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Cherryl Avery, Calligraphy Resident at the V&A, January - June 2012

Cherryl Avery, Calligraphy Resident at the V&A, January - June 2012

Cherrell Avery was Calligraphy Resident at the V&A, January–June 2012.

Cherrell Avery lives and works in North London. She graduated with a first class honours degree in Calligraphy from Roehampton Institute, Surrey University, and has since been awarded Fellowship of The Society of Scribes and Illuminators and the Calligraphy and Lettering Arts Society. She is an elected full member of Letter Exchange and co-founder and President of the North London Lettering Association. She is passionate about the many manifestations of the written word.

My work

There are three distinct aspects to my work as a calligrapher: commissions, teaching and lettering art. Since 1988 I have created bespoke, hand lettering for clients who have included Marks and Spencer, Selfridges, Derren Brown, The London Assembly, BT, The Royal Household Physicians and Middlesex University. This work ranges from commercial design for print, advertisements, private consultancy for the film industry, and private commissions.

I am also a qualified and experienced teacher who has taught calligraphy in adult education for many years and has run courses in the UK and Europe. I am a tutor on the Kensington Palace Foundation Degree course and on the Society of Scribes and Illuminators Advanced Training Scheme. I have given demonstrations and workshops at London Museums, and collaborated with multimedia community projects. I also specialise in remedial handwriting tuition for adults and children.


My lettering art has been shown widely. Recent exhibitions include Manna House, Bruges, and the annual East Finchley Open. My work is held in private collections in the UK, Belgium, Holland, Japan and USA. During my formal calligraphy training, I learnt to analyse and write historical scripts using the edged pen, following the tradition that was revived by Edward Johnston at the beginning of the 20th century. I gained confidence in the use of traditional tools and materials such as vellum, quills and gold leaf. This has provided me with a wide vocabulary of materials, lettering and resources to draw upon in my work and enabled a creative freedom based on sound craftsmanship.

My work evolves in response to the meaning of a chosen text, and in considering how the work will be viewed. The texts come from prose, song lyrics and poetry and occasionally my own writing. Beginning with the seed of a design I work flexibly, exploring materials and changing direction as discoveries dictate – using a combination of intuition, play and logic to work towards a finished design. I adapt historical scripts and invent my own letterforms, creating evocative textures and images which are often infused with colour. I hope that my finished work reaches beyond the tangible image to elicit responses that may be emotional, philosophical or contemplative.

I enjoy exploring the connection between language and visual art: hidden meanings and the ambiguities of language and how we communicate hold a fascination for me. I have sometimes used the play of light and shade on manipulated paper and gold leaf, and layers of colour and text to indicate complexity and depth. I am also drawn to the rhythm and texture of pattern in letterforms and decoration.


My fascination for visual language is rooted in my early studies of the classics and philosophy and my interest in modern literature and art history. I have followed courses in painting and ceramics and I am drawn to the expressive marriage of word and image. I take inspiration from diverse genres including the 1960s record sleeve, Victorian postcards and poster design, text in art, illuminated manuscripts of different cultures and contemporary European and American calligraphy and letter design.


Interests in the V&A collection

I am looking forward to studying movement, pattern and depth in artefacts on display at the V&A, including glass, sculpture and iron work. It will be interesting to relate these to letterforms in manuscripts I hope this will inform the development of new scripts for use in my designs. My research may also lead to experimentation in 3D.

I am also keen to learn how objects on display are ‘read‘ by visitors. I will start a dialogue which I hope will inform my work and shed light on the way an audience responds to my lettering art. I hope to discover how I might take the visitor from viewing the object to contemplating the subject.



Society of Scribes and Illuminators
Letter Exchange
Calligraphy and Lettering Arts Society

Open Studio and Gallery Interventions

The free Open Studios gives you a chance to meet the Residents, ask questions about their work and offers a fascinating insight into the processes that creative practitioners use to develop their ideas. Drop by to meet Cherrell and see her work in progress. Some Open Studio sessions will take place in the galleries. Ask at the V&A Information Desks for more information.

Cherrell Avery Open Studio dates:
Sackler Centre Residency Studios
18 & 28 January
1 & 29 February
10, 14, 24 & 28 March
21, 25 April
9, 19, 23 May
9, 13, 27 June

The Calligraphy Residency is supported by the Society of Scribes and Illuminators

V&A Innovative Leadership Programme

The V&A Innovative Leadership Programme is aimed at managers working in the arts & creative industries looking to develop new skills, insight and opportunity. Applications are now open for the next course.

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