Upper Gallery

30 Years of Snow: Calligraphy by Anna Pinto

A hand-crafted card is a gift in itself, in an age when computer-generated “hand-writing” typefaces attempt to mimic the personal touch without quite pulling off the illusion. Hoboken-based lettering artist Anna Pinto has produced snow-themed calligraphic holiday cards for more than 30 years.

“My holiday cards are an opportunity to create something completely for my own pleasure, that I can also share with family, friends and clients,” she adds. Her cards often combine hand-lettering with photographs or drawings, and occasionally hand-coloring or stencils and individual tiny collages.

“After a series of cards based on lines from Dylan Thomas’ “A Child’s Christmas in Wales,” I decided if I just used winter and/or snow as a theme, I wouldn’t have to worry if I was late with my cards as long as they got out before the first day of spring!” The theme continued to resurface as a theme in her cards, as she keeps an eye out for references to snow in her reading throughout the year.

An exhibit of her work, “Thirty Years of Snow: Calligraphy by Anna Pinto,“ will be on display at the Hoboken Museum from Nov. 18 - Dec. 31, featuring her printed cards, along with original pieces using some of the same quotations used in the cards. The exhibit also will include examples of preliminary work and writing for a few of the cards, to give visitors an idea of how they were done. In some cases, the size of the lettering has been reduced dramatically for the final card — so having the original writing will demystify the cards a bit. Her card formats vary quite a bit, often with unusual folds that allow her to include a greeting without printing on both sides.

Pinto cobbled together a lettering education by taking many workshops and classes over the years. “Calligraphy really is drawing: You’re controlling line very precisely,” she says. “I also enjoy watercolor and collage. But I always loved literature as well, so calligraphy seemed like an ideal way to combine both interests.”

Now, she’s an established freelance calligrapher, doing a variety of lettering work, from invitations, envelopes and placecards for social events; citations for educational institutions and corporations; to hand-lettered poems and quotations for individual commissions. She also teaches calligraphy for the Society of Scribes (societyofscribes.org) and other organizations.

Aside from her cards and commissioned lettering projects, some of her most fascinating projects have been film props, ranging from medieval calligraphy for pages of a huge book of spells used in Disney’s “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and lettering on a map for the “The Smurfs,” to writing entries for a 1920s ship manifest for “The Immigrant,” an illuminated spread from Dante’s Inferno for “True Story,” and 1950s-style handwriting for a notebook in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” She notes, “I enjoy the research into the topic as much as the work itself, because it takes me into worlds I might not enter otherwise.”

Pinto moved to Hoboken in 1980 with her husband, Pieter Sommen, to find a more peaceful and affordable place of their own after sharing a large apartment with friends on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village. “Our block had become a kind of tourist circus, but Hoboken felt so familiar, and reminded us of what we loved about the Village: the human scale of the buildings, the coal oven bakeries, delis making their own mozzarella, café con leche at the bodegas, people growing fig trees in their backyards,” she recalls.

“Hoboken has certainly changed dramatically,” she adds, “but we still love it here. My experience of snowy days in Hoboken certainly inspires my choice of quotes. I love the hush that expands as the snow falls and the normally noisy Willow Avenue traffic outside my studio window stops. And I love the graphic geometry in the backyard view from my kitchen, as snow settles on the angles of fire escapes and roof tops and the branches of trees.”

Her work has been exhibited in the show “The Revival of Calligraphy” at the Grolier Club in NYC, as well as in an exhibit along side work by her parents and sister in the “Families/Cities Shift” show at the Susan Teller Gallery in NYC in 2013. The exhibit at the Hoboken Museum will include both originals and printed cards available for purchase. For a glimpse of her work, visit www.annapintocalligraphy.com.

The exhibit is supported by a block grant from the State/County Partnership program for the Arts, administered by the Hudson County Division of Cultural and Heritage Affairs.