Rosalind’s art is unusually diverse, from calligraphy and collage to ‘stitch writing’. She worked with actors on the recent film ‘The Favourite’. Read what part meditation plays in creativity; she has meditated since the age of 10!
A Matter of Words
Rosalind Wyatt, London
Art found me early and has been a loyal friend ever since. My relationship with pen and ink started early, aged 4. I learned to write with a calligraphy board and dip pen, writing out the psalms. I’ve been ‘getting drunk on ink’ pretty much ever since.
Can you explain the range of work you do. What unites it?
I am extremely fortunate in the variety of work coming my way. But there are recurring patterns of work across the fields of art, craft and design, fashion and film.
Calligraphy can be viewed as performance – people LOVE watching it being done – it could be as an ‘art installation’ or working with groups to facilitate a word-based truth. And calligraphy adds historical reference which is where the film and TV work comes in as a hand double, quill specialist and calligraphy consultant.
Stitching: During my MA I explored the connection between text and textile. Attracted by the visual quality of a particular letter or document, I copied it in stitchby hand onto a piece of cloth. It was addictive and I sought out different sorts of writing and different sorts of textile. It was an exploration of a new type of tool and the possibilities in stitch. ‘Writing with a needle’ has become a bridge to meeting diverse people – from historical figures to present day.
Collage: I’ve always written, painted and drawn so the collage satisfies that instinct. When I first started creating collage, I was working with western texts (a poem, sentence, passage) writing and re writing it. I was in fact painting with words. Then I came across Zen brushwork. You pick up the brush to ‘realise yourself, not to write beautifully’ Every part matters not just the act of writing, so where does that learning finish?
Letters form visual identity. This can range from a simple calligraphic piece for a private client, to designing a logo for corporate clients to large-scale interior projects where letters can be applied decoratively. On one level, for me, it’s a simple love of words in all their forms. On another level it’s a need to discover who I am and my purpose in being here.
Is there one commission/project are you most proud of?
I had just begun ‘writing with a needle’. People were giving me textiles and saying, ‘Here you have it, enjoy it, do something beautiful with it’.
The Stitch Lives of London came to me in a moment. A modern Bayeux tapestry telling the story of London in text and textile… Imagine a washing line of garments, each stitched with their ‘own voice of handwriting’. I imagined it as a 100m long floating, ribbon-like and following the path of the Thames. To date there are 12 pieces – some corporate commissions, some private, but all relating to London in some way.
Each piece starts with a conversation or brief. Out of that comes a garment or piece of handwriting and then I research, sometimes with the help of an archivist if it’s a corporate commission. The whole process is strengthened and supported with visual sketches and more writing. You normally come to a point when you think – RIGHT – Dive in! The actual making, stitching is the easiest part, so that’s where I start and that’s where it finishes.
Where does your creativity come from? How do you access it?
We definitely access it through play. Ultimately you just have to get on with it, practise until it becomes effortless and joyful. There are certain factors which help. Having a clear vision is crucial – both internal and external. When the two come together you are on your way! Practice is not only ‘artistic practice’ – it’s the whole feeling and environment of your life. The pertinent question is ‘what makes your heart sing?’
Creativity seems to be an inner journey; but environment is crucial in letting in new creative influences and energies. Invite, pray, meditate, invoke, question – engage in these practices because ultimately art is a gift which will only visit those who are receptive and willing to dance!
Meditation and creativity
The practice of meditation is the perfect metaphor for creation. It takes you to your inner artist where anything and everything is possible. More than this, it’s where creation is happening simultaneously and effortlessly, where it begins and ends, and where we may all be regenerated over and over.
For me, art is personal – live with it – respect it, then share it generously. But practically speaking, commissions or patronage of the arts is vital. Basically if no one asks – the needle, the pen, the brush and their skills remain dormant.
Who are some interesting people you’ve worked with/for?
I had the pleasure of working with the leading cast of the Oscar winning film ‘The Favourite’. My job was to give instruction on how to write with a quill. I supplied the quills, then supported the actors on set for the ‘writing’ scenes.
It was interesting seeing how they were getting to know each other, the dynamic of those relationships forming all whilst learning to write their lines with a quill. Being on set in an historic setting – in incredibly tight corners with burning candles – can actually be very challenging.
You go to a lot of trouble over words; why are words so important to you?
Words and language go the core of who we are as human beings – sound actually shapes and connects our diverse cultures. We feel it when we dialogue, and the act of writing is just another sign or mirror of that person in time. Our identities are built on language.
We use lettering decoratively and architecturally: to adorn buildings, to protect (in talismanic garments), to celebrate and mourn, to herald and signpost a way, to slogan and chant, to rouse and quiet. So when the word is made conscious through writing it enhances and strengthens meaning.
How do philosophy and meditation influence your work?
Being in a philosophy group has taught me so much -but mainly that listening is the path to unity. So when I am with a client, the key is to listen deeply for what they want – then formulate it and make it manifest in a pleasing way. It’s my job to bring in the unexpected and ‘assemble elements’ in an unusual and innovative way.
The study of philosophy continues to broaden my world – to wrench it open and smash what ‘I think’ into a thousand pieces! It challenges you awake and stimulates an enquiry that runs through life. This fire is vital in creating great art with a purpose and having the energy to follow through.
People now don’t write much, they type and text; what’s so special about writing?
It’s still writing whether you type or text or code, long hand or short hand – whatever your personal preference. It’s a mark left in space conveying language. I’m not infatuated with historical writing materials although there is nothing quite like engaging with an exquisitely designed document or book.
Ancient manuscripts are often the focus point for prayer and devotion in religious ceremonies around the world. It’s as if they carry a message and feeling of the original author to which many want to draw near or catch a glimpse… If we don’t write we will lose that skill but we’ll find another way to communicate.
I passionately believe in the power of the handmade, the hand crafted. It conveys something of the artist and the creativity running through. That’s what people have always responded to. There’s simply not a programme, app, or any other form of AI that can do that yet. It’s what makes us human.
Have a look at her website: rosalindwyatt