Some days, Vienna is magical. You walk down narrow, cobblestone streets half in shadow, half in light. Plants, and the occasional smoker, lean out of picture box windows. Rusty bicycles rest against pastel coloured walls. Sometimes you turn a corner, and walk right onto a movie set.
If you've seen the cult classic Before Sunrise you may recognise the yellow brick facade, the red brocaide chairs, and the brown and gold signage of Cafe Sperl. The more than 200-year-old cafe has witnessed the intirgue of aristocrats, politicians and military brass, and the affairs of artists and musicians. Politics and the arts don't easily co-exist, but Cafe Sperl makes it work. As I walked in to the cafe, I couldn't think of a more fitting place for this former lawyer and government worker to learn the art of making words look fancy.
meet Octalita of Octalita Delima Calligraphy
If you follow handlettering or calligraphy on Instagram, you may know Octalita's work. Her designs have featured on Bellaflora's Instagram account, and on the cover Wienerin Magazin's May 2017 issue. I discovered Octalita through her iPhone apps, which let me send beautifully illustrated text messages and photos. Nothing says, 'Honey, I'm sorry I forgot to take out the garbgage,' like adding a handlettered Oops... to a photo of you holding flowers.
We sat next to a window near the back of Cafe Sperl, past the pool tables and near a marble bench littered with pamphlets. The window seats were small, but perfect for a one-on-one calligraphy tutorial. Octalia is friendly mix of poise, good humour, and generosity. Over coffee, we discussed the role of women in Viennese society, shared expat war stories, laughed as we debated whether to order cake, and, all the while, created art with ink and letters. Politics, coffee, cake and art - how very Viennese.
Octalita divides her time between Vienna and Geneva, running calligraphy workshops and partnering with local artists. You can find out more on her website.
'It is called calligraphy, darling. If you're going to make words, at least make them fabulous.' - Rarity, My Little Pony