In the hands of Veera Mäkelä, who lives in Satomäki, Vantaa, texts are created, the intricate letters of which are admired by thousands of Finns.
When president Mauno Koivisto died in 2017, citizens were allowed to write their condolences in a memoir. On the front pages of the memoir, the calligrapher had written the original text in a beautiful oblique handwriting, italicilla.
This text was made by another calligrapher Liisa Uusitalo, but when the next presidential funeral is held, a successor, a Vantaa resident, will step on the stick Veera Mäkelä, 27.
Mäkelä’s work is very rare and is becoming rarer all the time. Previously, a calligrapher could be trained at a polytechnic, but the line was discontinued in 2016.
Today, calligraphy can only be learned in Finland through courses. Or if luck goes, as in Mäkelä, to a race style.
For about a year and a half, she has been trained by Liisa Uusitalo, who has been doing text work for the Helsinki parish for more than 30 years.
From Mäkelä became a student of Uusitalo by lucky coincidence. The future mentor walked into the art frame shop where Mäkelä is working. Uusitalo had made text for the portrait frames and came to visit Mäkelä’s workplace because of them.
“I didn’t dare approach him myself, so my co-worker told him that Veera has taken a calligraphy course and is very interested in it,” Mäkelä says.
According to Mäkelä, Uusitalo was immediately enthusiastic. It so happened that he had been looking for a successor for a long time, and now one was in front of the tray. Uusitalo began training Mäkelä and gave him more difficult tasks as the work improved. Mäkelä was allowed to text certificates of honor, greeting cards and award books.
A year ago, Mäkelä was finally allowed to write his first text in the guestbook of Helsinki Cathedral:
“Ecumenical Opening Service of the Parliament 5.2.2020“
In addition to special services, the guestbook includes blessings and ordinations to the grave of statesmen. The work is unique, as only one person makes the texts in the book: Mäkelä.
Mäkelä feels that he is really lucky that he happened to get to learn from Uusitalo.
“If it hadn’t happened, calligraphy might have been just a hobby.”
Calligraphy Only a few people work full-time in Finland. Mäkelä is not yet one of these few, as he still has a day job in an art frame shop.
“Nowadays, this is much harder to do as a main job because the services of a calligrapher are no longer used as before. Computers have made this a vanishing profession. ”
Previously, Mäkelä’s dream was that there would be so much calligraphy work at this stage that it could be done full-time, but the corona pandemic put dreams on ice. Work has also declined in this area. When there are no events, there are no jobs.
As the traditional jobs of calligraphers have diminished, Mäkelä hopes that new areas of use for calligraphers’ skills will be invented in the future. One of Mäkelä’s dreams would be to combine modern street art and old calligraphy, calligraphy.
“It would be really cool to design and make a calligraphy mural with someone on the wall of the building.”
Mäkelän The intricate texts are created at home in Vantaa’s Satomäki, right at a regular table. As tools, he has paper, pen shafts, blades and colors. Contrary to what you might think, Mäkelä almost never makes subtitles with ink, but with gouache. By using gouache that is stiffer than the ink, you can prevent the largest bumps that occur more easily with the ink. Still, even the best sometimes happen that the blade hits the paper in the wrong way and color splashes around.
“Then it helps if the color is water soluble. Small drops are usually removed with water or a razor blade.
In order not to have to tear off the pages of the Cathedral’s guestbook, Mäkelä is carefully preparing for his work. He makes rehearsal versions, experiments with the amount of color, and sketches. The meticulous work is suitable for Mäkelä, as he has always liked to be completely immersed in something.
“I have always loved art, but I do not have an artist, because I can not indulge. In this profession, I get to throw myself within the rules. Fine by me.”
There are different letter styles in calligraphy, including the traditional ones italic, unsial, fraction and texture. In recent years, modern calligraphy has risen in popularity alongside these, where old rules can be broken and handwriting made of its own. Mäkelä is not enthusiastic about this trend but has gone in the opposite direction. He is currently interested in looking old-fashioned texture.
“My next challenge is to get it texture writing so good that I can work on it too. ”
Originally the idea of a calligraphy course arose from an old pen. Mäkelä’s grandfather was dead and there was a calligraphy pen among the heirlooms. It reminded Mäkelä how well my grandfather, who worked in an advertising agency, could text birthday cards. When the calligraphy course was advertised in the magazine, Mäkelä decided to register. The text immediately took with it. And watch out for the pen, it has gotten back to work.
“It feels fun to use the same pen as Grandpa used to have.”
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