work she did with her husband, Peter Waters, designing for the books he bound. And so much more …

The book is simply beautiful – set in a typeface specially designed for this by her son Julian, and based on the modernised Caroline minuscule she developed and used in her Under Milk Wood – the whole publication is just a joy. I cannot recommend it more highly.

I am selling copies of this book in the UK at £20 + £3 p+p. Please e-mail me here to find out details of where to send your cheque or make a bank transfer, and to give me your name and address. Apologies that you need to make another click (!), but I am a bit wary of putting up my home address and e-mail on an open website. It really is worth making the effort to get your own copy, they should be on every calligrapher’s and designer’s bookshelf – after having been read of course!