In 1980, Kathleen Joy O’Brien, the calligrapher and teacher who had inspired many calligraphers in the Puget Sound Area, died of cancer. Kathleen had been secretary to the president of Edmonds Community College. Through this close association, ECC became a hub for calligraphy classes and workshops and, in 1981, the initial site for Letters of Joy.
The newly formed Write On Calligraphers wanted to honor Kathleen’s memory, by passing on her love of calligraphy and related art forms, with a mini-conference. The first Letters of Joy, was held in February of 1981.
The first conference was a one-day event, consisting of a workshop and an evening lecture with local calligrapher and graphic designer Tim Girvin. It included an exhibit of Kathleen’s work. Seventy-five people attended.
Typically the first weekend in May, Letters of Joy includes a Friday evening lecture with the featured speaker followed on Saturday with approximately 20 instructors who teach a wide variety of classes focusing on calligraphy and complementary art for calligraphers. Included in the teaching is the keynote speaker who also teaches three sessions of his or her class, so that almost all attendees will be able sample the teaching style and learn a new technique or two. Participants enjoy choosing three of the offered 2-hour classes.
National and local vendors offer everything from the latest calligraphy tools and toys to decorative papers and crafted items; two silent auctions round out the days’ activities.
In 2021, Letters of Joy was held virtually with videos of all 2-hour courses available for 6 weeks following the May 1 event.