10 May 2016
As you know, I’ve always been really interested in calligraphy, so when I was in Morocco a few weeks ago now, I took a course for a couple hours. Not enough time, but was great to just sit in a lovely cafe in Fes and chat with the calligrapher while he explained things and answered my questions.
His ink jars had so much string in them, that if you turned them upside down, no ink would come out, which was pretty clever. Most of his pens were wood with wood nibs. He said his favourite pen was made from bamboo in the traditional way, to fit his hand perfectly. It is something that lasts a lifetime.
You can see him above writing around the word “Allah.” It is the largest on the paper, as He is the most important, and must always appear so in written form. After that, he added other words/sentences (but I forget what they say!)
Not only is size important, but so is position. For example, one would not position Allah on the far left side. Which, depending on what you would like to write, can be tricky to fit everything in. I reckon it may be a little like if you tried to fill a space with beautiful written text containing the lyrics to “hey jude,” but “jude” could never appear on the right.
From listening to him, and watching him write, it seems that with Arabic you can arrange words horizontally all on one line or stacked, as we do. But in Arabic, you play with different sizes and embed letterforms within other letterforms a bit more often. To my eye, it seems that there is so much more variety in styles and ornamentation.
For example, I was at the V&A last week and I found some gorgeous examples of calligraphy on ceramics from the middle east, all dating from around 1000. The variety is incredible.