My name is Pete Barkelew... founder of Wordart and I'm the primary artist for the production of contemporary calligraphy, hand lettering and letterforms. I am proud to offer my specialty services, free of charge, to any non-profit organization or major fund raising event which directly benefits children of any race, creed or color.

Please understand that I cannot perform the exact same services normally offered to paying clients. But, I am willing to provide special orders for lettering to be used in promoting events to benefit children. Expenses such as faxing, scanning, long distance calls, etc. should be kept to a minimum or reimbursed when possible. Please call me with your request, explanation of need(s), delivery info and other arrangements necessary to help you childrens' benefit... and I will respond as best I can to provide these free graphic art elements.

Thank you for visiting and for your interest.

Contact Pete Barkelew by email at
or you can call 706.546.5058    Fax: 706.534.8694
169 Tuxedo Road • Athens, GA 30606-4002 USA

A Little Background Information
About Pete Barkelew and his Wordart

I have been doing calligraphy and "wordart" since I was in high school, from 1965 to 1967. Over the following years, I used it for personal reasons - such as making invitations, publicity posters, etc., for much of my volunteer work - and later added it to my graphic design services as more and more people requested it.

By 1983, I was lettering logos and slogans for numerous regional clients, so I started marketing this work as my specialty in 1985. The Write Direction... handy at drawing attention... was born.

Armed with the full belief that uniquely and professionally lettered words stood out from all of the commercial text, that was used everyday in print advertising, I set out to become one of the top names in this highly specialized arena. But, after a few years of spending more money on marketing my services than what I earned, and after watching type font design after design resemble calligraphy or hand lettering, I began to give up hope I could continue making a living as a full time letterer. Until now! Today, with internet marketing, I am now providing these services over the worldwide web.

In these web pages are some of the custom lettering assignments I've produced over the past two decades.

The Calligraphy I Know and Love

By Pete Barkelew
Contemporary Calligrapher

I must admit, from the start, I do not know as much about the history and tradition of the art of calligraphy as I would like ( or should, as an authority). However, this does not mean I can't do justice to the subject, because I'm a fine researcher, and I always produce things above expectations. So, in time, I will capture a great deal of data, instructions, samples, and history of calligraphy and hand lettering at this site for all who are interested to read and enjoy.

How did all this get started?

I began learning to do calligraphy in high school, my senior year, as a part of a commercial art class. I remember, as future artists, we were instructed to create and perfect our signature which would be placed on our artwork. Many students honed in on one or two, while I tried to produce 20 different styles. Not long after that we were asked to purchase calligraphy pens, ink and paper to study the art for more than a week. Again, while most students practiced one style - Gothic, Blackletter, Old English, Chancery, etc. - I tried to do all of them. When I won two awards for pieces submitted to an exhibition contest, I knew I would love this art.

This is why I mentioned the signature-study prior to learning calligraphy. I began using my Speedball pens, with 'C' and 'D' nibs, to do my various signatures, as well as slogans of the day and famous quotes. As a result I formed a style of script writing I refer to as contemporary calligraphy. After I graduated, and went on to college, where I studied music education as a trumpet performance major, I only dabbled with the pens occasionally. But, as the resident artist, I was asked to design the concert programs, posters and college newspaper ads, where I used my letter-form experience to produce this art. The accolades I received encouraged me to pursue a career in the arts.

Having gotten married to my college sweetheart (who is today still the love of my life, after 28 years) after college, and playing trumpet professionally at night, I soon learned my early-rising, schoolteacher-wife could not keep up with me. So, I gave up my performance career and entered sales, although I was offered two teaching positions as a high school band director. I turned both opportunities down because I simply did not have the patience to teach beginning musicians. But, I was fairly talented in creating artistic marching band half-time shows, and relished that aspect of the position.

Here's where the calligraphy blossomed

In the Spring of 1975, after three years in sales and three relocations within three states, we settled down in Athens, Georgia. While working in the insurance business, I made a client of a local artist, Tom, who asked my late-night help on a program he was designing. That's when the bug bit me to return to artwork. In the summer of 1976, he and I agreed to open a part-time graphic arts studio to produce ads, logos, etc. locally. He was the creative guy and I was the salesman. Because I was new in the area, he knew more business owners and secured more of the work initially, and I found myself lured more toward the production of the artwork. Then the bottom fell out. Tom, who also worked for the local newspaper, was offered a publishers position at a local newspaper in Columbia, SC, and understandably, he accepted the job. He left me with a new business, office space and equipment expense, while I had little knowledge of advertising, nor the contacts to adequately support a startup business. I made a go of it for about two more years, with my wife out-earning me as a newly licensed schoolteacher (her beginning salary was pretty slim, but the health benefits were welcomed). I took on another partner, Tim, who had just graduated from the University of Georgia, located here in Athens, as a graphic designer. While he added a nice element of creativity, the going was difficult and we were forced to close up shop in 1979.

