photo -  Cecelia Harris practices the ancient art of calligraphy in her home studio on Tuesday, August 8, 2017. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)
Cecelia Harris practices the ancient art of calligraphy in her home studio on Tuesday, August 8, 2017. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette) 

At the glass table in her basement studio, Cecelia Harris dips a calligraphy nib into green gouache. The glue-like substance smears across the page with each stroke, broad, thin, broad, thin. She writes the first three letters of the alphabet in a fancy print, something you might see on a wedding invitation or baptismal certificate.

Harris practices the often under-appreciated art of calligraphy, an ornate handwriting style popular in crafting circles and the bridal world. Its roots are ancient, but it's mostly seen today on chalkboard signs and invitations.

"When people say 'calligraphy,' they have this one thing in their mind. So I usually say 'lettering artist,'" Harris said. "They don't know what that is either, but at least they don't have any preconceived notions."

Harris is former president of Summit Scribes, a calligraphy guild for lettering artists, bookmakers and hobbyists in Colorado Springs. The group has about 75 members, and Harris hopes they can reach out to a new demographic of calligraphers.

The complex writing style requires years of classes and practice to master. So-called "modern calligraphy" is beautiful but requires much less time and effort to perfect.

"Calligraphy just means beautiful writing, so it does technically qualify," Harris said. "There is only so much you can do with hand lettering. And once that passes, they can't branch out."

But while it's a different kind of calligraphy, it's still fun, she said.

"I'm not disparaging it. But we're trying to figure out how to bring people who are interested in that into our world and say, 'There is so much you can do.'"

She got her start in Nashville, Tenn., when she saw a sign for a calligraphy class. Then she started a rubber stamp and calligraphy business called Wordsworth. She sold her designs, quotes and alphabets to about 1,300 stores worldwide. In, she sold the business to design the alphabet for the first Cricut (pronounced "cricket") die-cutting machines manufactured by Provo Craft & Novelty Inc.

Now she teaches classes around Colorado Springs and said she often has students get frustrated when they can't immediately master a technique.

"I tell my students all the time, 'You have to slow down,'" she said. "This is not fast work."

But the lethargic pace is sometimes a catch 22. It's easy to misspell words or make grammatical mistakes when you're writing one word over the course of 20 minutes.

"Spelling can be a demon," she said. One wrong letter can ruin hours of work, and if you're near the end or working on a massive canvas, one mistake can mean a lot of money and time wasted.

But when the work is done, it's beautiful. Harris said she believes people appreciate work made with human hands. Sometimes value is found in imperfection.

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