By Maryanne Grebenstein —
I don’t know how I got lucky enough to receive an invitation from the Nantucket Historical Association (www.nha.org) to teach a calligraphy workshop on Nantucket, but I was not about to turn it down! What a nice compliment! And who wouldn’t want to spend a few days on an island off Cape Cod where the cobblestone streets are only outdone by the charming architecture? It was so much fun, I’d like to share a few of my photos with you.
Arriving at Hyannis a little before the ferry departure gave me time to check out the artist’s shanties and splurge on an ice cream sundae!
I happily boarded the ferry in Hyannis for the very pleasant and comfortable trip on the Hy-Line Ferry (www.hylinecruises.com) over to Nantucket. Slowly cruising out of Hyannis harbor,
I could feel myself beginning to transition from the workaday grind into another world. The sight outside my window of a beautiful tall ship once we were fully at sea gave me one of those “pinch me” moments, and added to the anticipation and excitement of a few days on the island.
I had been to Nantucket once, many years ago. I can tell you it has changed very little over time. The harbor is welcoming and filled with tiny shops and restaurants.
Aside from being adorable (sorry, there is just no other word!),
Nantucket is also very rich in history, primarily about the whaling industry (which is fascinating – more on that later). There is one inviting shop after another,
and one in particular that I was very happy to find. Claudia, a former student of mine at North Bennet Street School (www.nbss.edu) owns a chocolate and spice shop on Nantucket called Ambrosia at 29 Centre Street (http://ambrosianantucket.com). Here she is behind the counter of her apothecary-like shop (we all know how well chocolate heals whatever might ail us, right?). If you find yourself on Nantucket, you must stop in and say hello to her. And don’t leave without trying the lavender chocolate or chocolate bark with berries – beyond delicious! The assortment of spices will make your mouth water (don’t miss the wild rose sea salt!).
The workshop was held in the 1800 House, oozing with charm with its wide floorboards and wavy antique glass windows.
In one of our initial conversations, Brittany Thurman, the 1800 House Program Manger, and I decided Italic Lettering would be a good workshop to offer. All of the participants were new to calligraphy, so we approached the topic in steps, learning about pen angle, letter slope, and letter proportion, and everyone enjoyed becoming comfortable with the pen and ink. It was a very congenial group and we spent two really enjoyable half-days expressing ourselves through calligraphy. One of the students was thrilled to hand-letter his grandson’s name and take it home to him as a gift. Everyone left with calligraphy tools and an instructional book with guidesheets, so they can continue to practice. I enjoyed meeting everyone and was a little sad to see it end.
The NHA is an incredibly active association sponsoring all sorts of events around Nantucket. It also operates the Whaling Museum, which is a “must see” if you are on the island. The skeleton of a right whale in the gallery – a rather small right whale at only about 50 feet long (compared to the size of most adult right whales of 80 -90 feet or so) gives you a very clear image of just how huge these mammals are! The scrimshaw collection there might be the largest that exists. The beauty and history of Nantucket are affectionately captured in Nantucket Film which is shown several times daily at the museum, and the Whale Hunt multi-media show gives a real sense of what it was like to be a mate on one of the whaling ships – not for the fainthearted, to be sure!
There are many NHA sites within walking distance of the downtown area, including the Fire Hose Cart House, the Old Mill, the Oldest House & Kitchen Garden, Old Gaol (pronounced ‘Jail’) and my favorite, Greater Light, shown here:
Greater Light was a livestock barn that in the 1930s was converted into a summer home and art studio by two sisters from Philadelphia. Artists in their own rights, they gifted the house to the NHA and it is now used as gallery space.
If you have plans to visit Nantucket, check the NHA workshop schedule (www.nha.org). They offer many really interesting workshops including (to name just a few!) how make a Sailors Valentine, Painted Floorcloths, Sailors Knotwork, Fish-Printing, and maybe a future calligraphy workshop!