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Messages - jeanwilson

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Everyday Handwriting | Penmanship / Re: What happened to my cursive?
« on: March 14, 2021, 07:29:34 AM »
This is one of my favorite topics. It would be lovely if Lyric and Janis and I could meet up in Omaha at the next IAMPETH conference. As you may know - the TH in IAMPETH - stands for Teachers of Handwriting.

I spent many fun hours at IAMPETH during the downtime between classes - hanging out with people who claimed that calligraphy had ruined their penmanship - and showing them how to restore their penmanship. I do not recall that there was anyone who remained unconvinced. But, it is not a simple 10-step program. It has to be individualized to whatever it is that has happened to your penmanship.

I'm pretty sure I can make it to IAMPETH in Omaha -- anyone else going to be there?

Tools & Supplies / Re: Oblique Holder for Business Writing?
« on: March 14, 2021, 07:25:30 AM »
IMHO, people are creative. Some people will take any new tool and use it the way it was intended and then they start trying it out in every way they can imagine. Some purists might object to experimentation. Then there are the people who might try the new invention - and it doesn't please them, so they reject it. I'm a little bit that way with light tables. I know a lot of teachers recommend them and obviously I see the usefulness. But, I can't stand using them. I've met other people who can't stand them. We tend to be people who achieved a level of proficiency without them - so we are not dependent on them. If someone took our pencils away from us -- I'm sure we would learn to love them. Yes, it takes longer to pencil in guidelines - but those of us who do feel like we get more precision. We'd have to do duplicates of everything to see it. Nobody has time for that. So, we stick to our preferred method.

People who start out with light tables aren't going to turn against them. And it's the same with preferred nibs and holders. Each person is on a journey of personal preference. Teachers can be very opinionated - and some students will be devoted to whatever they were taught. Other students will be very experimental and figure out alternatives that they prefer. All of the people who were selling systems for learning business writing were motivated to convince people that THEIR system was the best because of *whatever* they decided was the best. In the end - the sellers of the systems did not really have any control over how successful each student was. Some students would be wildly successful with any system. Others would have very little success - no matter what they tried.

In my years of attending IAMPETH -- there were always spirited debates about the how's and why's and the history. As with any topic - there are lots of opinions. It's fun to gather the opinions - but I'm not sure there will ever be any source that will be the *absolute true story* of how everything happened.

Everyday Handwriting | Penmanship / Re: Learning business penmanship
« on: March 14, 2021, 07:07:30 AM »
Another way to feel how your bone can move inside your skin and muscle is to gently grasp the wrist of your dominant hand with your non-dominant hand and then move the dominant hand back and forth. Your skin and muscles have all kinds of stretch and flexibility that the bone does not. They are connected - but the bone has very little flexibility and the muscles are quite flexible. The older you are the stretchy-er your skin becomes, but that's a side issue. It has nothing to do with penmanship.

Once you see that your bone moves inside your arm - place your arm on the desk and press down slightly (or a lot) and then move the bone back and forth. Maybe you need to put more weight on the arm - and then try to move the bone to see that the bone has some wiggle room. Once you get the feel of the bone moving while the muscle and skin stays in one place - you can try doing the push-pulls and ovals.

Spencerian Script / Re: How long will it take to learn Spencerian?
« on: March 05, 2021, 06:39:52 AM »
I think the ones I had were from the packet of practice sheets that came with Mike Sull's book.
I recently gave all my Spencerian stuff away - so I'll have to do some research to see if my memory is correct.
I'll get back to you.

Lyric has sent me an actual handwritten letter that made me smile and I am really proud of her -- already --
She has a very discerning eye - and that's helpful. Actually it is essential.
I also had her send me some practice page images so I could help her find a method to revise her current penmanship.

To be honest -- it was not a quick and easy fix. However, she stuck with it and she 100% validated everything that I have learned from teaching for 25+ years.

There is NO SINGLE METHOD that works for everyone.

It rankles me when people design a new method, or they push one of the old traditional methods - and insist that *This one works.*
Well, yes, it worked for them. But that does not mean it will work for everyone.
You need to have the perseverance of Lyric to actually get over the hump.
You need some kind of crazy determination to push yourself even when it's not looking like you are making any progress.

For the seekers -- PLEASE do not assume that you are going to find one method that will work for you. I lost count of how many different methods Lyrica nd I tried before she finally got over the hump. But, it was a lot.

Here comes the part that I have written numerous times before - but it is essential for people to understand.
If you want to improve your penmanship - you have to unlearn all your bad habits - and if you have been building those bad habits for several decades - it's not going to be easy to unlearn them. This is why each person has a very personal path. They have to analyze what the quirks are and figure out how to morph them into something more pleasing to their eye. This is the essential part of the process that is missing from every single method that teaches penmanship. They all assume they are starting with a blank slate. The only blank slates are people who have never had a single lesson in cursive. If you learned cursive - you have a very strong imprint that you have to deal with.

