BENNINGTON -- With formal training as an artist and more than 30 years of experience in her craft, Bennington calligrapher Ann Kremers produces ornate, intricate text and images as suited for frames as they are for envelopes.
Kremers specializes in both social calligraphy -- which she describes as invitations, envelopes and related materials for weddings and special gala events -- and ornate "presentation pieces," which often include elaborate illustrations, decorative elements and gilding with gold leaf. With a degree in fine arts, and a strong interest in watercolor painting, Kremers approaches her calligraphy with the spirit and eye of an artist.
"In my deepest heart of hearts I consider myself a painter," said Kremers, "but I probably spend a lot more time doing calligraphy. I like putting the two together very much."
Although she had the opportunity in college, Kremers said she has never formally studied calligraphy.
"When I was a child my parents gave me a calligraphy set for Christmas or a birthday, so I played around with it a bit back then, but when I was 20, I couldn't bear the thought of doing 14 x 18 pages of vertical lines over and over again," she explained.
Instead, she said she first approached the art form when she befriended another calligrapher who showed her the basics.
"It came quite easily to me," she said. "It was like ‘Oh, I can do this.' Then all the years of practice come in."
Over time, Kremers said, she taught herself the various techniques required to work professionally as a calligrapher.
"Some scripts take longer to learn than others, depending on how strange their shapes are, and how often you have to manipulate the pen. But there is something about it that made sense to me."
Now, after more than three decades of calligraphy experience, Kremers has a detailed understanding of her craft.
"I happen to know that I can do a simple invitation in half an hour, but I spend hours before that experimenting with sizes, placements, decorative elements and different scripts to figure out what it should look like," she said.
Her experience and insight as an artist, she said, affects all of her designs and processes as she starts a new project.
"I think my work as a painter, and a drawer, and an artist, definitely affects my calligraphy," she said, "with my awareness of using space on a page. It's never just writing the words. It's considering how they fit in this rectangle (usually)."
She enjoys working on poems, marriage vows and other texts, each with their own challenges.
"I pay attention to things to the extent that I try to have the lettering and the layout compatible with what the words say," she said. "That's always an interesting problem to solve."
While she is always willing to cater to wishes of her clients, Kremers says she takes great care in selecting a visual style that fits the message and tone of each piece perfectly.
"With something I'm working on right now, I was asked to do one kind of script, but I hadn't yet seen the text. When I saw the text, I just said ‘No, this just isn't right for these words.' There are formal scripts and informal scripts, so if you're doing something informal and you want it written in a rigid black letter, it really doesn't make sense" she explained. "My goal is to please the person I'm working for, but I feel that in hiring me, you are also hiring my expertise and my sensibilities about these things as well."
As she devotes her life to working intimately with the physical presentation of letters, Kremers said calligraphy has re-shaped her relationship with written words.
"Both as a calligrapher and artist, I'm always looking at things and noticing if they're beautifully composed, whether its dead wheat against the snow or a piece of art," she said. "I'm very interested in the use of space."
However, after three decades of creating practical art, Kremers said her favorite thing about calligraphy isn't designing an elegant invitation or finishing an ambitious illustrated project.
It's her contining improvement and development as an artist.
"Even after doing it for 30 years," she said, "I really feel like I still get better at it, and I still discover new things."