A year prior to closing our company, Promo-Graphics, I attended a seminar in Atlanta ( about 65 miles west of Athens) where I met three principle partners of a major graphic arts firm called The Alphabet Group. They served national ad agencies and graphic arts firms located all over the Southeast with illustrations, typography, camera work and "Identicolor" color-matching proofs. They hired me as a traveling sales rep covering a territory from South Florida to Richmond, Virginia. While I learned a great deal meeting with and selling art services to talented, successful creatives, I did not enjoy all of the traveling. So, I started moonlighting as a freelance from home, featuring calligraphy as part of my design services. I didn't have much time to produce with the traveling job, so I resigned after 16 months and went full time with Barkelew Productions.

Late 1980, I won the small account with a local motel that just secured a Sheraton franchise. In addition to producing their collateral materials, I was also responsible for attracting attention to their new restaurant and it's smorgasbord menu. I decided to use calligraphy to highlight the entire Seafood buffet for their Friday and Saturday night affairs. When the small (2 col. x 8") ad broke for a three day run, it stood out among all of the commercial type and graphics like a sore thumb. Luckily the ad was seen and read, and the restaurant was packed, with parties waiting in the street to get in. That's when I realized the power of contemporary calligraphy... it naturally attracts the eye and creates its own appeal.

Why does calligraphy stand out and appeal to the senses?

Earlier in my graphics career, while developing Promo-Graphics, I read an interesting article published by Advertising Age, the industry's most popular trade magazine. It was about an extensive research study provided by a national ad agency, Young & Rubicom, I believe. It spoke of the intuitive nature of people to align a product with their lives, lifestyles and dreams. It stressed the importance of including human beings in the illustrations or photographs showing how a product or service worked. For example, when displaying a car, boat, lawnmower, etc., avoid showing the product without a person using it. If the image is too small to show the person with a box of cereal or new razor, at least include a human's hand holding the product. This creates an instant image in the viewer's mind of how it applies to his or her life.

This is why I believe calligraphy plays an important role in advertising. It is the easily recognizable fact that these letters are formed by hand, not a machine. And human nature makes our eyes attracted to this art over and above other commercial graphics which are meticulously positioned mechanically. In a world where we are bombarded with ad graphics virtually everywhere we look, it's refreshing and interesting to recognize and appreciate the beauty of hand-crafted letters. In fact, I believe it is the minor imperfections of fine calligraphy which make it appealing to the human eye. And about every 20 years or so, lettering makes an evolutionary comeback. Allow me to explain.

In the early 1980s, many national chains implemented advertising and marketing campaigns build around a slogan (today referred to as a positioning statement) which was hand lettered utilizing the appeal mentioned earlier. If this slogan was typeset with commercial type, even in the style of lettering or calligraphy, it would look too cold and commercial. Remember these phrases? "There's more for your life at Sears." "Kmart... the saving place." I honestly believe they chose lettering to reflect the human touch.

Many years earlier, perhaps the thirties and forties, 'signatures' (today referred to as logos and trademarks) were designed and registered to distinguish the corporate identities we are so familiar with today. Many companies still use their original scripted logos with some modern-day, contemporary modifications, including: Coca-Cola, Kleenex, General Mills, Johnson & Johnson, etc. These logos were originally called signatures because that's what they were. It became commonplace to place the 'signature" (logo) near the bottom right side of the full page ads they ran in magazines, newspapers, on billboards, etc.... the same position you still place your signature when you sign a letter to someone. It is still extremely popular to incorporate calligraphy as part of, or entirely, any new logo designed today.

I remember frequenting garage sales and flea markets (with my newlywed wife) and finding magazines like LIFE, Saturday Evening Post, LOOK, etc. from the fifties which were almost entirely made up of calligraphy and hand lettering. In addition to the sig-logos advertised, along with lettered package designs, virtually all of the headers of articles were hand lettered for eye-catching appeal against the stodgy, commercial-looking hot-lead letterpress typesetting. Of course, back then, there weren't very many typefaces to select from... Times Roman, Courier, Optima, Park Avenue, and Billboard to name a few. Thus, the art directors of these consumer magazines elected to jazz up their layouts with fine lettering.

