Natalie’s calligraphy journey

Keeping in touch with students from my calligraphy workshops is the loveliest thing. Natalie has been to two of my calligraphy classes in Manchester, and seeing her beautiful lettering style develop is just brilliant for me. I wanted to share her progress to show you just how much you can achieve with modern lettering, in a short time!

Natalie’s first workshop was in 2016. She’d never written modern calligraphy before, and learned quickly in those first couple of hours. I remember her pen strokes were a little hesitant at first, but she soon learned how to put pressure on the nib and was creating really strong strokes and characterful letters in that first class. Her enthusiasm was infectious 🙂 and the class was one of my favourites.

Calligraphy by Natalie

Having a busy life does tend to get in the way of our hobbies, and Natalie is a busy mum, so finding time to write wasn’t easy! Understandably, after that first workshop she tucked her pen away safely in a drawer and promised herself to come back to it some day…

… back in May of this year I had a message from Natalie, happy she’d been able to book a space at another workshop! It was lovely to catch up, and Natalie surprised herself at how quickly she took to lettering again.

I’ve learned from Natalie that modern calligraphy adheres to the old ‘it’s like riding a bicycle’ cliché – once you’ve had a go, the movements stick in your mind and picking up a dip pen feels natural. Natalie’s lettering in that class was gorgeous, and the flowing words and quotes she wrote at the end were fabulous!

I wanted to show you the work of a real calligraphy student, someone who’s spent 2 hours total learning in classes, and a few hours practising at home. Natalie – I love how you write and I hope calligraphy brings you so much pleasure over the years to come! (I’m still working out a way to run that ‘extra’ session for projects, problem solving and calligraphy chat… it WILL happen and I really hope I’ll see you there!)

Calligraphy by Natalie
Calligraphy by Natalie (experimenting with different styles)
Calligraphy by Natalie – experimental, exaggerated joining strokes

Join me for calligraphy summer school – a 90 minute informal class at Ziferblat Edge St – on August 18th at 2pm (tickets £35)

Or come to Manchester Craft & Design Centre for a full (2+ hour) workshop with personalised calligraphy kits for every student to take home – on September 7th at 1pm (tickets £65)

Realistic expectations – what will you learn at a modern calligraphy workshop?

Modern calligraphy is harder than it looks.

But I’m confident at least 90% of people can do it – and I really do believe that you only need 2 hours of teaching before you can continue your calligraphy journey to success!

The secret is to practice – have your first practice session at home (if you drink, a bottle of wine is a lovely accompaniment and will help your lettering along beautifully!) within a week of doing a calligraphy workshop.

Calligraphy workshops are different for everyone. Imagine asking 15 of your friends to draw their very best picture of a lion. The results would be soooo varied, wouldn’t they?

My point is that we’re all creatively different. Some of us are arty; others are more careful with writing – but we can all learn lettering even if we’re starting from completely different places.

Most of my calligraphy classes have about 15 students. They’re of all ages, from all kinds of backgrounds and working in all kinds of jobs. Some are graphic designers; others are planning their weddings. Often people are crafty-creative – but that can be anything from felting to making tissue paper pom-poms or being a designer.

One constant is that my calligraphy workshops are a place where people learn.  You’ll genuinely go home with a new skill – you’ll have learned how to manipulate a brand new tool (the dip pen and nib) and I hope you’ll be excited and confident about practicing more at home and getting even better!

At the end of my modern calligraphy class, you’ll be happily using your calligraphy dip pen to create smooth and characterful swells and hairline strokes with your nib.

You’ll have learned the shapes of key letters – while we don’t concentrate too much on mastering every individual letter of the alphabet, you’ll have plenty of time to experiment with each one and discover your favourites!

By the end of the class you will:

  • be writing a pretty alphabet with thick and thin strokes, but you will need a little practice to perfect your curves and curls
  • be confident with the calligraphy pen and nib, and ready to experiment with different papers, nibs and colourful inks!
  • be ready to practice at home – and I hope you’ll be excited to keep writing!

 

My next calligraphy workshops are –
Ziferblat Edge st, Manchester – 18th August at 2pm
Tickets £35 (click to buy)

Manchester Craft & Design Centre – 7th September at 1pm
Tickets £59 (includes your own calligraphy kit to take home!)

 


Photography credits: Zen Photo

Essential supplies and kit for modern calligraphy beginners

When I decided to start a calligraphy business one of my reasons was the low setup cost. Writing costs almost nothing – the main investment is your time. But what are the very, very basics you’ll need to try calligraphy?

I wanted to write a short & sweet guide to learning modern calligraphy from scratch. I hope it might help and encourage you to dip your toes in calligraphic waters!

Image: Emma Pilkington Photography

Day 1: your kit

If you were to start calligraphy as a brand new hobby next weekend, this is what you couldn’t do without – your most basic shopping list.

