Modern calligraphy lies somewhere between basic writing skills and art. We all learn to write from the age of 5 or so, and we’re also taught to handle a paintbrush and knock out a reasonable picture of a cat by the time we’re 7. Mastering either skill takes a little longer…
Calligraphy is where writing and illustration meet. We can all write the letter shapes and make them look artistic – it’s the pen and nib which give them a lot of their shape and style – and with practice and a little artistic flair we can accomplish a beautiful flow and grace to our lettering.
It takes 2 hours to learn the basics of modern calligraphy.
I’ve been teaching workshops of this length for a few years now; 99% of us learn to handle the calligraphy pen in this time and make great letter shapes. The trick is in the pen and how it moves.
By attending a calligraphy workshop you’ll see first hand how to hold your pen at the correct angle and use pressure to make the basic strokes of modern calligraphy – and this takes 2 hours to do.
Most people who come to my calligraphy workshops have never held a calligraphy pen before. By the end, almost everyone is writing a confident and shapely alphabet, and every single student can write letters with beautiful thick swells and delicate hairline strokes, ready to go home and practice in their own environment. We all learn at different rates – some students need a little more time than others, but everyone in my classes has been capable of gorgeous modern calligraphy lettering by the end of the session 🙂
But practice most definitely makes perfect where calligraphy is concerned, and 2 months of practice is vital even after you’ve attended a calligraphy workshop.
This is when you will learn how to make your letters flow – to test the waters and see if you can make that leap from writing to art with your letters. A dash of natural talent is required, but more important is confidence and the readiness to explore and experiment with your calligraphy. A few hours each week over the space of 2 months will equip anyone with the skills to write their own wedding stationery, gift tags or greetings cards.
2 months of regular practice will also tell if you have the natural talent to turn your calligraphy lettering into art.
Every calligrapher has their own unique style. This will take longer to develop: in my mind, 2 years of very regular practice is the minimum you will need to begin selling your services as a calligrapher. Even now – after 12 years of writing full time – I am learning. My writing develops every day and I don’t doubt in 2 years time my style will have changed again.
2 years allows you to relax into your calligraphy, to learn to enjoy experimenting and finding your own natural style. You’ll think you’ve found it after a year or so – but I promise as you grow into your art, your style will change. If you’re still in love with modern calligraphy after 2 years of daily practice, you’ll be ready to call yourself a professional – and you will know, because others will tell you first!
Mastering modern calligraphy is mission impossible.
If you join the forums and read the books you’ll have seen the phrase – if you’re a calligraphy lover on instagram you’ll know the hashtag #calligraphymasters. But modern calligraphy isn’t a static thing. Being a master of your art today leaves you with more to learn tomorrow – and this is one of the best aspects of calligraphy. It’s an ever-evolving art, which makes it impossible to master. There’s always more to learn and practice to be done – and the love of practising is kind of why we’re all here, right?
Hand calligraphy and bespoke commissions make up around a third of what I do.
Bespoke wedding invitations are wonderful to work on, and writing on handmade and watercolour papers is a dream. But these projects can be expensive, and I want calligraphy to be available to every bride and groom.
With this in mind I have developed a range of affordable calligraphy wedding invitations for By Moon & Tide. They’re timeless and on-trend, with minimalist design, beautiful typography and watercolour illustrations.
The 2018 invitation collection has something for every bride and groom, from botanicals to watercolour effects, soft dove greys to stormy midnight blues.
Prices start at £1.65 per invitation, with samples available for just £1.50. Each design in the collection has an invitation, rsvp cards and information card, and is easy to personalise for your wedding.
Calligraphy workshops are fun. We have a chat, and the more the group is talking during the class, the better – because as you focus on something other than writing, you relax and suddenly your calligraphy becomes more instinctive and natural.
So we talk about our jobs and lives and why we’re all there learning calligraphy. And I’m always asked how I got started in calligraphy.
I’ve always loved words – from spelling tests at primary school to learning joined-up writing, I was hooked. I read hundreds of books when I was young – weekly trips to our village library were a treat!
Then I chose to learn languages through school, while my friends went on to study art and design. I developed a bit of a fascination with how words are strung together and the nuance of meaning, while my friends showed me their typography projects – and I was hooked.
I dabbled with broad edged calligraphy as a teenager – a brief hobby (along with lace making and playing the flute!) which didn’t last long. But ever since, I’ve been super conscious of my handwriting. I’m a messy writer – and my scribbles will slant to the right, or to the left, or be super straight and neat, or girly and loopy depending on my mood!
Despite stuffing my old pens and nibs in a drawer for years, I later discovered calligraphy is like riding a bike. You don’t forget. So when I picked up a pen again 20 years later it felt natural and I fell in love with lettering all over again.
I was working in marketing at the time and took voluntary redundancy back in 2005. I picked up my calligraphy pens again (and bought a few new ones!) – writing wedding invitations for friends and working on traditional calligraphy poems as practice. In a year I built my business, learned about web design and coding, and began working on weddings locally and nationally.
At first I only had a website. Over the years my brand has grown and I now have a Facebook page, Instagram account, Etsy store and Not On The High Street shop.
My style of lettering has changed so much over the last 12 years: I began with gothic and italic lettering – which was totally on trend for weddings even such a short time ago! – and moved through Copperplate and Spencerian lettering to an organic, modern calligraphy style over the years.
As well as writing for brides and grooms, I write poems for anniversaries and gifts. I teach workshops, I sell calligraphy kits, inks and nibs.
I also write a wedding blog, which has helped me make contacts in the wedding industry and grow my calligraphy business.
And I’ve plans to try new things – in writing and crafts and life – over the next few years. I try to say yes to every new opportunity to make sure my story will continue!