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Brooklyn, NY
USA

Handwritten is a place and space for pen and paper. We showcase things in handwriting, but also on handwriting. And so, you'll see dated letters and distant postcards alongside recent studies and typed stories. 

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Notes from My Soul in the Morning • Kate Hoyle

Brett Rawson

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Kate Hoyle is a poet and visual artist from Moraga, California. Her work has been published in Tupelo Press 30/30 Project, The AUDACITY and Smokelong Quarterly. Her five poem series, On America, is currently touring the US and South America on exhibit in U2’s Joshua Tree World Tour. You can see more of her work at katehoyle.com

My Students on Rikers Island Had Some Things to Say Saturday • Edyson King Julio

Brett Rawson

Edyson King Julio teaches creative non-fiction writing class at Rikers Island. For his students, the pen and paper is their only outlet. It's less about the actual writing they produce, he told us, but more so how they experience the process, and how the process helps them understand decisions they've made in their lifetime. During the two-hour classes, he prompts discussions for his 13 students around politics, community, and identity.  The students carry the conversations in directions unimagined. Edyson sits down, listens, and just writes. The above are a few of the things his students said in a recent class.

I Let The Castaways Speak to Me • Deborah Halbfoster

Brett Rawson

BY DEBORAH HALBFOSTER

I watch as people I know are simplifying their lives. They cast away their once-favorite and now-dogeared books. I started asking questions. "What book had the biggest impact on you?" Or, "What book changed your life?" Catch 22 is my stepson's favorite book. He wanted it commemorated in some way. This is my gift to him.

If you step up very close to the frame, away from the sunlight, you will note that a square has been incised in the cover of "Catch-22." As if peaking into the book through the cutout square, you read, "There was only one catch and that was Catch-22. Orr was crazy and could be grounded.  All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions."  "That's some catch, that Catch-22" he observed. "It's the best there is," Doc Daneeka agreed.  And now, on the wall, in front of our eyes.

Some hold the cover of a book sacred. To cut one into pieces, let alone write on it, would be a destruction. But I see this as my way of showing devotion to a tattered and well-thumbed old friend whose pages are yellowed and wrinkled. I look at what is left of the book, its remains, and let myself take one last stroll through the words and phrases that I have, over time, highlighted and commented on in margins. By preserving them in this form, I present them once again to the viewer, once again alive and new.

This one requires more squinting. Perhaps a flashlight. But that would be appropriate when you read the quotes: they shed light on the confusing edges of complexity. "There is not love of life without despair about life." "Since we're all going to die, it's obvious that when and where doesn't matter." 

I let the castaways speak to me, provide me with words and space for their resurrection. If they remain mute, I do nothing. I leave them be.

I wrote my favorite quotes on the black Setting Sun in white ink, going in circles around the table top as I wrote because this is the way the sun took me. "Last Year nothing happened / The year before nothing happened / And the year before that nothing happened."

As I circle the book, I ask myself, how many years of our life can we say that? Hanging it on the wall is an act, a reminder, a question. Did nothing happen? Did I miss what happened? 

Deborah Halbfoster is often seeing walking away. She enjoys the peace of being left alone, but also leaving, wondering, and wandering. A graduate of Rutgers University (English Literature), Deborah worked in Human Resources for years until quitting to take care of her aging mother. It led her back to writing, creating collages, painting in watercolors and ink, and finding 'her' again, outside of a work environment. Walking away is always walking towards something else.

 

A Fortress of Order Within Chaos • Ingrina Shieh

Brett Rawson

BY INGRINA SHIEH

Urban landscapes have always enticed to me. I love how lines intersect with other lines and the way shapes within, through, on top of other shapes create the towering skyscrapers we recognise so well. At a distance, city skylines emanate a beautiful stillness and unflinching majesty while within them pulses the movement and sounds of millions of lives. People, machines, and people on machines, darting around at a frenetic pace; opportunities opening and shutting before me. It exhausts and excites me. And though I’m constantly surrounded by people, I can sometimes feel the loneliest I’ve ever felt. Such contrasts hold me captive between repulsion and absolute adoration, so I‘ve come to simply accept the city as it is: a fortress of order within chaos. 

It thus seemed fitting that I design my first hand drawn 2017 calendar based on cities of the world. I don’t know what possessed me to draw it rather than design it with software, but once I got the idea, it stuck. I also thought working with cityscapes by hand might help me learn the basics of design and drawing: how to put lines and shapes together and how light hits objects at certain angles.

