Mary Tebbetts Nichols: Calligraphy

I took calligraphy lessons alongside Sara and Josie with a local calligraphy instructor for my community involvement project. The calligraphy lessons were around an hour in length. Classes would usually involve practicing a single word until we had a decent feel for the writing process. Though I loved learning how to write with energy and elegance, I was especially fond of the conversations we had with the instructor.

I feel that I have a better understanding of how to ask for help and advice in Japanese. This project has forced me out of my comfort zone and encouraged me to ask for clarification when I felt uncertain about an instruction or to share my own thoughts and opinions when a certain approach felt like it was working. In addition to gaining more confidence in my communication strategies, my CIP helped me get a better understanding of the cultural importance of thoughtfulness in Japan. The level of intent that went into the instructor’s every brush stroke or gesture, like offering everyone cough drops when she herself was in the middle of a coughing fit, made me reconsider how I approached my daily life and activities. I found interactions with strangers and public etiquette easier to understand and navigate when trying to follow her example.

I have learned how to navigate social situations in Japanese with greater confidence than I had at the beginning of the program through the calligraphy class. My advice for those looking to take her classes or try calligraphy is to be mindful. Even something as small as taking a moment to think things through, whether it was my next brush stroke or response in a conversation, helped me make use of the language and calligraphy tips I learned.

5 thoughts on “Mary Tebbetts Nichols: Calligraphy

  1. It sounds like you had a truly meaningful CIP experience. I am glad for you.

    You mentioned that your instructor’s behavior caused you to reconsider how you approach daily life and activities. How so and did it lead to a significant change in your mindset/conduct?

    • My instructor took note of a lot of little things, like what foods we liked the most and what types of calligraphy best suited our generally writing styles, and made sure everyone could relax and enjoy the lessons. I’m generally a bit of an airhead but I have been trying to live by her example. Reminding myself to take a step back and think about what I can do to make those around me more comfortable has made it a lot easier to start conversations with people or navigate new social situations.

  2. I’m glad that you got to learn something useful that can help you outside of calligraphy class. I was wondering how many people were in the same class as you, and if there were any Japanese people that you could converse with inside and outside of the class?

    • Sara and Josie were the other KCJS students who joined our instructor’s classes. I loved getting to know our instructor better through the chats we had every week. Our instructor also taught school children, and sometimes they would arrive early for their lessons and talk with us for a short while. Most of the kids were easily embarrassed and quiet as a result but they were generally good-natured and kind; there were two kids who refused to enter the classroom because us foreigners were still there.

    • i took the calligraphy classes with Sara and Josie. We talked with our instructor in Japanese every time we met, but sometimes a few of her other students would join us. Most of these students were younger children and were pretty shy as a result. We still got to chat just a little bit.