As embarrassing as this is, it tickles me that calligraphy baubles have taken six years for me to figure out. I can finally say this because I’ve launched my first collection of personalised baubles this year! To celebrate, I thought I’d share the journey with you, along with some tips on how to write your own name baubles!
The story behind my calligraphy baubles
I’ve been a calligrapher for almost twenty years, writing mainly on paper and card. (Flat, absorbent stuff, you know?!) Calligraphy nibs are delicate, and having a steady hand is key. When a bunch of other calligraphers began writing names on baubles back in 2017 I was inspired to join them!
At the same time my lovely friend Amy Swann launched her first Christmas bauble collection. They were stunning – and so the bar for hand painted baubles was set high!
I bought a few ceramic baubles and some Farrow & Ball paints, because the dusky colours were perfect as a background for calligraphy. Following many experiments with nibs, involving much slipperiness and many wibbles, I resolved to give calligraphy baubles a little more time. Six years later… I have a little bauble factory going on in my calligraphy studio and I love it!
How not to write calligraphy baubles
I’ll let you in to a secret: surfaces are key (Farrow & Ball was a slippery mistake, although I still adore their colour palette). Starting off with the wrong surface will get you nowhere. A calligraphy nib won’t write on:
- glazed ceramics
- unglazed ceramics!
- glossy surfaces
Speaking of calligraphy nibs, I write my baubles with either a Nikko G or Zebra G nib. These are beginners calligraphy nibs, which means they’re durable, will take a little punishment from a hard surface, and can last longer than more delicate nibs.
A mistake I made at the very beginning (and then for subsequent years, as I attempted baubles every November, and failed!) was to write on baubles with a Posca pen. These are fabulous for the calligraphy wedding signs I write on wood and slate, but for delicate and smaller items, they’re clumsy and rough. Imagine eating pasta with a full size garden spade, or applying eyeliner with a bog brush. That’s what writing on a bauble with a calligraphy marker feels like to me!
The secret to writing on baubles
My eureka moment for bauble lettering was the right kind of acrylic paint. As a calligrapher I work with inks and gouache, but hardly ever with acrylic. Grabbing a bunch of acrylic paint tubes this August felt rebellious, if not insane. But I dug out a bauble from my five year old stash, and painted it. The next day, armed with a metal nib and my favourite calligraphy ink, I tried to write.
It worked. The secret to writing on baubles was acrylic paint.
I have since experimented with different brands of acrylic, finding a handful of favourites which require 2 or fewer coats. My usual inks and nibs work on there for the finer details, and they only require a few sprays of varnish to be finished and ready to send!
Bauble lettering: the easy way
This doesn’t entirely solve all the difficulties with writing calligraphy on baubles. The elephant in the room (and the reason “baubles” has for many seasons been a favourite swear in my house) is their shape. Baubles are noticeably not flat. Pop one down on the table, turn around for a second to find a brush, and the little monkey has rolled to a place it would rather be. This can also happen while writing, and every time you run out of ink and have to refill your nib.
Holding a spherical bauble still while you write on it – smoothly, delicately and with flourishes – takes some ingenious props and more than a little practice.
A simpler solution to writing on ‘baubles’ is to buy a flat alternative, and I’m not above doing it.
My flat personalised baubles are specially cut for me from a high quality card, and I think they’re just as beautiful as the spherical variety!
They’re easy to make: just buy circular gift tags from any card store online, and decorate in a circular pattern! Patterns are key: I incorporate swirls and pine branches and snowy dots in my favourite metallic inks.
People who think our current government are doing a smashing job will not enjoy my protest bauble. Don’t look at that one unless you’ve had enough of the Tories and feel it’s time for an alternative bauble this Christmas!
How I write my ceramic baubles in calligraphy
Here’s a little how-to guide for anyone learning calligraphy who’d like to try my method of writing on baubles!
- Purchase ceramic baubles online – make sure they’re unglazed
- Brush with acrylic paint
- Leave to dry 24 hours
- Sketch and then paint a calligraphy name in white ink
- Add a repeating pattern of leaves, berries and dots in ink and calligraphy gouache
- Leave to dry 12 hours
- Spray with gloss varnish (2 – 3 coats)
Where to buy baubles with names on
You can also buy my own hand written baubles at https://www.bymoonandtide.com/shop/30895474/christmas