When we called Annette Wichmann, owner of Kensington Art Supply, about a recent POSCA demo by Kerri Forster, our conversations led to a deeper understanding of the symbiotic relationship between niche communities and art supply retailers, as well as a lesson in calligraphy we won’t soon forget. We decided to delve deeper into the hows and whys of their tightly knit community. Learn more about the POSCA and calligraphy demo that sparked this conversation in the first place.
Kensington Art Supply & Instruction carries a wide array of products, with two 1,000 sq ft studios and instructors who either rent space or run workshops. Annette knows many of her customers and instructors through the Bow Valley Calligraphy Guild, one of the largest calligraphy groups in Canada. Annette was a member of the Guild before she became the owner of the store. Her enduring friendships within the calligraphy community have both diversified the store’s inventory and generated unique selling opportunities.
“I carry a ton of calligraphy products because of my relationship with the Calligraphy Guild.” Annette explains. “Back when I used to go to more classes, they’d always ask, If you’re coming, can you bring…? I always had a little collection of stuff. I thought… why don’t I just bring more? They used to send me a supply list. Then when I couldn’t go, instructors still wanted to bring the supplies, so I implemented a system. My instructors take product on consignment for students who are in need of tools, so that they can buy the right ones right away and use them that day. These are people I can trust, so I feel comfortable giving them product.”
Kerri Forster, the store’s calligraphy instructor, teaches monthly classes with students of all ages and abilities – from people who have never tried calligraphy to experienced members of the Guild. She also attends events on behalf of Kensington Art, such as a comic expos or maker fairs. She’s happy to showcase the products Annette carries, especially because the calligraphy inventory is the result of direct asks and conversations. “[Annette] “gets” an artist’s mind – the fears, worries, wishes. She’s a huge blessing to our community here. She turned a little tiny shop into an incredible art store.”
The Culture of Calligraphy
Retailers understand firsthand the benefit of employing brilliant working artists who are excited to play the part of educator, salesperson and/or cheerleader. As a seasoned calligrapher, Kerri has a lot of knowledge to share. Chat with her for more than five seconds about calligraphy and find yourself itching for pen, ink and paper. Here are a handful of impressions that stuck with us:
Learning calligraphy is like learning to play music.
“You learn each ‘hand’ and it’s rather like learning a musical instrument. You keep adding to your body of knowledge. It gets more complex and interesting and nuanced: you can literally pursue it your entire life and still be learning.”
And once you get it, it’s like a dance.
“Lettering is really tactile. It’s hard to describe the feel of paper, pen and ink working together. It’s like a dance, and you can feel it. There isn’t one element that’s the best. You need to find which combination works.”
People who letter together, flourish together.
“People in the calligraphy community know one another for so many years because we you just keep pursuing it. You grow and the friendships grow. Typically calligraphers are very generous with their information. You share what you know, and the next person adds their special spin to it.”
Handwriting is our humanity, lettering is our community.
“When calligraphers get together and do the same “hand,” we can tell who did it. Whatever you learn, you make it your own. We have a well-rounded, encouraging environment… you can do it by yourself, but you need to be with people to learn.”
Choose your words, use your voice.
“Some people like to use what’s running through their mind, classical quotes, letterform and structure, scripture or funny quotes. The words you letter have to be something that speaks to you, resonates with you.”
Does your store have a strong relationship with a niche community? Would like to feature a member of your staff who has insight and knowledge to share around a specific medium? Get in touch with us at artdogblog (@) MacPhersonart.com – we’d love to share your story.