(Courtesy Photo) This large calligraphic work on silk by Kaj Berry hangs prominently at Open Space for Arts & Community.

(Courtesy Photo) This large calligraphic work on silk by Kaj Berry hangs prominently at Open Space for Arts & Community.

Our Town: The end of an era, as Vashon remembers Kaj Berry

Berry was instrumental in fostering the arts on Vashon.

  • Wednesday, December 8, 2021 11:42am
  • Arts

Note: This profile appeared in 2020 and Kaj was the first artist profile to be featured in the series of Vashon Island Visual Artists (ViVA) artist profiles. Written in Kaj’s own words, this profile is a fitting end to 2021 and to recognize and honor Kaj, who was instrumental in fostering the arts on Vashon. The artwork pictured here now hangs for all to be inspired and enjoy at Open Space for Arts & Community.

Kajira Wyn Berry: calligrapher, photojournalist, poet

I grew up in New England and New York, but have lived in eleven different states around the country, and on two very different boats in the Caribbean and Vashon’s Dockton Harbor. I was an aerobatic pilot in my teens and twenties. In the mid-1950s, my family, with three wonderful children, came to Portland, Oregon where I had read about Lloyd Reynolds, a calligrapher, who taught at Reed College. After studying with Lloyd, I also taught with him at the Portland Museum Art School, and in the first curriculum classes of italic handwriting for grades two through eighth grades.

From 1963 on, I was a photojournalist for decades, working as a Time/Life stringer on the West Coast, and won first prize for commercial photography in Life’s International Competition. I also reported and photographed for many independent publications — including The Beachcomber, when I came to Vashon. I was also one of the “founding mothers” of Vashon Allied Arts, now VCA, and had the honor of naming The Blue Heron.

Recently I taught history of writing to seventh graders here as one of our Artists in the Schools, and have taught many private classes in the Northwest, particularly here on Vashon, where I’ve calligraphed Hiway Haiku for years. And this year, Hiway Haiku has been honored by a grant from 4Culture for enriching the community with art and poetry. I am also now working on my second novel, the first published under the title “Everlasting Sky.” It’s all been a joy!

A memorial service for Kaj will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 18, at Puget Sound Zen Center. Those wishing to attend in person should bring vaccination cards. Those wishing to attend on Zoom or to donate to Kaj’s memorial fund at Puget Sound Zen Center should visit pszc.org/kaj for further details.


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