  1. Decent printer / copier paper (at least 100gsm)
  2. A dip pen and nib (straight or oblique penholder and a pointed nib – I recommend the Nikko G)
  3. Ink or paint – basic ‘Calli’ ink, or watercolour / gouache paint

Your total spend for that first day doesn’t need to be much more than the price of your lunch.

Image: Emma Pilkington Photography

Making those first marks on paper is simple – but you absolutely must have the right nib (a pointed one with the right amount of flex for beginners – most ‘G’ nibs are fine) – and a penholder it will fit.

I like Nikko G nibs – they’re reliable, well made and not too sharp, so they’re easy to use.

Speedball oblique or straight penholders – the black plastic ones – are affordable, comfortable to hold and easy to use.

Paper is important. Cheap papers (80 or 90gsm) will cause your ink to ‘bleed’ on the page, which is so frustrating when you’re trying to practise.

Likewise inks can cause bleed issues. I recommend Calli inks because they’re widely available even in high street craft and art shops. They’re OK quality wise, and certainly good enough for practice. Avoid cheap fountain pen inks and Indian inks though – some are very poor quality and will cause bleed on your paper.

If you’re arty and have watercolour paint or gouache lying around at home, these work just as well as ink. Mix to a runny consistency with water and off you go!

Find beginners modern calligraphy tutorials online and enjoy!

Try my online calligraphy workshop for just £30

Buy my book here… An Introduction to Modern Calligraphy

Calligraphy on a massive scale – Wolf & Us

One of the best things about having a creative business is the opportunities to share and swap!

I’ve been lucky to meet amazing creative people across Cumbria. Last week I went to see my friends Jen & Ed’s cafe Wolf & Us at Wolfhouse in Silverdale, and to write some signs and menus for them.

Wolf & Us is a welcoming, homely and beautifully styled space. The café is popular for its quality coffee and delicious cakes – and with regular barbecues and a new pizza menu for the early evenings, it’s only going to get better.

Cat pictured for scale!

Jen asked me to write a few chalkboards for drinks menus and welcome boards. The largest was the size of a door – as big as me! Writing it was a fun challenge involving plenty of masking tape and very careful measuring. The trick is to divide the board into sections – 6 in this case – before measuring the space for each line of writing.

I’m really looking forward to seeing all the boards on display at Wolf & Us, and to trying their pizzas as soon as we possibly can!

To hire me to write chalkboard calligraphy for your wedding or café please email hello@calligraphy-for-weddings.com

Summer & autumn 2018 calligraphy workshop spaces

I was chatting the other day about the classroom at Manchester Craft & Design Centre where I run my modern calligraphy workshops. It’s a beautiful, bright spot with white walls and bright windows – perfect for writing.

This August I’m launching Calligraphy Summer School – a very different class at a brand new venue. Ziferblat itself is wonderfully eclectic, with a main living room full of mismatched armchairs, sofas and coffee tables. The atmosphere of the place really suits the decor… and it just feels wonderfully creative.

My Ziferblat calligraphy workshop will be held in their classroom – a properly nostalgic room filled with desks and with one of those rollover blackboards which I can’t wait to write on!!!

Join me for calligraphy summer school – a 90 minute informal class at Ziferblat Edge St – on August 18th at 2pm (tickets £35)

Or come to Manchester Craft & Design Centre for a full (2+ hour) workshop with personalised calligraphy kits for every student to take home – on September 7th at 1pm (tickets £65)

How to master chalkboard calligraphy

Chalkboards, blackboards – my memories from school are very different from the art I see on Pinterest and Insta nowadays!

Not only has their name changed – is ‘chalkboard’ an American thing? a wedding thing? – but their purpose has too. Chalkboards now are for welcoming guests to your wedding, for displaying your seating plan and setting out the order of the day for all to see. They’re also lots of fun to write!

The key thing to know is that ‘chalkboard’ is misleading. No one writes on these things with chalk: you need a good quality white marker – ideally a few, in different sizes. I use POSCA brush pens and white bullet tip markers.

Whether you’re writing a 7 word welcome sign or a table plan for 100 guests, you’ll need to plan your layout before you do anything else. Scribble a rough plan on paper first. Aim to fill the entire chalkboard with your wording – don’t leave a huge space at the top or bottom, and try to space your words evenly. This is how I do it.

