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My Open Letter of Apology to Gum Arabic

It wasn't you, it was me. I just didn't understand you, which meant I didn't know how to love you.

I'm sure you felt used + discarded. Because you were, quite literally, used + discarded.

But let me explain. I was so focused on getting things done at work. Focusing on my career, what I needed was support. Someone to make things easier, not more complicated. When I spent hours formulating the absolute perfect turquoise blue ink to match that little girl's bedroom colors for her Bat Mitzvah invitations, it was a true labor of love. Then you came along + alluringly so.

"I'll bind everything together," you promised. "Gouache + I go way back," you assured me.

I must admit, I wasn't really even sure what all of that meant at the time, but I trusted you anyway. All my calligraphy friends seemed to like you + that was enough validation me. I was young + relied on the opinion of my tribe. So I let you into my little lettered world. Into the project that meant so much to me. Into my only jar of that beautiful, dreamy custom turquoise blue...

You wowed the client. It was instant infatuation when you allowed me to display my talents in such a easy-flowing way. You made me look good by association + I loved that. But then weeks went by. Months. Things were fine, but I will admit I forgot about you a little bit. It's not that you were no longer important, I just had other things on my mind. There were seating charts to design + suites to deckle. Calligraphy workshops + mirrors to letter. You understood, didn't you? Eventually, it was time, however to address Carrie's envelopes + I needed you. Of course I expected you to just show up + be the partner in calligraphy I needed you to be. And there you were, still there, sitting upon my ink shelf waiting to be called upon. But when I twisted that gold lid + opened the jar, what you did was, in my mind, unforgivable. You smelled. Good lord, you smelled a foul smell so potently smelly, I couldn't believe my nose.

And it was over. Just like that.

I can admit now that I didn't stick around to hear you out. Out of your life I went + I moved on to other inks. Acrylics. Sumi. Mediums that didn't require a stupid binder like you. I told my students all about you, of course. Telling them how you turned on me. i know it wasn't fair, but it felt good to persuade others into distrusting you as well. It wasn't long, however, before I realized my mistake. While playing around in a friend's studio, I discovered an alluringly dusty copper Sumi palette. And it came in all the colors. All the beautiful colors I could want. But the dust would rub as soon as the bouncy script would dry. i found that deep Prussian blue gouache - it beckoned to me from the shelf at Blick. But stacking the finished envelopes, I ultimately realized I needed your honey-colored talents to keep the ink from rubbing off on the clean return flaps. But true understanding can take time + time is clearly what I needed to Google you + realize my mistake. I let you spoil on that shelf. I didn't nurture you properly, so there you sat, in a non-airtight container for weeks. And so you turned on me like curdled milk. I can't blame you for that. You warned me you had a shelf life. You wore your limitation right there on your label. But more than that, I used too much of you. I know that now. I didn't trust in the subtle touch you promised would be enough. Those couple drops turned into a teaspoon. I was greedy + I paid the price for my overzealous gummy enthusiasm.

So when you unflinchingly accepted my invitation to mix with my new rose gold gouache ink that random afternoon not so long ago, it was nothing short of an emotional bandaid ripped off. We rediscovered ourselves on those textured handmade white envelopes, working in unison, dancing across the paper with a luminescence that had eluded us both for far too long. And as I stacked the those crisp, clean A9s, I knew I could trust you to uphold your end. And you did. Oh, you did. Not a speck of dust. Not a hint of rub-off. And I loved you for that. Thank you for being what I needed you to be + allowing me to grow as a calligrapher by learning to slow down + better understand the tools before me. It's never too late to learn from your mistakes. And it's never too late to forgive.

You taught me that, Gum. And I thank you.

With all my love,


P.S. Remember that time you fell to the kitchen floor + got all adhered in the grout? Your waxy mark is still there. Ha. Memories....

And it was over.

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