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Updated: Apr 13, 2019

The 69th International Association of Master Penman, Engrossers and Teachers of Handwriting annual conference was held this past August and I was fortunate enough to attend. This year it was held at the Hilton City Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and boy was it a treat! I’ve previously attended IAMPETH conference, my last being in Portland, Oregon in 2016. This year the week-long conference was jammed packed with classes, meetings, and demonstrations. In-fact it was so packed I scheduled an extra day just to tour around the city and do some site-seeing for myself since there was not time during the week.

Hilton Milwaukee City Center hotel location of the 2018 IAMPETH convention
Hilton Milwaukee City Center

For those of you who aren’t familiar with IAMPETH it’s a membership based association of calligraphers and penmen from around the world. Based in the United States, anyone can join the association and attend the conference each year. The conference is a week-long meeting of members from around the world located in a different city each year.

The opening day of the conference is all about checking in, picking up your swag bag, and meeting calligraphy friends in person. This is also the time to sleep off that jet-lag because the opening night hosts a reception dinner which gets you amped up for the week ahead and then its straight into calligraphy.

The bulk of your time at the conference is spent in the classroom. Each day you spend eight hours learning a new style of penmanship or brushing up on what you already know. There are four classes a day to choose from ranging in all skill levels and styles of penmanship. After a day of calligraphy you get a break for dinner and then it picks up again with scheduled meetings, lectures, and demos from calligraphers and artisans until bedtime! The conference ends on the 6thnight with a formal closing night banquet where the new IAMPETH committee is sworn in, awards and recognitions are given out, and they reveal the next year’s conference location.

I’m not going to lie, the conference is exhausting. Every day you work hard and you reap the rewards of what you’ve learned. Some days you don’t feel good enough and somedays you are amazed at what you already can do. But you always leave the conference with more knowledge, tips, tricks and new friends then when you first attended.

Class time during the 2018 IAMPETH confrence.
Class time during the 2018 IAMPETH confrence.

My goal each year at the conference is to learn a new skill set and brush up on one that needs work, so this year I decided to learn the art of flourishing. Those beautiful swoops and swirls that are added to letterforms. I told myself that I wanted to study the basics first get those down instead of trying to learn everything all at once so I felt that I had a good understanding of Copperplate and now wanted to expand by taking these flourishing classes.

This was also the first time that I volunteered to help with IAMPETH and was tasked with designing the IAMPETH registration packet for the conference. I spent many hours doing a completely new face lift on the packet and was thrilled with the results. I spent moths communicating with IAMPETH president Debi Zeinert to make an information rich booklet that members would be excited about. I received many compliments on the new registration booklet and I’m happy to announce that I’ve been asked to do the packets for both 2019 and 2020!

My first class at the conference was with Maria Helena Hoksch. Her class focused on flourishing and adding ovals to Copperplate script. This class was my first real introduction into flourishing and understanding how the ovals are divided in half to give balance and harmony. I found it easiest to work in pencil for this class but also go to use the Hunt 101 nib for the first time and I was very pleased at the quality of the nib.

Practicing during Maria's class.
Practicing during Maria's class.

After class on the first day was a fantastic lecture by Paul Antonio on the history of calligraphy. He showed how each hand evolved over the years and morphed into what we now use today. It was Paul's first time at IAMPETH and I was so happy to finally meet him in person.


Day two on the agenda was with Rosemary Buczek who lectured on illuminating and making corporate awards. Rosemary’s class was the class I was looking forward to the most since illumination isn’t often taught. I was eager to pick up tips and tricks from her that I could use to better my illuminating. I can say it did tenfold!

Rosemary's gilded T
Rosemary's gilded letter T.

That night the conference put on a round robin where different artist got to showcase their artistic skills or specialties. At this point I was so exhausted I needed some time to catch up on my sleep so I didn’t attend but there was a lot of buzz about it the next morning.


Day three was spend with Suzanne Cunningham who also taught flourishing. In her class I was able to understand the nuances of flourishing and got to spend some time fine-tuning my grip and working on arm movement. She taught in a very different manner then Maria focusing on each letter as an individual going through the alphabet one-by one.

Notes to myself during Suzanne's class on flourishing.
Notes to myself during Suzanne's class on flourishing.

Thursday night’s after class event was a round table discussion with some of the master penmen of IAMPETH. They talked about the “good ol’ days” working with schools and teaching children cursive and how to keep it alive. There was also some great discussion on the women penmen and their contributions to IAMPETH.


The next day I had class with Anne-Davnes Elser. Who also taught flourishing but her style is very casual, loose, and almost drawn instead of written. Focus was put more so on the embellishing of the flourishes then the flourishing themselves. I was so surprised at what I accomplished in this class. I did not expect to pick up Anne’s style so effortlessly.

My study in Anne's class.
My study in Anne's class.

Friday night was the silent auction. I didn’t buy anything but it’s always fun to see all the great things they have up for bid. Many people submit old calligraphy books, personal artworks or calligraphy tools. There was a lot of people and the silent auction raised over $1,200!


The last day of class was only a half day. I studied signature design with Michael Ward. I’ve been following him for some time and even own one of his blotters (I use it every day). Michael works mostly in Spencerian which I know little about. I tried to adapt it for Copperplate style but it just didn’t work out that well. At this point in the week I was completely exhausted so I mainly spend this class listening and watching instead of practicing.

After class we had a few hours of free time before the closing night banquet. I took a short walk to the Harley-Davidson Museum and toured their museum and campus. I have a new appreciation for the company and got to learn a lot about their history and see the beautiful graphic work from advertisements to the pin striping on the motorcycles.

The very first Harley-Davidson Motorcycle 1903 on display in  the HD Museum.
The very first Harley-Davidson Motorcycle 1903 on display in the HD Museum.

Later that night was the group photo and the closing night banquet where Dr. Joe Vitolo spoke about women calligraphers and a certificate was presented to Debi Zinehert for her run as president. They also announced the next year’s conference in Denver! It was a beautiful dinner and great send off.

Closing night banquet at the 2018 IAMPETH confrence.
Closing night banquet at the 2018 IAMPETH confrence.

Overall the conference was excellent and fulfilling. When I got home I immediately unpacked all the goodies I bought and went through my notes again. It was also nice to look back over my work to see it with fresh eyes. I’m looking forward to next year in Denver, Colorado. I’ve already seen the class list for next year and I think it will be even more exciting! I have just started work on next year’s IAMPETH packet (it takes us about 6 months to put it together and finalize everything!)

If you want to learn more about IAMPETH please visit the website at

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