In 1996 I went to my first calligraphy conference, outside of Seattle, Washington. It’s impossible to put into words the thrill I felt to be surrounded by 500 fellow letter-lovers, in a temporary village devoted to all things calligraphy.
There was something magical about that week (the first time of anything is always memorable, isn’t it?), and not all of it had to to expressly with calligraphy.
One such magical element was Ima Gnome.
I heard people asking whether Ima had arrived, and where she might be found. Who, I wondered, was Ima?
Eventually I found her. Or, well, not Ima herself, but her place of residence.
At the base of one of the trees on campus was a tiny door, with a tiny mailbox planted just outside, labeled “Ima Gnome.” A few inches away was a clothes line. And peeking out of the mailbox was a tiny note from a gentleman caller.
Ima, it turns out, moves a lot. She makes residence wherever calligraphers converge for an international conference. Nobody has spotted her yet, to the best of my knowledge, but she brings new accouterments to her accommodations each year.
Perhaps it was Ima who inspired me to turn a bumpy cone into a house. Whatever the inspiration, I imagine a cozy fire inside, a wooden sidebar with port and sherry, and many tiny books lining the walls.