Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Great and Powerful Sull


Back in September at the Dallas Pen Show, I had the opportunity to meet Michael Sull, a master penman. I had seen Mr. Sull the previous year, but I have to admit, I didn’t really know what he did. At both shows, he had some interesting (what I would have called) dip pens, but he wasn’t selling pens like everyone else. Mostly, he looked to be writing people’s names in amazing script. Last year, I attended his session on letter writing. 

As a master penman, Mr. Sull is extremely skilled in Spencerian script, Copperplate, and no doubt many other forms; he is an artist. His session, though, was about handwriting for the rest of us. He didn’t show us how he does what he does. Rather, he spoke with us about "making our writing special” (a near quote, I think) in simpler ways having to do with paper, ink, and other things. He even distributed special rainbow colored pencils -- one pencil with one lead of several colors.

Mr. Sull’s enthusiasm for and love of his work were apparent. Among his projects, Mr. Sull is trying to rescue handwriting. A few years ago, he and Debra Sull (2010/2011) published American Cursive Handwriting, a “handwriting system,” a “self-study workbook and curriculum.” Although many school districts no longer regard handwriting as necessary, the debate continues. Sull and Sull is a very timely book.

After the show, I discovered an amazing video on the IAMPETH (International Association of Master Penmen, Engrossers, and Teachers of Handwriting) website, an interview with Mr. Sull conducted by Dr. Joseph Vitolo. Material in Sull and Sull (2010/2011) and the interview are a great introduction to the evolution and importance of handwriting in the US going back 100 years. Forget computers and iphones; this is pre-typewriter! For those of us who love fountain pens, how we use our pens is at least as important as the pens themselves. This, I think, was the take-home message of Mr. Sull’s session.  For Mr. Sull's website, go to