Calligraphy an art form that transcends time

Hobby, vocation, art form…

For Gretchen Schaleger, it’s hard to categorize her talents with calligraphy.

Her cluttered office desk in a home bedroom would make it appear a hobby.

The fact that she was recently named the LBCC Sweet Home Center’s teacher of the year makes it a vocation.

Ultimately though, it’s the art form that captured the interest of the talented Schaleger, first as a pupil under Dottie Barringer and now, for many years, as the teacher.

“I like the beauty of it, the shape of the letters, their form,” she said. “I like the feel of the ink on the paper.”

Trained as a nurse, Schaleger became a calligrapher in 1984 when her family moved to the community.

“Mona (Waibel-then LBCC director) showed me the calligraphy class and I’ve been hooked ever since,” Schaleger said. “I’ve either taken a class or taught a class ever since.”

Dottie Barringer was her mentor for many classes and later turned over the classroom to her.

“I never felt I had the least bit of talent when it comes to being artistic,” Schaleger said. “I found I could learn. I liked the colors.”

Calligraphy is fascinating, Schaleger said, the passion for her craft easily seen in her excitement.

“It’s studying. It’s going back in time to the early alphabet. The alphabet is the same but the way it was interpreted by people in different areas is fascinating.”

The people who make up the close knit calligraphy group, known throughout the state as the Sweet Home Bunch, add a special dimension to daily life, Schaleger said.

“I very much enjoy the people. We’ve kind of developed our own social group. They are very caring, very sharing, eager to celebrate when something is good and help out in time of need. I especially like the sharing part.”

Classes run year-round in both the afternoon and evening.

When not in a classroom, Schaleger’s skills are often called upon throughout the community. There are wedding certificates to letter, signs to make for parades, or wall hangings for special friends.

The Sweet Home Bunch moved up a notch or two in prestige last fall when they hosted the All Oregon Calligrapher’s Conference. The event attracted some 160 calligraphers from throughout the state and featured a world-class teacher from Australia, Karen TerHaar.

The local group will again host the event in October.

“It wasn’t just the class that put it on. There were lots of people who came to help out. Some hadn’t taken a class in years,” Schaleger said.

A fast-paced lifestyle leaves little time for Schaleger to enjoy her hobby outside the classroom.

“I would like to have some time to just sit and experiment,” she said.

Schaleger said receiving the LBCC recognition was an honor. Her afternoon class has about 14-16 students and the evening class enrolls about nine or so.

“I attribute it to the people in the class, the people at LBCC I work with,” she said.

Mary Sue Scott, LBCC Sweet Home Center coordinator, said of Schaleger, “Gretchen has always been a delight to work with. She is dependable and goes the extra step for her students. She recognizes students’ abilities and makes them feel valued no matter what level they are at with their calligraphy. I appreciate her enthusiasm for her art form and her ability to fill her classes term after term.”

In addition to her LBCC activities, Schaleger is active in the Friends of the Library, in which she serves as treasurer, is president of the library board, a member of PEO, is secretary at the Lutheran church and secretary of the church’s women’s group.

She has five children and nine grandchildren.