The word “calligraphy” comes from the Greek word “kalli-graphos”, which means “beautiful writing”.
Karen C. Haslag has practiced calligraphy since high school, when she was given a 1960s Speedball letter book, Speedball nibs, and a bottle of Indian ink. His first formal calligraphy class was in 1969 at Mount St. Scholastica College in Atchison, Kansas with Sr. Helen Beuning, OSB
Karen’s sense of joy in the alphabet existed as a child, as she was encouraged to write thank-you letters by her parents. In the third grade, she mimicked her classmates’ signatures to pass the time. After college, she was with her cousin, LeRoy Haslag, a prominent central Missouri sign painter, who realized her love of her and her ability to write with a brush.
Karen also had an early love of music and started playing the piano at the age of 10. At age 11, she Karen aspired to be a music and art teacher. Karen holds a bachelor’s degree in music, with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, along with lifetime credentials in music education and general education. After two years of teaching music and art in the area, she moved to San Francisco in 1972 for graduate school at San Francisco State University and earned a master’s degree in Creative Arts Education. Karen has developed an alphabet enrichment program for classroom teachers titled “Handwriting: A Celebration of the Alphabet.”
Karen’s goal has been to teach calligraphy and related alphabet projects to young people and teachers. She has delivered presentations at the California national, state and local level and for publishing companies with “A Celebration of the Alphabet,” a photo/lecture on the history and evolution of the alphabet accented by examples of children’s work.
In the 1980s, Karen was invited to be a guest presenter at hands-on calligraphy sessions for “Medieval Month” at public libraries in San Francisco and Oakland through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Classwork by her students was selected for publication in “Italic Handwriting for Young People”, a national competition. Over the years, Karen has visited many colleagues in schools across the United States engaged in successful programs using handwriting and cursive handwriting.
The early 1970s in San Francisco was part of a great calligraphy renaissance. Three calligraphy societies were started in 1974 in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City. Karen has been a member of The Friends of Calligraphy in San Francisco since 1975. She served on the FOC’s board of directors from 1985 to 1988.
Karen resumed her formal study of calligraphy in 1973. She had golden opportunities through the FOC Workshops to study with leading calligraphers from the US and Europe. Karen’s calligraphic style was greatly influenced by studying brush lettering with Alan Blackman of San Francisco and cursive calligraphy with David Meckelburg of Los Angeles. Other important workshops have been held with Donald Jackson, Ieaun Rees, Fr. Edward Catich and Thomas Ingmir. Other significant influences were the handwriting of Hermann Zapf and Hela Basu of Germany, Eric Gill and Ann Camp of England, and Susie Taylor of San Francisco.
Karen has done several jobs in the bread and butter of calligraphy: wedding invitations, baby announcements, name tags, concert flyers and programs, certificates, posters, poems, T-shirt and mug designs, window signs, and various billboards .
His absolute love is imaginative and creative calligraphy done in color. She prefers to work with a German-made steel nib, “Brause”, with Windsor-Newton gouache mixed with distilled water for pen and ink work. This provides a dense, opaque letter that stands up to the paper. His favorite brushes are the Artsign 865 and 867 series.
One of Karen’s favorite calligraphy hobbies has been creating calligrams, which are words turned into images with free written content. “Teapot” and “Lemon Meringue Pie” are two included in the exhibit. Calligrammes date back to medieval hand-crafted books.
Karen has exhibited in most of the Friends of Calligraphy member shows in San Francisco since 1975 and invitational shows in Northern California and elsewhere. Three pieces are in the Richard Harrison Permanent Collection of Calligraphy, San Francisco Public Library, which boasts the largest collection of handwriting by West Coast calligraphers. In September 2022, Karen was FOC Featured Calligrapher. Karen has the handwriting in many private collections, mostly commissioned works.
Karen and her husband moved to Jefferson City in 2017. At the suggestion of her longtime friend, Vivian Carwile, she joined the Jefferson City Art Club. Karen has enjoyed serving on the JCAC board of directors as second vice president from 2020 to 21 and occasionally performs in shows.
Karen was also a church music director and organist/choir director for many years and is a member of the American Guild of Organists. In her last position as a school music teacher, she often displayed large banners with calligraphic song lyrics (or fancy fonts) to make the students’ singing engaging.
Karen is dedicated to the belief that children recognize beauty and that the values of arts education should be valued and made a priority in schools.
Karen is currently the JCAC Featured Artist at Hawthorne Bank, 3701 W. Truman Blvd. The show runs January 30-March 17.
To see more of Karen’s handwriting, go to:
JCAC website: www.jeffersoncityartclub-missouri.com
Instagram FOC: https://www.instagram.com/p/CiVx5BjhbOR/?igshid=MDJmNzVkMjY=
Karen’s Instagram: @karen_c_haslag_calligrapher
Notecards quotes from Winifred Baker, the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, George Eliot and Isaiah 55:12 (from “The Peaceable Kingdom” by American composer Randall Thompson) Leann Porrello/News Tribune