Irene Wellington was an amazingly gifted and accomplished calligrapher whose lightness of touch and stunning and complex designs belie the hours of thought and care that went in to her work. This little book considers and explains more about Irene Wellington’s detailed approach to her work, the planning and thought for her work, and how she passed this on to her students.
After a short biography, Ewan Clayton MBE selects pieces of Irene’s work and draws out the thinking behind them, how Irene, as with her tutor and mentor Edward Johnston was concerned about the making rather than the practising, in that it is only by doing real pieces that the full range of challenges are met and can be resolved.
This piece was made by Irene as a gift for her second husband, Hubert Wellington, for his birthday; they were married the following year and their initials ‘I’ and ‘H’ are highlighted in red in the word ‘gladder’ near the bottom. Interestingly it is completely in pencils – no pen at all.
One of her main pieces was the impressive panel of the Bailiffs of Lydd. Ewan describes this piece as architectural, as if there are steps creating a platform with pillars and a pediment. There are 400 names with dates on this panel and it really is a tour-de-force. The second horizontal panel of lettering on a background of shell gold is just stunning.
The Coronation address is another complex piece with a number of quirks. The body of the address is in Uncials, which may be considered an unusual choice, but it works, and although the text is not justified, the right-hand margin is relatively even. The arms of London County Council are balanced by the detail of the Coronation Crown and below both are the oaths of dedication by The Queen herself.
Many people keep a record of a holiday or a diary, but few create an astounding artwork of the complexity and quality such as this (see also first image above used for the cover of the book). This is an account of a journey taken by Irene and her first husband Jack Sutton and written out by her in three weeks while her husband was away as a surprise. What a surprise it must have been and a wonderful gift to receive!
Calligraphy is so much more than ‘just’ writing out words and the thought and consideration that goes behind even seemingly simple and straightforward pieces is well illustrated in this book. Ewan always provides great food for thought in his talks, teaching and in his writing, and as a student of Irene Wellington Ann Hechle gives firsthand knowledge of Irene’s teaching and ways of thinking about letters and lettering. The appendix includes the tribute written by Ann Camp, another great calligraphy, after Irene’s death.
This book is highly recommended.