The light images of Julien Breton

Julien Breton

The French artist Julien Breton, also known as Kalaam, spent a week in October in New York City, capturing some amazing works of “light calligraphy.” His work is inspired by Arabic calligraphy, but uses a latin-based script of his own devising.

See more images of his work on the designboom blog, or check out Julien’s website.

The Met’s Islamic collection reopens!

Met Islamic Collection

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City opened a newly reinstalled exhibit this week for their Islamic art collection, called the New Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia.

The exhibit is a treasure trove for calligraphy. From the New York Times’ art review:

The written word is omnipresent. Whether in the form of love poems, proverbs or passages from Islam’s holy book, the Koran, calligraphy spreads like a fine net over everything, creating an art that almost literally speaks.

Learn more on the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s website.

Arabic Script Calligraphy Course by Elinor Aishah Holland

The Society of Scribes in New York City is holding a class in Arabic Script Calligraphy this spring. To register, visit

Course details:
March 20, 27, April 3, 10, 17
9:30 am – 3:30 pm
$350 Members / $390 Non-members
Skill Level: This course can be taken by beginners or intermediates, people familiar with the Arabic language and those unfamiliar. For more information, e-mail:

Arabic script has a long history and has developed into a highly refined artform. This course is aimed at anyone who is interested in dipping their toe into a vast ocean. We will by no means do more than begin the journey but we will do so in the classical method. Beginning with our eyes, we will view slides of fine samples of work. Using traditional tools we will begin the study of letterforms in Thuluth. Pens and paper will be available for purchase from the instructor. We will introduce techniques for cutting and trimming reed or bamboo pens. The letters are taught first as independent forms, then in connecting combinations. These lessons will be demonstrated and practiced in class and as homework. We will also work on a sentence to understand principals of phrasing and spacing.

Our emphasis will be on developing our use of the pen and ink on paper, to develop flow, followed by an understanding of the letterforms. Of course we will spend time viewing masterpieces of calligraphy throughout each class. We do not anticipate producing finished pieces in this class, but rather to work toward that goal in the future. The joy of being a student will be our inspiration.

Higgins ink,
small (thin) bamboo brush (to be cut into a pen),
soft cushion as a writing surface (leather, packing sheets, large magazine),
pen knife (email instructor for info),
a small, wide mouth jar (meat baby food jars are perfect),
a soft pencil,
ruler, and lots of patience.

Paper and reeds for pens will be available for sale by the instructor for $6 – $12.

E A Holland is a freelance calligrapher and mother living in Rockland County NY. Although she specializes in Arabic calligraphy her work includes a wide range of subjects and styles, from envelopes to advertising, copperplate to brush. Elinor has taught adults and children calligraphy for the past 15 years.

All classes and workshops, except where indicated, are held at :

School of Visual Arts (SVA) Annex
214 East 21st Street, Manhattan
(between 2nd and 3rd Avenues)

Islamic Art Collection at the Met is now online

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has recently announced the completion of their online database, which includes their entire Islamic Art Collection. A keyword search for calligraphy brings up 3 pages of interesting manuscripts that are definitely worth checking out.

By the Pen: an Islamic Calligraphy Workshop

I’m excited to announce the upcoming workshop By the Pen: An Introduction to Calligraphy in the Islamic Tradition. This hands-on weekend will allow both beginning and advanced students in Islamic calligraphy to hone their skills and better understand the rich cultural context of this art form. The workshop will be held June 18-20 (2010) at a beautiful retreat center in Stony Point, NY, and taught by Elinor Aishah Holland. Ms. Holland was instrumental in the creation of this website, and her calligraphy is featured both in the Calligraphy Qalam logo, and in the videos throughout the site. Watch this interview to learn more about her own interest and background in Islamic calligraphy, and a bit about her teaching philosophy.

One of the issues those of us who live in the United States and are interested in Arabic script calligraphy constantly encounter is the lack of qualified teachers. Workshops like these offer students of calligraphy the unique chance to pack in several in-depth lessons over the course of an intensive weekend. I am planning to attend this workshop, and I hope to see many of you there!

Below is an embedded pdf with further details about the workshop (click on it to view the pdf full-screen, or download the pdf). To register, visit the Stony Point Center’s website.

Islamic Calligraphy at the Met

h2_42136Mirror, 12th century, Iran. Cast bronze. Diam. 7 5/8 in. (19.3 cm). Rogers Fund, 1942 (42.136)

I received this announcement by e-mail yesterday:

Exhibition Announcement: Masterpieces of Islamic Calligraphy from The Metropolitan Museum of Art

June 2, 2009 – September 1, 2009
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

Masterpieces of calligraphy from the Islamic Art Department’s collections will be on display on the south balcony for a period of three months, showcasing the calligraphic art of the Islamic world, from Spain to south Asia and beyond. The works, ranging in date from the 8th to the 19th century, will include several richly illuminated Qur’anic manuscripts, as well as sumptuous album pages in a variety of scripts, examples of inlaid metalwork, fine ceramics, and rare textiles with calligraphic elements. Many calligraphic scripts from early kufic to the later refined nasta’liq, will be shown in a range of media, demonstrating the impact and importance of this most quintessential of art forms.

This installation is presented in conjunction with Muslim Voices: Arts and Ideas, a ten-day festival and conference in New York City celebrating Islamic culture (June 5-14 2009).

(To see the other events associated with this festival, visit