by Rose Sgarlato
As seen in the Sparta Independent
All it took was a set of fountain pens at the age of eight to jumpstart Kathy Milici’s talent for of calligraphy.
"Since I was a child, I had an unexplained fascination with letters. I didn’t draw pictures, just letters," said Milici, owner of 24 Karat Designs Calligraphy.
Milici attributes some of her appreciation for beautiful penmanship to a family friend, Roland Eves. "He had the most beautiful handwriting. He would send our family letters and postcards from his travels. I was totally in awe of his swirling, perfect letterforms and tried to emulate them in my own writing," said Milici. According to Milici, the word calligraphy means ‘beautiful writing.’
Based in Newton, 24 Karat Designs Calligraphy has satisfied many brides-to-be. Milici s specializes in wedding calligraphy: invitations, envelopes, place cards, seating charts and menus.
"About 90 percent of my work is wedding work. I average 1,200 wedding envelopes a month. It makes a fabulous first impression to receive such a beautiful envelope," Milici said. Milici’s 28 years of experience also lends itself to poetry, song lyrics and unique commissioned projects.
Although Milici graduated Sussex Tech in 1975 majoring in commercial art, there were no calligraphy courses available at that time. "I would go to the library and get every book I could on calligraphy. So I am self-taught from different books. There was not enough information I could get," Milici said.
At the age of 19, Milici was asked to teach her skill at Kittattinny High School’s adult education program as well as the Sparta Library. While in her 20’s, Milici sought out more professional direction with educational societies such as the Society of Scribes and the International Association of Master Penmen, Engrossers and Teachers of Handwriting (IAMPETH).
The Society of Scribes defines itself as ‘a non-profit educational organization which promotes the study, teaching and practice of calligraphy and related disciplines.’ IAMPETH is a similar organization but internationally recognized.
"I took classes at the Society of Scribes to advance my own level of skills as well as learn new styles. And I have studied with master calligraphers of IAMPETH, some of whom have worked for the White House. So, it’s been a building process of advancing my own skills," Milici said.
Milici is skilled at both the pointed pen and broad pen styles of calligraphy allowing for versatility. "Most calligraphers practice only one style. I learned the broad pen first which is more cursive and italic than the formal pointed pen styles," Milici added.
For the past ten years, Milici has operated 24 Karat Designs as a full-time business out of her home. In search of a studio space, Milici and her husband Santo purchased an 1872 three-story brick building in March of 2005 at 9 Moran Street in Newton.
The building has been in renovations since January of this year. Presently, there are two storefronts; one is occupied by the Sussex County Arts and Heritage Council and the other which is being redone will be the new 24 Karat Designs Studio, a ‘by appointment only’ studio also offering private lessons and classes. On the upstairs level, there are renovated residential apartments.
"Our hope is to restore the façade of the building it to the original décor. We are proud to be part of the Newton improvement efforts. On the ground level, I will have my studio space which is a life long dream for any artist," said Milici.
Milici is optimistic that her business will open in the new space in June. In the interim, Milici continues to work out of her home and teaches several classes at Sussex County Community College.
"I still love it as much as I did when I was 8 and I’ll be 50 this year!" Milici exclaimed.