Writing chalkboard calligraphy – step by step

  1.  Do a rough pencil sketch on paper
  2. Divide your layout into sections, e.g.
    ‘Welcome’ = 1/4 of the board
    ‘to the wedding of’ = 1/4 of the board
    ‘Charlie & Sam’ = 1/2 of the board
  3. Measure the board and mark these sections lightly in pencil – using dots or tiny lines at the edge
  4. Using masking tape, divide the board into sections
  5. You probably won’t want to write exactly where the dividing lines of tape are, so use more tape to create lines to ‘write on’
  6. Very gently, and in a soft (e.g. 7B) pencil, draw your letters to make sure you have enough space
  7. Write outlines of your words with the POSCA pen, then thicken what would be downwards strokes by adding more white ink to the sides of the letters. You may find this is easier after the ink dries
  8. Remove your masking tape and voilà! A beautiful wedding chalkboard sign

Now available in my online shop – calligraphy cheat sheets!

Cheating in calligraphy isn’t really cheating. Learning modern calligraphy can be tricky, and – as with anything in life – all of us learn in different ways.

If you’re one of those people who can watch someone paint or draw, and copy it perfectly straight away, then you’re lucky!

I’m not one of those people.

I actually think it’s why I enjoy modern calligraphy so much. You do have to learn to copy, but at your own pace and with plenty of leeway for writing in your very own style.

It’s liberating.

My modern calligraphy workshops include practice sheets where we copy shapes and letters. Some people find it really easy, and others take a little longer. Getting shapes exactly right can take a lot longer than you’d expect! Master calligraphers spend years perfecting their arm movements to create delicious shapes with an instinctive rhythm, but that’s not what modern calligraphy is about.

My workshops are all about introducing you to the art of modern calligraphy. My aim is to show you that everyone can write in their own modern lettering style – the trick is to understand the flexibility and angles of a dip pen and nib.

Every now and then I bring a cheat sheet along to my classes as a confidence builder, and I think they’re a lovely way to really feel how your arm and hand need to move to form letters.

Having to concentrate on your pen angle, pressure and copy letter shapes all at once is a lot to take in. If you’re more comfortable learning one step at a time, then I really recommend calligraphy cheat sheets!

I’ve put a series of 9 calligraphy cheat sheets in my Etsy shop. Basically, they’re for tracing shapes, letters and joining strokes / words. You get to really focus on how your nib needs to move to form beautiful letters, and learn the rhythm of calligraphy lettering without having to worry too much about the shape (or spelling!) of words.

My cheat sheets are only £2.70 each, and instantly downloadable from my Etsy shop. We cover upper and lower case alphabets and words, joining letters and forming quotes and layouts, and making swearing beautiful. (Because who doesn’t love a calligraphy swear on insta?!)

I’d love to know how you get on with them! Do they help your calligraphy practice?

Often students tell me they’re a nice way to relax and look at letters a little differently, or just a lovely break from copying and ‘alphabet drills’! And for others, if a particular letter is proving to be a hurdle to master (r, anyone?!) tracing a cheat sheet brings on that eureka moment where the shape clicks and you just ‘get it’!

Have a go – the cheat sheets are here: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/byMoonandTide?section_id=24254046

Claire xx


Are you keeping your calligraphy a secret?

I wonder how many of us have a hobby we do for our own artistic pleasure, and which no one ever sees. In my online workshops I make a point of framing little pieces of work – it’s very much about celebrating every small victory and seeing your own progress – but I wonder if anyone actually does this, or if we all pack away our practice sheets and stick them in a box or drawer until next time…

Jenny Jones Photography

I have a little challenge for you. Next time you’re in a charity shop, antique shop – or even in a high street store which sells cheap frames – buy one. If it has a mount, even better. Keep it with your calligraphy stuff.

Then at the end of your next practice session, get a single sheet of A4 paper, draw a rough circle right in the middle (the size of a roll of sellotape), and write a tiny quote inside it. Song lyrics or titles are great for this. Let your ink dry for a minute, trim the edges, pop it in your frame and hang it on your wall.

Calligraphy should be seen. It doesn’t have to be perfect as you learn – so display and be proud of what you’re learning!

If you have children in your family, write their names in calligraphy. My 10 year old niece loved seeing her name on a card! A delighted smile is so encouraging – and we all need positive feedback like this as we hone our calligraphy talent.

Write envelopes – and send them. Post them to your friends and distant relatives, to companies (Innocent, Lush and Aussie packaging all mention how much they love letters!) – anyone you can think of!

Image credit: Jenny Jones Photography

Calligraphy isn’t something to hide away. People love it – and by sharing your talent you might just inspire someone else to have a go. More importantly, you’ll grow and enjoy your lettering more with a little positive feedback.

If you’re not already putting your calligraphy online, do. Pop a photo on instagram with a calligraphy hashtag ( #learncalligraphy #lovecalligraphy) and join a group or forum (@flourishforum) for inspiration and to meet other new calligraphers.

Ready to stop hiding your calligraphy? Go find your frame, and have fun!


Join me for a calligraphy workshop in Manchester: online booking & info – modern calligraphy workshops

Buy a modern calligraphy starter kit and begin your calligraphy adventures today!