My husband David sitting at the little letter writing desk in our room at the Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita in Matera, Italy, 2013.


My husband David sitting at the little letter writing desk in our room at the Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita in Matera, Italy, 2013.

Made by hand.

Handmade Letters was born out of my appreciation of the beauty and simplicity of hand-crafted goods. The inspiration came to me on a trip to Matera, in the Basilicata region of Italy. Matera sits above a deep ravine, where houses are dug into the caverns that rise above the ravine. Many of these caverns have been converted into churches, stores, restaurants and hotels.

I was able to spend the night at one of the hotels, the Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita, a truly unforgettable experience in itself. When I explored the town, I was struck by what I observed. The culture was permeated by a connection to work with one's hands. When something is made by hand—and made well—the finished product actually shows the work that went into making it. Work by hand connects us to our world, and to each other. I realized on that trip that I was missing this connection in my own work.

The inspiration for Handmade Letters was my realization that we lost something when we stopped sending letters to each other. Letters are how we connect when we can't be together. Our parents tried to replicate this connection by sending cards they bought at the drugstore. And our generation has tried to connect by e-cards, e-mails, and social media. These virtual connections have enabled us to contact everyone we've ever met all at once, and without thought or effort. But there's a reason we often save our notes and letters to each other, but not our tweets. Sometimes the simplest efforts to connect are also the deepest. It is with this motivation that I hope Handmade Letters can help people reconnect with the special ones around them.


Staff of Handmade Letters


Working on a letter commission.


Working on a letter commission.

I am Janice.

I have been obsessed with handwriting since I was a girl. In school, I noticed which of my classmates had the most interesting penmanship, and tried to adopt their styles as my own. It was not unusual for my handwriting to change several times in a school year. There's so much beautiful handwriting all around us.

Calligraphy has been a wonderful way for me to explore form and style. There's nothing more satisfying than carefully and methodically writing out letter forms by hand. I especially like seeing my work come together in a word, a sentence, and a long letter to a special one. 

I am a self-taught calligrapher, but have studied pointed-pen and broad-pen styles with Pat Blair, Harvest Crittenden, Marta Legeckis, Lee Ann Clark, Yukimi Annand, Yves Leterme, and Sheila Waters. I'm a member of the Washington Calligraphers Guild and the International Association of Master Penman, Engrossers, and Teachers of Handwriting (IAMPETH).

When I'm not practicing calligraphy or writing letters, I enjoy reading graphic novels, re-watching the Wire, and finding the best places for moules frites and sundaes.


Frances giving the nod of approval. Letters beautifully created by my Flourish Forum Holiday Exchange group.


Frances giving the nod of approval. Letters beautifully created by my Flourish Forum Holiday Exchange group.

In Memoriam
Frances of Woolslayer Way
(1997-2017)

I am saddened that my calligraphy companion is no longer with us.

Frances was with me when I started my calligraphy journey so many years ago. She always sat by my side in her chair while I worked, no matter how late into the night. She was also very quick to walk or sit on whatever work I had arranged on the floor for photo taking. Whether she walked passed or lingered, I took it as an indication of her feedback on my work.  

My calligraphy is inextricably tied to my memories of her. It is in her memory that I dedicate this website.