In conversation with Paul Antonio
July 15, 2020

We sat down (virtually) with our good friend Paul Antonio to discuss his journey so far and how his practice had to change as a result of lockdown.

How long have you been a London Graphic Centre customer? We have thoroughly enjoyed working so closely with you.

I didn’t realise you would be outing my age here! Lol! I first came to the UK when I was 22, for 2 months, and I found myself in LGC, I was stunned by the place and all the tools. When I moved to the UK the following year in 1998, I was in the store nearly every week. When I started Art School and got my student discount card, I went a little bonkers! So 22 years ago.

How have you found the lockdown? Has it impacted your creativity at all?

I was surprised by how quickly I settled in. I was fortunate enough to be able to conscript the dining room table and set up a small studio at home. That helped me a lot as I was able to set up Zoom Classes to teach. I think I did more work at home and it really pushed my creativity as I was forced to look at my income. I travel a lot and teach all over the world. That all stopped and that meant I needed to rethink my approach to work. Being stuck at home also gave me more time to think about my work and process but also a chance to look at books and work I had sitting in the studio hoping to get to, this created a real boost in my creativity.

How did you get into becoming a calligrapher? Was that always your dream?

I started calligraphy when I was 9 years old. I have always loved old books, letters and maps. I remember seeing a double-page spread out of a book of ours and telling my mother ‘this is what I want to do’. Having a scriptorium was always my dream, a studio filled with tools and materials, gold leaf, pigments and books, lots of books.

How long have you trained for?

I trained for 4 years. 1 year at Reading on the Type History Course, 2 years at Reigate on the Calligraphy, Gilding and Heraldic Painting Course and 1 year at Birkbeck studying English Palaeography, Archaeological Illustration and Arabic Calligraphy.

What has been the highlight of your career thus far?

There are lots of amazing things I feel so blessed to be able to do. I am one of the 4 Crown Office Scribes, we still hand-write some of the laws for the UK on vellum. I worked on a pyramid in Egypt drawing hieroglyphs for the MET Museum NYC. I also was able to publish a book on my new and innovative approach on Copperplate Script, one of the calligraphic hands I have done a considerable amount of research on.

How did the Rhodia x PaScribe Pads come about?

I helped them put together a set of pads for different media and as a gift for solving that they asked me what I wanted. I asked for a pad with my name and my unique grid on it. They then asked if that was all, I jumped at the chance to ask for a Black pad with really fine black lines and a grey pad with really fine grey lines because I wanted something to practise in new amazing metallic paints which are now on the market, but more than that, I wanted beautiful paper to write letters to people. I love paper and also wanted people to experience the joy I feel when I write, so I was really careful in selecting the paper for the pads. I tested a tonne of papers to ensure not just normal tools would work but also the more demanding tools used by calligraphers.

You have taught all over the world, how has that been?

ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT! I cannot tell you what a joy it is turning up in a country and being greeted by people you have corresponded with for so long. I met one woman in a class who had been following me for nearly 20 years, she grabbed on to me and cried. It was so touching. I was stunned at the love and appreciation, but the warmth of all these strangers who were so keen to learn from me and learn the specific way I approach calligraphy. At the end of my classes I always thank them, and after a two-day workshop of 7 hours per day, I am exhausted, but happy, and thanking them always brings me to tears. I am always so grateful for the opportunity to share what I know and what I have discovered to help others in their journey. Not to mention all the great food and the wonderful cultures I have experienced!

Are there any exciting projects that you are working on?

My aim is always to find ways to make writing easier and more pleasurable. The pads came out and I wanted to make using them a bigger and more exciting experience, so I have been working on a product that will augment the usability of the pads in ways which they couldn’t do on its own, the prototype is almost ready and once it is ready and all the testing completed I will share it. I have also been working on a tonne of online content to help people in their pursuit of learning calligraphy. I am also working on a subscription box and putting together the content for that is exciting.

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