Sheila WatersBorn in England in 1929, Sheila Waters was a world-renowned calligraphic artist, author, and teacher whose seventy-year career has been devoted to commissions for royalty, museums, libraries, corporations, maps for publishers and art works for collectors. From the age of 16, she studied a wide variety of art subjects for the National Diploma in Design at the Medway College of Art. 1951 was a pivotal year: she would earn her Master’s degree from the Royal College of Art, after studying calligraphy and lettering under Dorothy Mahoney (one of Edward Johnston’s premiere students), and graphic design and typography; and she was awarded Fellowship into the Society of Scribes & Illuminators, London. Her Fellowship was lauded on its 70th anniversary in 2021, in tandem with the SSI’s centennial (a special anniversary issue of the SSI journal features an illustrated article by Sheila, with her iconic Roundel of the Seasons on its cover).

In 1953 Sheila married fellow RCA student, designer-bookbinder Peter Waters. Peter partnered with Roger Powell, his RCA tutor, from 1956 to 1971, with Sheila assisting the partnership with design and illustration for many of their acclaimed commissioned bindings. Between 1951 and 1971 in England, Sheila also fulfilled a constant flow of commissions of maps for publishers, awards, certificates, and calligraphic pieces whilst raising three sons.

The great flood of 1966 in Florence, Italy changed and redirected their lives. Because of Peter’s pioneering work for the National Library of Florence in 1967, he was offered the post of Chief of Conservation at the Library of Congress; so, in 1971 the family immigrated to the US. In 1972 Sheila began a program of classes in calligraphy for the Smithsonian Associates. In the following years she offered hundreds of workshops across North America and abroad, her own regular classes at home, then week-long residential Under Milk Woodmasterclasses. Sheila and several of her students founded the Washington DC Calligraphers Guild in 1976, and she served as president twice. She was its first Honorary Member, inducted in 1981.

In the US, Sheila designed major exhibition pieces, notably for the faculty shows of many of the annual calligraphy conferences that began in 1981. She taught and lectured at most of them. Concurrently, she was busy with many commissions for organizations and private clients. In 1978 she completed her well-known illustrated manuscript of Dylan Thomas’ play Under Milk Wood, commissioned (when in England) by Edward Hornby and now owned by Sir Paul Getty’s Wormsley Library, UK. A full-color reproduction of the book was published by International Letter Arts Network in 1989. Her best-known illuminated piece on vellum is the Roundel of the Seasons wall panel. Her classic textbook Foundations of Calligraphy was first published by John Neal Bookseller in 2006 and is now in its fourth edition; and her award-winning book Waters Rising: Letters from Florence was published by The Legacy Press in 2016. In 2010 Julian Waters edited and designed a special issue of Scripsit, a comprehensive 52-page retrospective of Sheila’s work, over 70 years, reissuing it in 2012 with translucent fly leaves and a different cover.

Predeceased by her husband, Peter and her son, Chris, Sheila is survived by her son, Julian, and his wife Cathy; her son, Michael; her brother, Stuart; several nieces and nephews; her grandchildren: Madeline, Tasha, Carly, and Tim; and her extensive, spirited legacy of instruction and global family of students, followers, and fellow lovers of letters.

Recently, for her 93rd birthday, she created a Facebook fundraiser for Doctors Without Borders. You can still donate from an active link on her FB profile.

In Memoriam
13 March 1929 – 18 March 2022

SHEILA WATERS

Sheila Waters Retrospective

Above: Sheila Waters' iconic Roundel of the Seasons (oversized portion at top);
left, front cover of Under Milk Wood;
right, one of a series of Alphabets designs on the cover of Scripsit's Sheila Waters retrospecive issue.

 


Read WCG President Tamara Stoneburner's tribute to Sheila Waters

 

Sheila Waters publications Peter and Sheila Waters
 

 

Above: Books by Sheila Waters, including

 

 

 

Waters Rising: Letters from Florence

in which she recounted the role that her husband Peter Waters (1930-2003, pictured above) played as the person in charge of saving flood-damaged books in the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze.

Below, Sheila and Zoe by Yukimi Annand, 2016. Right, teaching a master class in 2011 by Alisara Tareekes.

Sheila Waters 2016

Masterclass 2011