You can’t help but take note of Susie’s work

Calligrapher and painter Susie Leiper is surrounded by quills and a range of Chinese brushes in her bright Edinburgh New Town mews studio.

You may not think that you’ve ever seen Susie’s work, but you definitely have. It was Susie’s fair hand that produced the Gaelic poetry calligraphy on the new Royal Bank of Scotland polymer notes.

‘It’s nice to be able to carry your CV around in your pocket,’ she laughs.

Susie learnt the ancient art of calligraphy when she lived in Hong Kong in the 1980s. She now combines commissions including writing out poems for clients and diplomas for the Royal College of Physicians with her art, which often incorporates calligraphy or mountain forms inspired by the writings of Nan Shepherd.

By some strange twist of fate it is Shepherd who appears on the front of the £5 note, while Susie’s calligraphy graces the back.

Being one of six scribes charged to create a hand-written, hand-illuminated version of the bible for St John’s University in Minnesota was a four year labour of love for Susie.

The work was slow and nerve wracking, every morning starting with cutting the goose quill – which can only be produced from one of three outer left wing feathers of the goose as they curve in an ideal shape to fit the hand – to the perfect size. Working at a speed of around half a page a day it was a test of Susie’s nerves to ensure she didn’t make mistakes.

‘After all those years of discipline, I felt that I could do anything and decided to paint more,’ Susie admits.

Much of Susie’s work involves lettering and painting and she uses a variety of media and canvas materials to create her work. Her style is certainly inspired by her time in China, but with a more modern feel.

Her paintings come in a range of shapes and sizes, including intricate and beautifully bound, and unbound artist’s books featuring her work.

Having exhibited at the Open Eye Gallery in Edinburgh, Susie is about to show her work at the Tatha Gallery in Newport-on-Tay and you will be able to see her bank note calligraphy in the V&A in Dundee when it opens later this year, and in your purse the next time you open it too.