Lyric is one of my rock star students.
And I am not just saying that.

Tools & Supplies / Re: Oblique Holder for Business Writing?
« on: March 03, 2021, 06:20:33 AM »
I like oblique holders for business writing because the orientation of the nib allows the times to open equally and it has a smoother feel. The way I hold a straight holder - I always get a *draggy* feel - because the nib is not lined up with the direction of the strokes.

Since my son has gone to work for the USPS, I have been learning a lot about the postal service. Mostly, I've learned that it is so much larger and more complicated than any of us even realize. There are literally tons of pieces of mail going through the system. There are people whose full time job is cleaning shredded paper out of the processing machines where mail has been chewed up. The flimsy junk mail is chewed more easily than nice envelopes. But, sometimes a nice first class envelope is chewed up.

There are people who sift through the chewed up mail - trying to piece together mail that looks like it is first class - figure out the address and hopefully send it along to the addressee. My son says it looks like an impossible job but he has no interest in putting puzzles together. I actually think it sounds like fun. Although I would not want to do it every day. It's too bad they can't open the activity up to senior citizens who like to do puzzles and would enjoy the activity. It could be as much fun as a quilting bee.

If you are going to cut the corners off of the plastic outer envelopes so that the stamp can be adhered to the decorative envelope and canceled, be aware that anything that can catch on the machinery - might get caught. The tighter the fit you can get on the outer envelope, the better.

There are a lot of vintage stamps that I love - and if I ever decide to go with outer envelopes, I can see using vintage stamps on the decorative envelope and then putting a Forever on the outer envelope that will be discarded.

Or, if you know your penpal is handy, you could ask them to cut off the corner of the outer envelope and glue it to the decorative envelope.

Has the Graceful Envelope Contest been announced on the Forum?
If not - Google it. It's fun to enter - and their website is full of good ideas.

Alba, Janis and K:
Thanks so much for the kinds words.
It's wonderful to be part of this community.

Thank you K-2 for sharing your practice - even with the *oops*
I just checked your profile to see how far north you were - and see that you are in Duluth. I actually lived in Duluth for 9 months.
I still check the real estate listings on Park Point and along London Road once in a while.
Des Moines is not nearly as pretty as Duluth - but we maintain some balance with 4 seasons - each one for 3 months.

It has been my pleasure to be an *old timer* on the forum -
everything I share was learned directly from kind and generous scribes who were ahead of me on the learning curve.
That's the part about this community that has meant the most to me.

When the rumors that *cursive is dead* start flying - I know in my heart that it will never die.
There will always be people who are curious and eager to try their *hand.*

Thanks, Erica.
I stop in every morning while I am drinking my coffee.
Thank you for all the work it takes to keep the forum going.

Open Flourish | General Discussion / Re: American Cursive
« on: February 10, 2021, 06:48:58 AM »
Renovating sloppy handwriting is a journey that depends on what kinds of habits and how many of them you have formed over how many years.
Sometimes, all a person needs to do is slow down and improve the consistency in slant, shapes and spacing.
Other times, it's better to just start from scratch.
If you posted a sample of your penmanship, it would be easier to  offer suggestions.

There are several different penmanship styles and it's best to choose one that you think is beautiful.
Instagram is a good place to find a variety of cursive styles.

As previously mentioned, I have talked to people in management at my local post office and many of them are supportive of mail art and beautiful wedding invitations written in cursive. Here are things I have learned.

The information in the ZIP code indicates a very specific city and state.
The value of writing city/state/ZIP -- which is duplicating the information - is to give them some clues if there is a typo in either the city/state or the ZIP code.

Spelling out the state is helpful, only if you do not have the correct 2-letter abbreviation. Again -- there are plenty of typos - and they actually do try to get the mail delivered. But, if you are sure you have the correct 2-letter Zip - then spelling it out won't matter.

If the machines cannot read the address (and we already know that they do not read cursive - either beautiful or horrible) then the mail goes into a variety of systems where people read the addresses and type in the bar code that will send it on its way. I actually know someone who had the job of sitting for 8 hours and watching envelopes flip by on a little track - so that she could decipher poor penmanship as well as gorgeous copperplate.

As mentioned on their website - choosing to write in a way that is difficult for the machines to read is not against any rule - it will only delay your envelope as it makes it way through one of the human-reading processes.

Sometimes a scan of the envelope is deciphered by someone who is just looking at the mail on a screen.


I have no idea what to suggest if you are getting mail returned as undeliverable.
If that was happening to me, I would contact customer service.
It is so easy to let one rogue postal employee get us riled up --
and there are actually a lot of really nice people who care about providing good service.

I'lll ask my friend what she recommends and get back to you.

I have been friends with a postal worker for 25 years and frequently ask her about issues with the USPS people (and machines) that *read* the addresses.
If am sure that information from different postal workers will vary.
The best source of information about exactly what works best for MACHINE READING is at their website:

It is easier to read at the website, but I have copied and pasted it into this post.

