Calligraphy can be very personal
(From Left to right: Jeff Lo Lok-chung’s work and Brenda Ching Man-wah’s work)
However, Ching says that while more people seem to be keen on taking up calligraphy, they seem to be happy with learning the basics and do not really want to develop their skills further. She says she can see this in how her students learn to write the letter “O”.
“It’s quite hard for them, beginners I mean, to maintain the shape of that letter or the speed or the spacing of the letters. It needs time to do so,” says Ching. “But when they find ‘it is fine, it is okay for me, and I can stop practising’, then they think it’s enough for them. But actually, we don’t feel satisfied with them.”
Calligraphy requires perseverance and a neat hand – and plenty of practice. It is unusual for Ching to come across a new student like Tammy Chan, who is not only a fashion merchandiser, but also a calligraphy enthusiast who spends at least an hour a day, five days a week, practising her writing.
In November last year, Chan came across samples of calligraphy on social media and it was love at first sight when she saw the flourishes of copperplate script. After practising on her own, she discovered she had no clue how to write it properly, so she enrolled on the Western calligraphy class. Now, she shares her pieces on Instagram like many fellow calligraphy lovers.
“Somehow there’s a magic in it, some attraction in it. You just want to learn more. In copperplate you can put art in it, make flourishes. And you have to create that on your own. It’s pretty,” she says as she eagerly leans forward to show her calligraphic works.
Chan thinks the way people spend their free time in Hong Kong tends to be rather routine and, overall, they always seem to be in a rush and hardly ever relax. This may be why many people have been turning to handicrafts and DIY (do-it-yourself) activities. Practising calligraphy is a fun and interesting thing to do but Chan observes that many people will just try it once. They seldom want to persevere with the activity as a long-term hobby or art to be mastered and don’t take the writing process seriously.
For Chan, the dearth of people in Hong Kong willing to devote time and energy to calligraphy makes it a lonely art to practise. Unlike painting, singing or dancing, it is hard to find someone with whom to share an interest in calligraphy in daily life. So she wants to remind people of the beauty of calligraphy by practising harder herself.
“So I thought somehow, it [the lack of appreciation] motivated me to practise more, so I might be able to start to teach when Brenda is not free and when Brenda asks me to do so.”