The loveliness of letters

When the mail carrier stops at Linda O’Neill’s Sequim residence, she spends a little more time than she does at most homes, leafing through the letters, looking for beautiful envelopes.

“When the postman comes to my house, she says ‘I love to see what you get,’” laughed O’Neill, who recently moved to Sequim from Southern California.

It’s not hard to see why. O’Neill is president of the 30-member Peninsula Scribes guild and participates in the club’s envelope exchange. Each month, she receives dozens of beautifully-lettered works of envelope art in the mail, hidden between the bills.

For O’Neill, the love for lettering started at a young age.

“I’ve always liked pens and pencils and lettering since I was a little girl,” she said. “I took an italic lettering class and I was hooked.”

For the many years she has been involved with the lettering arts, O’Neill said she has been experimenting with different techniques, including brush lettering where the artist uses a brush instead of a pen and writes with bleach on black paper.

Like O’Neill, the other members of the guild are talented in other art forms, as well. Although the main goal of the group is to create and promote lettering arts, members often create a painting or drawing before lettering on top.

“We not only do calligraphy, we do paper art as well,” O”Neill explained. “Lettering and other arts go hand-in-hand.”

Former president Merrilyn Shape is one of those multi-talented artists. For a recent piece, Shape created a watercolor of three birds frolicking on a tree branch before lettering an excerpt from the book of Matthew over it.

To exchange ideas and share their work with each other, the guild members not only do an envelope exchange, where they mail each other stunningly decorated envelopes, they also have Artist Trading Cards, which they swap like baseball cards.

The ATCs, which are traded worldwide among lettering guilds, all have to be the size of baseball cards — 2.5 inches by 3.5 inches — but can be decorated with any technique. To make it more challenging, the Peninsula Scribes often have themes for their ATCs, the most recent being “Old Glory” in honor of Flag Day.

The guild members said they always are looking for new challenges and often team up with other Puget Sound-area guilds for conferences and ideas. While continuing their own studies, the group members aim to teach the community about their art form, as well.

“We think calligraphy is an art form,” O’Neill said. “We want the public to think of it as beautiful writing, but also as a fine art.”

Seeing the Scribes

The Peninsula Scribes show is open until June 27 at the Sequim Museum and Arts Center. The Scribes also will have a display and demonstration at the Clallam County Fair in August and have a display at “Illuminating the Word” at the Tacoma Art Museum on Aug. 21.

The group welcomes interested community members to visit their meetings, which are held at 10:15 a.m. on the second Friday of each month at the Sequim Library.

For more information, contact president Linda O’Neill at 477-4356 or

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