Naturally, I started off with the city I call home — London — though I had already done practise sketches with Venice and Boston. This sketch took a good deal longer and involved more ruler-ing and erasing than I’d anticipated, but two days before 1 January 2017, my shaky hands committed the sketch to ink, and I even embossed ‘2017’ for the hell of it.

As a tribute to Londoners, I added a quote by George VI: It’s not the walls that make the city, but the people who live within them. The walls of London may be battered, but the spirit of the Londoner stands resolute and undismayed. The end result is not completely what I had envisioned — a little flat, lacking in character and depth, a little boxy — and I realise that I need to upgrade my drawing pens. But this first step has provided a foundation for the coming months’ designs and further ideas to zoom into cities on a micro level.

I’m excited about interacting differently with the iconic buildings I see so regularly in person and online. In drawing London, an unexpected intimacy came from having to examine details — ornate and simple — and deciding how to transfer them to paper. When I passed Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster during my early morning run, I noticed how many elements I missed or couldn’t fit onto the page. But, by studying it as I had, I was able to appreciate its grandeur and craftsmanship more deeply and to admire the fact that, long ago, this icon was borne out of someone’s careful etchings on paper.

Ingrina Shieh lives and works in London, where she is learning design and lettering in her small loft. When her hands are hurting, she takes her legs out to run, walk, or cycle around London's windy streets. Or she goes to buy more paper and pens.

Missing Letters • Torin Curtin Savala, Fifth Grade

Brett Rawson

INTRO BY HANDWRITTEN

We wish more people would be child-like (not to be confused with childish). Our very tools of expression can sometimes be our steepest limitations, which is why the poem below by Torin Curtin Savala, a fifth grader from California, struck us right in the heart. Torin takes to the keyboard to express the difficulty he experiences on paper. Gripping a pen and forming letters does not come easily. But Torin meets this challenge with creativity and courage. Unable to read what he wrote? Highlight each line and see for yourself the invisible letters he faces every day.

Missing words,

Oh no, words are missing.

Disappearing.

Gone

Ahhhh.

Tiny blank spots nowhere to be seen.

Where did they go?

Not here, not there.

Maybe in your hair?

Missing words are everywhere.

So clear and near.

But to us they are nowhere to be seen.

Maybe they are hiding in beans.

But to us they can not be seen.

 

Torin Curtin Savala

Jesus, Hey, It's Me Again

Brett Rawson

BY BRETT RAWSON

We set up a mic in the middle of a public, busy, and iconic square in Manhattan, and read from our journals and letters. The idea being to bring the private into the public, or smudge the boundaries between each other just a touch.

I was struck by a similarity: the conditions in public were not that different from those in private, perhaps because I often choose taverns or coffee shops that double as taverns to journal, so there are the social elements, but even in silence or solitude, I still hear noise and see eyes. I decided to read two pieces of paper, which are my earliest evidence of handwriting: two pages ripped out from a moleskine journal that I wrote in 1988.

I had addressed both directly above: Jesus. Even though I didn't really grow up underneath Him. But, at that restless age, I was apparently in a pickle. In the first letter, I needed His help. I asked for two things: to help me grow faster, but also to help me "go out" with Daron, Amanda, or Amanda. Insert embarrassed emoji face. Really, Brett? The second letter, written one week later, had a very different tone. "Hey Jesus, It's me again!" We were buds apparently. I thanked Him profusely. Things with Daron were going great and I was already growing! Except a week later, she gently explained it was over, which probably made me curse, mostly likely in vain, which may explain the curse, as I didn't grow for another 7 years, or until the late age of 18.

The past can be inane, embarrassing, and painful, and my impulse for years was to pretend I was no longer those me's, but as Joan Didion writes, "I think we are all well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be whether we find them attractive company or not. It is a good idea, then, to keep in touch, and I suppose that keeping in touch is what notebooks are all about." 

These letters were originally a part of the online exhibition, "Out Loud." To see the full exhibit, click here.

The Busy Land of Human Beings • A Young Man in 1974

Brett Rawson

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This journal excerpt comes from the online exhibition, "Out Loud." To see the full exhibit, click here.

