By Ed Karvoski Jr., Culture Editor
Hudson – Gerry Jackson Kerdok of Hudson has honed her calligraphy skills for over 40 years. Cumulatively for three decades as an educator, she shared her love for creatively-designed letters with both children and adults. Her artwork is exhibited in juried competitions at prominent venues worldwide.
Along the way, she continues to study her favorite art form.
“The beauty of any art form is to find joy in something that you do by hand and can get lost in,” she said. “It’s not necessarily to be the best calligrapher in the world, but to find your joy.”
Jackson Kerdok took many art classes at Framingham State College (now known as Framingham State University), where she majored in elementary education and graduated in 1966. Art was among the subjects she taught for six years as a Framingham elementary school teacher.
“I’m of the age when there was no maternity leave; if you were going to have a baby, you either had to come right back to school or stay home,” she explained. “I stayed home and decided to take a commercial art class – a little, tiny piece of it was calligraphy. I got hooked!”
While working as a commercial artist, she built her calligraphy portfolio by donating her talent to local nonprofit organizations. In 1990, she began a 23-year stint teaching basic lettering and related arts at Worcester Art Museum. In 1991, Hudson selectmen presented her with a citation for her numerous volunteer efforts.
Networking with calligraphy guilds, she learned that the Smithsonian Institution’s National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C., created the Graceful Envelope Contest in 1995. The Smithsonian administered the contest until delegating responsibility to Washington Calligraphers Guild in 2001.
Jackson Kerdok has entered artwork into the contest most years from 1995 to 2018 and achieved 16 wins including three “Best of Show.” Nearby in Maryland for another commitment at the time, she was able to view her first entry in Washington, D.C.
“I’ve had opportunities to study at weeklong international assemblies of lettering artists,” she noted. “I was at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, and got to go to Washington and see my piece at the postal museum. It was wonderful!”
She also attended Washington National Cathedral’s exhibit opening with her 1999 entry. Her most recent entry there in 2017 was chosen for publication on brochures, posters and notecards.
When the Eiffel Tower hosted Salon du Design in 2000, her artwork placed in the top 10.
“That year, we had two kids in college, so going to France was outside our budget,” she said.
Jackson Kerdok practices spontaneous creativity with Scribbled Lives, an international group of calligraphers who commit to create pieces based on weekly online prompts. There are currently 72 participants.
“Everybody in Scribbled Lives gets to see what you post, and then we all comment and learn so much,” she relayed. “Every week, there are 72 pieces of art – all done differently because everyone can do whatever they want with the prompt.”
Among her other online ventures was a six-week class on the Roman capital calligraphy alphabet taught by Yves Leterme from Belgium. Her “classmates” were hundreds of calligraphers worldwide.
“We learned how to do Roman letters in different ways that can be very plain and perfect, or very wild and off the page,” she explained. “You could spend your whole life studying and not learn Romans perfectly.”
Pre-pandemic, Jackson Kerdok exhibited with Masscribes, the New England calligraphers’ organization.
Whether in-person or online, she plans to continue studying calligraphy.
“You can never learn enough,” she said. “There’s always something new to learn or different ways of doing something.”