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The Write Stuff

The world of calligraphy gets its very own rock star

Author Nicole Frehsee

MILWAUKEE—Jake Weidmann slides into a booth at the Miller Time Pub in downtown Milwaukee and orders a Cobb salad. “Hello again,” a waitress coos, while a group of middle-aged women waggle their fingers in his direction.

Weidmann, 28, is muscular and attractive, but it’s his handwriting that gets hearts fluttering. In 2011, Weidmann became the youngest person ever to earn the title of “master penman” from the International Association of Master Penmen, Engrossers and Teachers of Handwriting, essentially marking him as one of the world’s best calligraphers.

Partly due to Weidmann’s presence, perhaps, there’s a real buzz at this year’s IAMPETH convention, which is being held at the Milwaukee Hilton. For an art in danger of going the way of barrel hooping or musket making, the young calligrapher represents an opportunity to pass the pen on to future generations.

“Our elders want to give us the tradition,” Weidmann says, “but a lot of designers my age don’t care to understand it.”

Weidmann has long been an exception to this rule. In college, his professors would say, “Oh, so you’re the one whose essays look like the Declaration of Independence.” Even his grocery lists, he says, are “ridiculously written.”

At the IAMPETH convention, he leads a “Fundamentals of Flourishing” class, his pen strokes projected onto huge screens. Afterward, he sells autographed copies of his quill curlicues for a quarter and accepts hugs from grateful veterans of the art.

“We’re such a close-knit group, I feel like a family member,” he says during a lull. “With a hundred sets of grandparents.”

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