Water Pushes and Stains a Path of Touch • Marissa Anne Ayala

Brett Rawson

This hand-marbelized poem comes from the online exhibition, "Out Loud." To see the full exhibit, click here.

They Are Folded Into Gatherings • Rags Edwards

Brett Rawson

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BY RAGS EDWARD

Papers are selected, painted and torn down.  Then they are folded into gatherings for pages.

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Harmonious hand-painted materials are selected for applying to the cover boards, inside and out.

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Bees wax for the sewing thread, leather straps cut and a hand drawn binding map for guidance.

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A luscious bloom of watercolor to illuminate your handwriting.

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A stack of my hand bound half sized journals with inset photographs and hand painted paste paper covers.

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A stack of my full-sized hand bound journals with leather straps and hand painted paste paper covers.

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From hand to bound, pages to contain my every thought.
 

The Viewer has the Freedom • Tatiana Roumelioti

Brett Rawson

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BY TATIANA ROUMELIOTI

Inspired by ancient languages, healing symbols and manuscripts
in 2012 I started to create an aesthetically similar variety
of my own imaginary writings and hieroglyphs.
My work holds no intentional hidden meanings. 
However it appears enigmatic
and the viewer has the freedom to make their own sense out of them.
I mostly use marker pen on paper
and usually write from left to right,
sometimes vertical and rarely right to left and diagonally.
I have created many different types of texts and hieroglyphs so far.
I write on a daily basis and it is something i am doing out of immense joy.

click any of the images to see them enlarged

Tatiana Roumelioti is a self-taught and intuitive artist from Athens, Greece. You can see more of her work here.

A Warrior for the Chaos of the Wild • Rags Edward

Brett Rawson

àite còmhnaidh (Dwelling Place)

I am from paper, ink, words, images and spidery handwriting, from Canon, Nideggen, burnt sienna and red ochre, coptic and codex. I am from lands of green, with dark, worked soil, from the adoration of constellations and the heavy scent of woodsmoke in the autumn air.

I am from the eagle tree and coyote fire-song, hay meadows full of wild roses and rooms pressed into the grasses, from a hiding place in the dark thicket of laurel branches, and the cool pocket by the lake.

I am from deer and dog, coyote and wolf, knight and Indian, books and stories. I am from home baked bread, handmade ice cream, banks strewn with Virginia Bluebells and restful sensitive spirits, from hateful battles full of terror and fright, from the ancient stillness of Simon, Mable, Alice and Fanny and the agonies of Jeanne and Ken. I am from homespun cloth of linen and the simplicity of field and pasture, from the bogey man in the basement who will stand you on your head, deep dreams of bears in dens and the legends of Jesus and King Arthur.

I am from worship of the earth and the hypocrisy of tongues - the comfort of the trees and the punishment of the Rock of Ages, from early devotion to Artemis, Diana, Luna. I’m from Lancaster and York, the lands of Merlin, from Donegal and the cities of red and white roses, from garden snapped peas, blackberries with beetles bitten in half, summer-cut roses and strawberry shortcake.

From the wicked aunt who stole identities and thieved the past and three gentle women who cradled my spirit as I grew, from long country walks on Sunday and the green walled cemeteries of Donegal. I am from paper, ink, words, images and the lovely hand of graceful fate.

From Rags: This is a poetry exercise that I wrote with guidance from a poem by George Ella Lyon called "Where I'm From." The exercise is great fun, and well worth a try! I’d love to see your results if you try it! Details for how to do it can be found here at Fred First's website.

Rags Edward:
hand bookbinder.
poet.
aspiring banjo player.
painter.
photographer.
warrior/advocate
for the chaos of
the wild!

 

Neat, Cursive, Normal, Lefty • Chelsea Florio

Brett Rawson

BY CHELSEA FLORIO

For as long as I can remember, I have loved language. Whether it's studying foreign languages (from Arabic to Elvish) or learning the rules of my native tongue (English) and playfully finding new ways to break them, I am completely enthralled with learning about the ways people communicate.

Above and below are journal entries spanning the last several years in which I played around with writing in new ways. Many of them are my attempts to learn how to write left-handed because I've always seen ambidexterity as one of the neatest skills on the planet. Interspersed are my attempts at learning Morse code, which I find to be a delightfully mysterious and pretty much forgotten form of clandestine communication. Neither of the skills I've been trying to acquire when very bored are really that practical, but it's a fun way to pass the time.