I know some of the information will rub some people the wrong way - but they have to offer some guidelines - and this is where they started.
Individual clerks at various stations come up with their own perspective and if you run into one of them, you need to ask to speak to a supervisor. You may not get anywhere. But, don't take it out on the whole system when you run into a rogue.

There is a lot to digest so - I will put comments about cursive and copperplate in a different post:

Delivery Address

The delivery address is the most important information on your mailpiece. Use the following format for your delivery addresses:

Name or attention line:
Delivery address:
City, state, ZIP Code:

Automated mail processing machines read addresses on mailpieces from the bottom up and will first look for a city, state, and ZIP Code. Then the machines look for a delivery address. If the machines can't find either line, then your mailpiece could be delayed or misrouted. Any information below the delivery address line (a logo, a slogan, or an attention line) could confuse the machines and misdirect your mail.

Use the following guidelines:

Always put the address and the postage on the same side of your mailpiece.

On a letter, the address should be parallel to the longest side.

All capital letters.

No punctuation.

At least 10-point type.

One space between city and state.

Two spaces between state and ZIP Code.

Simple type fonts.

Left justified.

Black ink on white or light paper.

No reverse type (white printing on a black background).

If your address appears inside a window, make sure there is at least 1/8-inch clearance around the address. Sometimes parts of the address slip out of view behind the window and mail processing machines can't read the address.

If you are using address labels, make sure you don't cut off any important information. Also make sure your labels are on straight. Mail processing machines have trouble reading crooked or slanted information.


Always put the attention line on top -- never below the city and state or in the bottom corner of your mailpiece.

If you can't fit the suite or apartment number on the same line as the delivery address, put it on the line ABOVE the delivery address, NOT on the line below.

Words like "east" and "west" are called directionals and they are VERY important. A missing or a bad directional can prevent your mail from being delivered correctly.

Use the free ZIP Code Lookup and the ZIP+4 code lookup on the Postal Explorer website (left frame) to find the correct ZIP Codes and ZIP+4 codes for your addresses.

Almost 25% of all mailpieces have something wrong with the address -- for instance, a missing apartment number or a wrong ZIP Code. Can some of those mailpieces get delivered, in spite of the incorrect address? Yes. But it costs the Postal Service time and money to do that.

When a First-Class Mail letter is square, rigid or meets one or more of the nonmachinable characteristics it will be subject to a nonmachinable surcharge.

Sometimes it's not important that your mailpiece reaches a specific customer, just that it reaches an address. One way to do this is to use a generic title such as "Postal Customer" or "Occupant" or "Resident," rather than a name, plus the complete address.

Fancy type fonts such as those used on wedding invitations do not read well on mail processing equipment. Fancy fonts look great on your envelopes, but also may slow down your mail.

Use common sense. If you can't read the address, then automated mail processing equipment can't read the address.

Some types of paper interfere with the machines that read addresses. The paper on the address side should be white or light in color. No patterns or prominent flecks, please! Also, the envelope shouldn't be too glossy -- avoid shiny, coated paper stock.

2021 Exchanges / Re: Holiday | New Year Exchange Sign Ups are Now CLOSED!
« on: January 17, 2021, 02:22:02 PM »
Around Dec 15th - there were 350 semi trailers full of mail here in Des Moines that were waiting to be unloaded.
I was at a post office on Jan 6th and they said it was down to 50.
So - the larger cities are probably in worse shape than we are.
I might cut back on the valentines this year - to give them a break.

I recently read a book that I really enjoyed:
How the Post Office Created America by Winifred Gallagher

There are so many ways that the system was interwoven with all the various components of establishing a new country.
It is fascination to note that most of the issues that they struggle with today
are the same issues that were around from the very beginning.

Some of the book is just dry history - but there are plenty of good stories about interesting people, dare devils, scoundrels, and heros.

Tools & Supplies / Re: Watercolor ratio
« on: January 04, 2021, 08:14:42 AM »
<<I donít want to waste time trying to find the right consistency.>>

Any time you are working with water based medium, the proportion will change during the time the container is open due to evaporation.
You have to keep adding water.
A bottle of ink with a small opening will evaporate more slowly than one with an opening that is wide enough to dip - but they will both need to have water added periodically.
As you spend time getting to know a medium - you'll get used to adding water and it won't seem like a waste of time.

Another thing to note - with some pigments, especially gouache, you have to do a lot of stirring.
For me, some of the green pigments settle so fast that I end up stirring every time I load the brush, so brush loading is just part of the process.
While brush loading takes more time than dipping, it is balanced by the time you save from not having to wipe the nib as often.

Another option, to avoid a lot of mixing and fussing is to learn to like the *watery* look.
I recall, at the end of a workshop with Peter Thornton, he suggested we do some writing using whatever color was left in our containers of rinse water. We all had subtle tones of gray -- but pale tones can be quite effective.

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