Arabic Calligraphy Workshop

I was recently invited to run a workshop on Arabic Calligraphy at the University of Toronto, Mississauga. The workshop was organized by the Muslim Students Association.

We initially planned for 25 participants but ended up with about 40 enthusiastic people attending the workshop. I was glad to see that everybody stuck with it and there were more than a few people who picked up the lessons very quickly.

We arranged for all participants to have a pad, ink and a qalam to work with during the workshop. I prepared the qalams myself and tested each one to make sure it worked properly. We used Canson Finger Paint pads (available at Currys in the children’s section) which has a coated paper that provides a very good surface for practice with reed pens.

We used Speedball India ink which, while jet black, did not flow very well. It tended to dry out and get deposited on the tips of the Qalams requiring frequent cleaning. I used Noodler’s Black for my demonstration and it works beautifully in terms of flow – it does not go on very dark but that is fine for practice work.

The qalams (reed pens) took a bit of work. I could not find a source for reed pens in Toronto. What I did find were 1/2 inch bamboo plant stakes at a local flower shop. The bamboo was thick walled and I ended up having to drill through a couple of inches of the ends to make the shaping and cutting a bit easier. In the end they worked quite nicely but it was hard work making 44 of them (and I have the blisters to prove that :-).

Here are some pictures from the event:

The UTM MSA facebook page has a number of pictures of the event at: UTM MSA Calligraphy Workshop 2014

I had a lot of fun and from what I hear, the participants did too.

Categories: Miscellanea

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2 replies »

  1. Hmm I think I posted my query in the wrong place. THIS sounds fabulous, your course. I’m still trying to find illuminated arabic script for the word LALE or tulip. I understand its similarity to Allah is what made the flower significant in Islam. I do lighthearted but thoroughly researched lectures voluntarily to seniors residences and the ‘history’ of the tulip is one of them…it singularly lacks this image. Apart from which the word itself is quite beautifully sinuous as opposed to ‘our’ rather clunky tulip…which we acquired courtesy of a misunderstanding when flower was described to a visitor in turkey ca 1540 as looking like a turban (tuliban) and ‘we’ thought tulip and have stuck with it.
    Hope you can help.

  2. Thank you for your comment Liz. I know that the Tulip flower is prominent in Turkish art at one point but I’m not aware of the word (Lale – from Farsi) having any special religious significance in Islam. Both Allah and Lale is written with three letters, Alif (a), Laam (l) and haa (h) but the order is different which makes them look very different to Arabic/Farsi/Urdu readers in my opinion. I have seen Allah written in the shape of the Tulip but that is another thing.

    The idea is interesting though – and with Spring just around the corner might make for an interesting project. Writing Lale in the shape of a Tulip – stay tuned 🙂


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