The Flourishing Talent of Calligrapher Bernard Maisner

Bernard Maisner is not a typical calligrapher. That's what sets him apart.

Calligrapher Bernard Maisner has applied his elaborate lettering to everything from a Whitney Houston album to a new collection of bedding.
Calligrapher Bernard Maisner has applied his elaborate lettering to everything from a Whitney Houston album to a new collection of bedding.
Photo by Michel Arnaud

Artist Bernard Maisner got his start as an 11th grader. Carefully copying from a book of Old English calligraphy, he created a special certificate at the request of his classmates. “It wasn’t even with a calligraphy pen,” he recalls. The next day, Maisner’s father brought home ink, pens and calligraphy books. Maisner, now 62, hasn’t stopped creating since.

In time, Maisner developed an elaborately flourished style of lettering. “It wasn’t traditional calligraphy, and that’s what set me apart,” he says. “Most calligraphers are taught certain styles and then adhere to what they’ve been taught. Since I am an artist, I go out on limbs.”

You’ve probably seen Maisner’s work. He designed the lettering for Whitney Houston’s first album, then did similar work for Carly Simon and Mick Jagger. Other lettering clients included Lexus, Absolut Vodka and Converse. He created logos for Spiegel, Revlon’s Revolutionary campaign and others. “Every assignment, I was creating a new styling for something,” he says.

Maisner is also in demand for movies. Or more precisely, his hands are in demand—when Hollywood needs a closeup of a florid signature. His hands have stood in for Daniel Day-Lewis’s in the Age of Innocence and Johnny Depp’s in Sleepy Hollow, among others.

The artist and his wife, Bonnie Behrman, a dancer and musician, left New York for Bay Head 20 years ago. She opened the Bay Head School of Ballet and Violin on the first floor of their Victorian home; he set up his studio on the second. Soon, Maisner’s artistic focus began to shift. “With computers, typefaces became digitized,” he says. “Everything became a font.”

Applying his talent in a new direction, Maisner developed a line of stationery; he also creates custom cards and invitations. Earlier this year, he launched a collection of bedding sets (duvets, sheets and pillows), towels and bath mats. For the collection, Maisner’s engraved, hand-painted stationery images are  “translated into fine embroidery,” he says. Images include the elephant, peacock, butterfly and Maisner’s distinctive calligraphic flourishes. “Thread becomes my ink,” he says, “and linen my paper.”

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