Forging the Future with the Tip of the Pen

[Video via BOOOOOOOM!]

The use of technology is something that to a large extent distinguishes homo sapiens from the rest of the animal kingdom and defines the development of human history. From rudimentary stone axes and knives in the pre-civilization era to smartphones and space shuttles in modern times, the evolution of our technology mirrors the development of our society and culture. But where are the proper boundaries between the use of new technology and the development of old skills? It’s not an easy question to answer. After all, old skills and tools were once new skills and tools – that is the nature of development. There is a difference, though, in that the pace of change now is faster than it has ever been, and it can be difficult to judge whether some new piece of technology makes our lives better or not. What technology constitutes a beneficial improvement depends on how you define improvement. In a constantly accelerating world, progress often means improvements in speed, cost, and efficiency. In this world, what place does the development of an outdated skill have?

Jake Weidmann is a master penman, a title that takes years to achieve and is held by only about a dozen people in the world. In an age of design software and font proliferation, the art of calligraphy has all but died out. How does Weidmann view the development of a archaic craft that is in almost every respect obsolete? In his words:

If we abdicate everything to the machines that we create then what we are doing is we’re creating a sterile world that is void of human influence. And so if we do that especially with something that is as deeply personal as handwriting is then I feel that we’re missing out a lot on each other. We’re missing out on that connection that we have with one another.

What purpose does this have? The purpose lies not so much in any finished product, but in the act of creation itself, and the practice of the craft is a personal pursuit.

i believe that we are all created in the image of God, in that we don’t only bear His image in the way that we think, the way that we act, the emotions that we have, but in our desire to create. i believe that the things that God impresses upon us, and that the things that we find we are passionate about, He was first passionate about. So i see this passion in me to create is the most intimate way that i know God.

Some more of Weidmann’s thoughts can be found in an interview here.

Because we live in a modern world of technology, the fact that I am doing everything by hand is almost a foreign concept. I get inquiries from other designers who ask me what programs I use to create my pieces, and especially my calligraphy. While I am flattered that people perceive my accuracy on level with a computer, I need to do a better job of explaining the “human factor” in my art. I am not a minimalist and I do not have a personal vendetta against technology, but I have found that the hand is still the greatest romancer of the eye. Though the average person would not be able to pick out the imperfections within a well-executed piece of art or calligraphy, the eye recognizes it as a result of the hand and is attracted to what they both have in common: the human element.

We live in a culture of the quick and easy and it has made us impatient and lazy. When you commit to something that takes work and see it through to the end, it will develop you as much as you develop it. Second, invest in art — I am not just suggesting my art, but any art that you like. We are a society that looks at everything and beholds nothing. Good art is something to behold and will bring you a sense of peace and stillness in a world in constant motion.


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