Monday, March 15, 2010

I is for Ink, Inkwells, and Inspiration

is for

Ink, Inkwells, and Inspiration

Handmade book by Laurie Doctor
(click photo to enlarge)

Early Darkness
D. Patrick Miller

Think of it as ink:
An indigo dye descending
Between the leaves of the trees
and down to the grasses.

There is no dying of the light - -
just the washing of a bowl,
and overturning it for the night.

When day arrives we must write with
bottled darkness.
In the night we can dream
free messages of light.

Welcome to another lesson for Mrs. Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday class. I recently attended a workshop on The Poetry of Handwriting with Laurie Doctor. It was two days filled with both ink and inspiration. We worked with black sumi ink, walnut ink, white ink, and any other colors one brought along. Laurie, a talented painter, designer, and calligrapher lives in Kentucky. She teachers classes throughout the United States, Europe, Canada, and New Zealand.

Visit to learn more about this talented lady.

Sumi ink is made from vegetable oils and soot. Traditionally it is made from grinding an ink stick, but it is also available in liquid form ready to use. Thousands of years ago Asian artisans discovered how to use this burned residue as an ink. Used for both sumi painting and calligraphy, this black ink can provide tonal variations from deep black to silvery gray.

Walnut ink as you might guess is brown. The walnut produces juglone, a toxic substance to other plants and some animals. It is the juglone that creates the dark color in the walnut hulls. This rich brown ink is wonderful for creating an earthy background on which to use the sumi ink. It is also fun to use this ink with various writing tools.

For me, one of the sad realities of the modern world of technology is that the hand written word is becoming scarce. In this day of cell phones, text messages, emails, and twits, many have abandoned the handwritten note or letter. Students today often don't receive formal handwriting lessons to learn the appropriate strokes of beautiful script. I grew up in the era of fountain pens; when one had to write out all assignments in long hand. I loved the idea of putting ink on paper. The fluid movement of the nib moving across the paper was like magic to me. The rhythm of that writing sang as if it were a sweet melody. My well used original Parker pen still sits on my desk.

I suppose it's no surprise that this love of writing with ink would naturally lead to an interest in and affection for ink wells. I'm a collector at heart and shopping antique markets is a favorite pastime. Though I didn't set out to specifically collect inkwells, the form has captured my imagination.

This crystal inkwell with a plum top sits within a pewter stand. It was made in France in recent years.

The larger of the three is this heavy crystal block with sterling lid. Though it is clearly marked, I've not been able to date this piece.

The smallest of the three is just an inch square and a little over an inch and a half tall. Both this one and the larger one were found at local antique shows years ago.

This is a vintage traveling ink well that was a purchase many years ago while roaming a London antique market.

The leather case opens to reveal a brass container in which to hold ink.

This group of Quimper ink wells gather on another tray that moves about our home. Each of these date to around 1920 - 1930.

The heart shaped one is the first piece of vintage Quimper I acquired. It was a birthday gift from a group of friends given to me in the 1980s. It was the piece that fueled my interest in the antique and vintage pieces of French faience.

A souvenir from a California vacation one summer, this little faience charmer is new production from the 1980s. It is simply marked France Decor Main.

It opens to this sweet little flower shaped stopper covering the well.

More faience ink wells can be found among books in a guest bedroom. These three were produced by Alcide Chaumeil and are known simply as CA faience because of the mark.

I first saw this square example in the collection of a fellow QCI member. I was fortunate to find one for myself a year or so later.

It appealed to me because of the mechanics of this box. The ceramic lid pivots across to reveal the well for the ink. I suspect this is a rare form.

Another rare form is this CA figural of a Breton fisherman pulling in his catch. The coiled rope is the lid to the inkwell which I purchased in France.

A French market find, this rather large piece is unfortunately missing its lid. I found it laying in a box of assorted things at a weekend brocante. The price was too good to pass it by, so it too resides among the others, sans hat as Debbie @ Confessions of a Plate Addict says. You can read about her recent French ink well find here.

A sweet pair of bunnies were an eBay score. One holds the quills and the other the ink well. They are Desvres production.

A limited edition piece, this handsome ink stand was produced in 1990 by HB Henriot to commemorate the tricentennial of the faience of Quimper. The hand painted scene depicts the city of Quimper and the Odet River. The soft blue glaze and the fine detailed painting make this a remarkable piece.

A documentation card provided with this piece shows the other limited edition pieces that were produced for this special occasion.

And lastly are these heavy ceramic Moroccan ink pots that I purchased in the souks of Marrakech. I found the rustic character with the vibrant turquoise and amber details irresistible.

With all these ink containers about the house and my professed passion for the handwritten word, what do you suppose will be my topic of choice for next week's letter J lesson?

I'm linking this post to both Alphabe-Thursday and Three or More Tuesday.
See you in class! Just click here to skip back over to Mrs. Matlock's.
On Tuesday click here to join Tam @ The Gypsy Corner for Three or More Tuesday.

References for this post: