Weathergrams: poetry + art + nature

In the newsletter from San Francisco Public Library, a paragraph about "weathergrams" caught my attention. Perhaps you have trees in your neighborhood that have featured a bin of tags and a pencil and the tags tied to branches as "wishes." Perhaps you are familiar with the Japanese custom of tanzaku, the writing out prayers or wishes and attaching scrolls to branches during the Tanabata festival. Weathergrams are similar, created by Lloyd Reynolds (1902-1978) for his calligraphy students. His explanation is in a free booklet pdf here.

The basic idea is to write a spontaneous poem, thought, or observation in ten words or fewer, then scribe it onto a strip of paper bag, 2.5" x 10", and writing with vermillion acrylic paint and waterproof India ink. Fold over the top, punch a hole, attach a string or jute cord, and tie to a branch. 

His thoughts were to put them up at the solstice or equinox and let them weather until the next season. According to the booklet cited above, the ink would remain as long as the paper and would not run. The paper would take on the coloration or weather of the season.

If you are someone who has words constantly running through your head, possibly even narrating your life and what you see, it's a chance to stop a moment and catch some of them. 

How could I not try this? A few observations came quickly to mind, just based on the moment. 

Almost had a neighbor helper.

Materials: paper bag; hole punch; jute or cord or string; pen and waterproof ink; white pencil and ruler (optional, if you want to make lines to guide your writing); rubberstamp or other decorative element (optional)

To make: Cut paper bags into strips, 2.5" x 10" (6.5 cm x 25.5 cm). Fold over one end for the top, about 1" (2.5 cm). Punch a hole in the center at that top. Take a length of jute or other cord or string, about 12-18" (30.5 cm - 46 cm) and double it. Push the folded edge through the hole a bit, loop the cord through and gently pull the ends tightly. Tie a knot in the ends, and trim, if desired.

You can write it any way you like. I learned italic calligraphy in high school, and took out a dip pen and some waterproof Calli ink to see if I could still do it.

Wrote out my 'gram. Wrote it out again. While it is not supposed to be perfect, I did want to feel somewhat satisfied with it.

Found a little stamp I had carved and used a little acrylic ink on a paper towel as a stamp pad. I'll be hanging this one on the solstice, Wednesday, December 21, 2022. Join me?


Speaking of the library, the San Francisco Public Library Main Library has a beautiful collection of calligraphic works on the 6th floor in the Special Collections Department, including weathergrams by Christine Colasurdo. You can go and request to see them. 

Meanwhile, the Hand Bookbinders of California has their 50th Annual Members' Exhibition up now until January 8, 2023, same floor. A two-fer! December 11, Sunday, features a walkthrough of the exhibit, the stories behind the bindings, with Dominic Riley, Michael Burke, and Coleen Curry.


Liz A said…
I have long been one of the fortunate recipients of weathergrams from Fiona Dempster and Barry Smith in Australia, who letterpress peace missives to honor the International Day of Peace on September 21 of each year ... I very much like the idea of making my own and will join you on the solstice
Alisa said…
Liz A—what a pleasure to be connected by art!
I'll be joining in this ritual on the upcoming Solstice with my old friend, artist & classicist, Barbara Forbes.

Thanks for the prompt. This is a wonderfully simple, popular form that's also quite powerful.

Big Solstice Shout Out!

p.s. I wonder what orange tabby "Buddy" contributed!?

Rrosa S.

Alisa said…
Rrosa, Buddy contributes Good Cheer, always! And to a calendar…you'll see.