Marcus Larson/News-Register##Susan Newby, pictured in the workroom of her McMinnville home, has been practicing calligraphy since high school. “Everybody should find a way to be creative,” she said.
Marcus Larson/News-Register##Susan Newby, pictured in the workroom of her McMinnville home, has been practicing calligraphy since high school. “Everybody should find a way to be creative,” she said.
Marcus Larson/News-Register##Newby uses an oblique calligraphy pen that allows her to more easily apply precise amounts of pressure to create thinner or wider strokes.
Marcus Larson/News-Register##Newby uses an oblique calligraphy pen that allows her to more easily apply precise amounts of pressure to create thinner or wider strokes.
Marcus Larson/News-Register##Jars of home-canned salsa are embellished with calligraphed labels.
Marcus Larson/News-Register##Jars of home-canned salsa are embellished with calligraphed labels.
Marcus Larson/News-Register##A print featuring the words of an 18th century hymn, “Be Still, My Soul,” is Newby’s best-selling piece. The artist’s work can be found in her Etsy shop, AllThatIsGoldArt.
Marcus Larson/News-Register##A print featuring the words of an 18th century hymn, “Be Still, My Soul,” is Newby’s best-selling piece. The artist’s work can be found in her Etsy shop, AllThatIsGoldArt.
Marcus Larson/News-Register##Newby wrote and illustrated this children’s book that encourages self-confidence.
Marcus Larson/News-Register##Newby wrote and illustrated this children’s book that encourages self-confidence.
Marcus Larson/News-Register##Susan Newby converted her daughter’s former bedroom into a sewing room, encircling the space with her calligraphy.
Marcus Larson/News-Register##Susan Newby converted her daughter’s former bedroom into a sewing room, encircling the space with her calligraphy.
By Anna Lieberman • Intern • 

Calligrapher finds beauty in words

A large hanging frame rests above the fireplace of Susan Newby’s McMinnville home. It features a wreath with dried branches on top giving way to green leaves in the middle and actual 22-karat gold leaf at the bottom. The wreath envelops the famous “Lord of the Rings” poem, “All that is gold does not glitter…”

Susan created the piece herself, complete with the calligraphy inside.

She described the meaning to her this way: “If you submit yourself to God, he can turn suffering into good fruit and good fruit into something that grows in glory.”

Her walls are graced by other passages rendered in calligraphy, many of them quotes or scripture verses that speak to her.

“The idea of a word, and all that the meaning that a word carries, I think, is very powerful,” she said. “And I think to be able to write it in a way that is beautiful, that matches what the word means, I find that really inspiring.”

Susan’s love of words and art got its start in high school. Her mom signed her up for a calligraphy class around 1976, and she fell in love with the craft.

“When I was in college, I would stay up all night very often just to make things,” she said. “I just had this urge to make things.”

After taking additional classes, she went on to design her own college graduation announcements, and later her wedding invitations.

After she got married, she spent her spare time creating through baking, calligraphy and wool spinning. But between raising four kids and teaching French at Newberg’s Veritas school, she couldn’t dedicate as much time as she’d like.

But she still practices calligraphy when she can.

“I feel like creativity is, seriously, it’s part of being healthy,” she said. “Everybody should find a way to be creative ...

“We’re born creative. Just by being human, we are creative.”

She most recently handcrafted about 80 invitations for her daughter’s wedding.

The two teamed up to buy navy blue cards, gold ribbon and sparkling paint. Then Susan set to work.

She spent hours writing and rewriting a template that was just right, then printed copies of the handwritten words to place on the invitations.

She also hand-lettered the addresses on all the envelopes, devoting about 15 minutes to each one. All of that took at least 100 hours, she said.

Her daughter, Tara, takes pride in her mother’s work.

“Because my mom is a calligrapher, I get to have this beautiful gift,” Tara said. “Not everyone is able to have something that special.”

She said that many of her friends inquired about the cards, not sure if they were handmade. Tara would happily respond that they were, and encourage people to tell her mother how beautiful they were are at the wedding.

Susan said that, especially with calligraphy, it’s easy to be critical of your own work. She pointed to a stack of spoiled envelopes, some with misspelled names or wrong zip codes, others with letters that just didn’t look right.

“I didn’t like that F,” she said of one.

But as much as she cherishes her work, she knows she has to accept its flaws.

“You get this idea and you love it and you cherish it, and you consider it and you feed it and you carry it with you,” she said. “And then you have to give birth to it, and let it go.”

Her husband, Matt, is an enthusiastic supporter.

“She’s just made beauty out of our house, and I think on a personal level for me, she’s helped me understand beauty and to love beauty as a man,” he said. “That I never would have gotten if I had married somebody else.”

Matt said each piece is filled with meaning. They grow out of his wife’s struggles, growth and values.

One features the Latin saying “Carpe Diem,” meaning “Seize the Day,” in bold white letters set against a blue background. In smaller print, it includes the scripture, “Teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”

Susan created the art after her father was murdered in 1994. The aesthetic reminder to live well helped her through the experience.

“She has walked life and then these phrases and these words have meaning to her,” Matt said. “And she writes them down in a beautiful way. It gives a pathway for others to gain meaning from whatever situation they’re in that those words relate to.”

While Susan doesn’t dedicate much time to promoting her work, she does offer prints through her Etsy shop, AllThatIsGoldArt.

She plans to add more prints to the shop soon, as whenever she hears a meaningful word or quote, the urge to practice calligraphy grows too strong to ignore.

“Very often, I will either consider a word or I’ll hear a quote, or I’ll read a book, and I just know in my heart that I have to do that,” she said. “It’s like, I can’t quite rest until it’s finished.”

She said, “That’s kind of like my call in life — to make beautiful things. That’s what I like to do.”

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