The beauty of the pen: Suzie Beringer creates art with letters and shapes

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Suzie Beringer has always loved handwriting. “It’s part of who and what I am,” she says. “My dad loved pens, and I remember standing on tip-toe in downtown Bellingham, at the Griggs store, trying out different pens with him. It is one of my fondest memories.

Her father has been gone for many years now, but she says she feels a connection with him when she writes, and especially when she discovers a new pen that writes smoothly.

Suzie graduated from Meridian High School in 1977 and attempted to move out at one point, before returning less than a year later. “I can’t leave,” she said. “It is the house.”

Her earliest memory of writing was on the wall of her childhood home on Laurel Road.

“I remember how I felt when I stuck the pencil into the surface of the wall – it was covered with felt paper and it was so magical and good. The house no longer holds and how I would have liked to have a small piece of this wall to put in my studio; instead, I put that experience and the piece of that wall in my memory and took it out every now and then.

Suzie’s work is characterized by light letters on dark backgrounds. Lettering can also include artwork. Photo courtesy of Suzie Beringer

She married after high school, had two children, divorced, and then went to school to study commercial art as a single parent. She is now married to Chuck Beringer. When he saw that she wasn’t happy in her job at the time, he encouraged her to do what she really wanted. She has.

“I’ve been doing lettering for over 40 years, but serious lettering for 21 years.” Nineteen years ago, Suzie made a commitment to write every day, if only for a very short time. “When I’m away from my studio, I always have paper and pencil with me and I carefully draw letters. It counts. I stayed true to my commitment [and] I have seen a lot of progress in my work, but best of all, I get lost in creation, discovery and exploration.

Suzie instituted a daily practice of lettering almost 20 years ago and enjoys getting lost in creation, discovery and exploration. Photo courtesy of Suzie Beringer

Suzie says the exploration has taken her beyond staying in the forms of letters on paper that many others are content to do. While in Boston 10 years ago visiting family, she looked around a beach, found a discarded plastic fork, and began producing stylish messages there. She photographed him to save before the water took him away.

Now she travels on purpose, always with a similar tool, to prepare. “I like to write happy things to brighten up someone’s day.”

Newspapers line the shelves at his Bellingham studio and are dated to show his progress. Good light shines through the large windows of her house on the south side.

“I like to write happy things to brighten up someone’s day.” Photo courtesy of Suzie Beringer

Suzie mainly works in series. Her current work is “The Cloths of Heaven”, based on a poem by William Butler Yeats published in 1899. As she multiplies multiples with the same concept, she grows and changes and grows even more.

Water, tea or coffee and sweets are nearby. She listens to a playlist of 2CELLOS, Mary Chapin, music from the 60s or Italian pianist Ludovico Einaudi. As Suzie works with words, she finds it easier to listen to instrumental music and not get distracted by the lyrics.

Suzie takes a different approach from others: her backgrounds are dramatic, with letters appearing in white or gold. Gold is used sparingly, for accent. “You want to look like a movie star making a cameo appearance,” she says.

Suzie Beringer generally likes to work sparingly with gold as an accent, but she also likes to experiment. Photo courtesy of Suzie Beringer

Suzie is fortunate to have two studio spaces. Her second studio is in her current winter home in Sun Peak, BC, where she and her husband spend their winters “skiing and playing in the snow”.

For 16 years, Suzie taught at Stampadoodle & The Paper Café, a retail store started by Steve and Wendy Schwartz that closed in 2019. Suzie has taught in many other locations in the United States and Canada. Last year, she taught calligraphy guilds across the country via Zoom, as well as a faculty member at this year’s International Calligraphy Conference, Legacy III.

A close look at a pen used for lettering and what it can create in the hands of a professional. Lettering is more than creating words, it is also shapes and decorative elements. Photo courtesy of Suzie Beringer

As a resident of Whatcom County, Suzie believes in supporting local businesses. She will be teaching this fall at Bellingham Art and happiness, near hardware sales. The little store is owned by a former friend of Stampadoodle, Elli Anderson.

You can dig deeper into Suzie’s work on her Instagram pages; a website is under construction at www.penstrokedesign.com. She sources calligraphy objects – feathers, 24-karat gold leaf for gilding – through John Neal Bookstore and Paper and ink arts).

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