Even today, you would be hard pressed to find any greeting cards, with any artistic appeal, which did not use calligraphy and lettering in some fashion - rarely commercial type, even though there are thousands of typefaces today, especially those designed to simulate calligraphy. This brings up a most interesting point. Why is the most popular form of personalized print communication almost exclusively designed with calligraphy? As stated before, I believe it's because it reflects a personal touch, not commercialism. The greeting card industry today is over $90 Billion a year, and with good reason. It's the most popular way to share feelings and nurture relationships, express concerns and foster encouragement. This is why, even in the infancy of the Internet, electronic cards (eCards, iCards, Postcards, eGreetings, etc.) are becoming so popular and widely used. Companies are creating programs and scripts totally free so web developers can offer emailable cards right from their web sites. I even have one, called, where I have lettered hundreds of famous quotes and Bible verses, combined them with colorful photographs and fine art, and allow visitors to email them anywhere absolutely free. All I ask in return is for users to subscribe to my free Monday morning ezine, which announces the newest of my ecard designs at my site. How do I benefit from this freebie service? Hopefully, it will "draw attention" to my custom lettering work, and some of my visitors will even order T-shirts, mugs and mouse pads with this specialty art.

What happened to calligraphy in the eighties?

As I was watching the graphics world become infatuated with hand lettered logos, slogans, packaging, etc., I put my first marketing brochure out with a few of my recent calligraphic designs. I mailed it to TV Studios, ad agencies and in-house art departments of conglomerates. These creatives were not so interested in the traditional styles of calligraphy, nor the swirling look of beautiful writing. They were inclined to what they referred to as "street graphics." Snappy, flashy, active-looking handwriting that was easy to read, yet had modification capabilities and the ability to be reduced substantially. I had many distinctively different styles to offer (many times asked how many calligraphers were on staff), and gave the creative several options to present to their ad clients (often told too many choices, hence difficult to arrive at a decision). I was very proud of this fact, although I knew in my heart there were many other more polished letterers out there (see Authority links). But, I delivered... and prospered... until so many of the new calligraphic-style typefaces were created. If that wasn't enough, many of the creatives I supplied art to, who used to rely on typographers to produce their professional type, soon got their own computers in-house, with thousands of type options... including you know what... lettering styles. Therefore, my gravy train dried up, I got depressed, and stopped advertising to these buyers. Until now.

Today, I have a web site that allows everyone to see my work and custom order it for their own use. I also have a free inspirational ecard site called, which co-promotes my custom services.

I still feel certain that both contemporary and traditional calligraphy is coming back strong again. In fact, it shall never die entirely because of it's beauty, history, elegance, and human touch. Speaking of which, it's the imperfect human touch that makes calligraphy an art, and not a commercial product. I am often asked why I don't simply use calligraphy typefaces for my work and eCards. The fact remains that no computer program exists which will give the flow and layout of words the same look and feel you can attain with freestyle calligraphy. The way the ascenders and descenders of certain letters can run together to create an embellished style to an entire phrase, quote, title or slogan, cannot be captured the same way with commercial, preset spacing, leading, kerning of modern type. There may be those who will argue this point, but that's my gut feeling, and I'm sticking with it.

In closing, let me touch on the sweetness, beauty and economy of Internet web sites versus the old fashioned marketing techniques using media ads and print brochures. In the old days, about three years ago and before, if you wanted to describe your product, service, store, whatever, you would have to design a brochure, booklet, or a series of ads (campaign), to adequately spoon-feed the information to the uneducated or unknowing consumer. If you opened a retail store at one location, and was successful, you would have to duplicate the effort again to open another location. There's the brick and mortar (if building a stand-alone structure), building shelving displays, installing electrical and telephone lines, decorating, hiring staff, insurance, and so on... time after time, if you wish to grow and expand physically. The logistics of growing into new markets around the state, country and the world could be horrendous. BUT... with digital production... you can build one web site, add, delete and modify on the fly, 24/7, and link it to search engines, compatible demographic sites as well as virtual malls and other shopping related outlets. This is phenomenal! No more redesigning (except to upgrade your site layout). No more reprinting, remailing, rebuilding, reinstalling, reinsuring, re-this or re-that. Once it is built and marketed, you simply maintain it, add to it, and delete as needed. All the information anyone could want or need can be made available through your site, or linked to your site. Your prospective customers just let their fingers do the clicking.

Where do we go from here?

Truthfully, I'm not sure. Like the web site I described above, this information and my experiences continue to grow daily. I do know that I am excited again about doing this work, and I'm delighted to see others pick up pens and do their own styles. It is very important, whether you are a beginner or advanced calligrapher, you hone you own style and skills. To look like every other traditional style does not stimulate the growth and demand for lettering as it should. Calligraphy is not dead, nor dying, as long as we continue to embellish the art and develop new uses. If we all stay constant, doing the same styles, end users will only need to contract the select few of the best doing these styles. But, in my mind, as long as words are being printed to communicate, especially feelings, the calligraphic art form will be there to answer the call... in an attractive, personalized, and emotional presentation.

If you would like information about our work, please call us at:

Thank you for your interest and support!