Words are made of letters. Make the right shapes, put them in the right order and you’re all done, right?
In modern calligraphy, letters are the easy bit (apart form x. I hate x.) Letter drills are a fairly simple way to practice – write m 50 times and you’ll be brilliant at it. But there’s so much more to calligraphy – it’s about joining letters creatively.
No one really teaches how to do it – either because it’s assumed once you know the basics of letters you can work out how to join them, or because it’s bloody hard to teach! So how do you learn?
I’ve made a series of ‘Learn Calligraphy Cheat Sheets‘ which are on sale in my Etsy shop as printable, instant downloads. Sometimes the only way to learn is by doing: the easiest way to do is by cheating – at least at first!
There are 4 things to consider when joining letters:
the lightness of your pen stroke
the distance between your letters
the overall pattern of your joins
I love to teach an exaggerated spacing exercise in my calligraphy workshops, where students write the word ‘moon’ with increasingly longer spaces between the letters, eventually filling an A4 page with the word while still keeping letters small. It’s all about focusing on the joins and the patterns they make.
Next time you practice your modern calligraphy, write out full words and really focus on the gaps. Make joining strokes twice as wide as letters, creating really long gaps. Practice writing words in pencil, then rubbing out the letters, leaving only the joining strokes. Do they form a pattern? Are they smooth? Curvy? Pretty?
Giving a little extra attention to your joins will make your calligraphy all the more beautiful – and it’s the logical next step after learning all the letters.
Around about the time shabby chic became a thing and weddings all began to look vintage, an innovative eco-warrior invented kraft card and introduced it to all the brides and grooms in the world. And we all fell in love.
My kraft card wedding invites have been a big seller for almost 5 years. They’re printed or handwritten on recycled card and are really affordable. They’re perfectly suited to a barn wedding or a festival-style celebration – they work equally beautifully in a country house or garden marquee.
My kraft wedding invites come in various designs, all with handwritten place cards, seating plan cards, menus and other on the day stationery available.
Browse the images below for different ideas and colour palettes to work with the kraft card – there are so many options with this really versatile, natural colour.
I’m looking to add new designs to the kraft & calligraphy collection, so if you have a particular idea in mind for an illustration or theme, get in touch and we can chat about a bespoke design.
There are days when I begin to write and just don’t feel happy with my calligraphy. Does this happen to you too? I think as creatives we can find it all too easy to be overly critical of our work – I know I can.
Those days where I begin a poetry commission four times only for it to end up in the recycling, when I start a piece of calligraphy at 8am and after many false starts put my pens down at 10pm… it can be such an uphill battle!
But you know what? The harder I find it to write, the more time I spend overanalysing my letters, adjusting my nibs or watering down my inks, the more I learn.
And no matter how many false starts I make on a commission, it is ALWAYS worth the time and effort.
Because modern calligraphy is a pleasure to write and learn. It’s therapeutic; you get lost in letters. And it’s all about finding your rhythm – once you have that, you’ve won.
My working life lies somewhere between graphic design and the wedding industry – the happiest place I can imagine working. Between the ever-changing world of bridal fashion trends and innovations in type and technology, my mind is flooded with so much newness I find I’m changing my calligraphy website pretty much every 12 months or so!
the long sunny days of June caused a little gap between calligraphy orders so I had time to review my website – and it was missing focus and clarity. So I’ve redesigned the menus to make it easier for you to find my printed or bespoke invitations, or to discover more about my modern calligraphy workshops.
I follow a handful of beautiful blogs on Bloglovin’ and today this led me to discover something pretty freaky… it’s a genuine service, and advertised on Emmaline Bride (which is a blog I love) as ‘a dream come true’.
Too lazy to write your own thank you notes? Happier to type on your device than to hunt for a pen and paper to send a personal note to your great auntie for the thoughtful gift she bought and gave you on your wedding day? Think your family and friends won’t recognise your thank you notes are in someone else’s handwriting? Then this is for you…
With Bond, a robot will write your thank you letters with an actual pen. And this, my lovely friends, is being called ‘handwritten’.
Oh my goodness!! I’m torn: I totally agree it’s important to send thank you notes, and handwritten is best of course! But are they ‘hand’ written if a robot writes them?!
I love the innovation but it freaks me out at the same time that this is even a thing!
Is it bizarre or the future? Is it better than printing your own thank you notes in a ‘handwritten’ font on your home printer? Can a robot hand really deliver that personal touch? I would love to know what you think!
Note: the hand in the photo is my real hand – not a robot one. For that, head over to https://bond.co and watch the videos in the background 🙂 It’s the weirdest backwards step in tech I’ve ever seen – but strangely and disturbingly fascinating!
I once worked with a wedding stationery designer who charges her clients £60 per hour for her services.
She was, as her price tag suggests, something of a diva. (I’ve never seen such an impressive tantrum about couriers!)
She is also the perfect example of how shockingly ‘high end’ wedding stationery can be priced. It’s NOT how I price my calligraphy services.
We were chalk and cheese (let’s say I’m the chalk!) – I consider myself an artisan, a craftsperson, an independent designer, a skilled maker. I work with my hands: my prices are more in line with what a stonemason or carpenter might charge for their craft.
My stationery designer friend, on the other hand, saw herself as the new Vivienne Westwood, and priced accordingly.
Affordable personalised invites from £2
Calligraphy can be affordable or expensive, depending what you choose to have for your wedding. My printed ‘off the shelf’ invitations cost around £2. I use a specialist printer to ensure quick turnaround and quality; once the design is complete, this is much less labour intensive for me, and costs you less than handwritten calligraphy.
Actual calligraphy work costs more per item because it takes time to produce. An invitation can take anything from twenty minutes to an hour to write, and so I charge accordingly for my time and for paper stocks, inks and ribbons.
How I set prices for bespoke calligraphy design
If a handwritten calligraphy invitation costs £6 or more, it’s because it’s carefully and lovingly created. If I write two invitations per hour, and deduct the price for my paper and ink, I make £10 per hour… and it’s impossible to write by hand constantly for 7 hours a day so my ‘writing’ earnings tend to be around £50 – £60 per day’s work.
How does that compare to your salary?
Bespoke calligraphy wedding invitations are priced by the word because longer wordings take longer to write.
Prices start from £6 per handwritten invitation.
The average price is £7 per invitation.
Traditional wordings (“Mr & Mrs X request the pleasure of your company at the marriage of their daughter…. followed by dinner and dancing… RSVP address…”) can cost around £9 per invitation.
If you include your venue’s full address and post code, both sets of parents’ details, a full RSVP address and postcode as well as multiple middle names it can be more expensive.
The trick is to keep calligraphy wordings short and provide as much information as you can on your personal wedding website.
By keeping calligraphy word counts in check, you can have beautiful, handwritten calligraphy invitations on cotton rag papers for substantially less than you’d pay for letterpress printing.
Bespoke calligraphy – a beautiful investment
Handwritten invitations are a wonderful keepsake for your guests; even more so if they’re personalised.
Calligraphy envelopes will be kept for weeks, months, years.
That personal touch is a rare treat nowadays – so it’s more than worth the investment.
Your wedding invitations aren’t really for you: they’re for the people you love so much you want them to share your day. Spending a little more than £5 on each of those people – only if you can afford to – is a wonderful, meaningful gesture.
Optional extras or a surprisingly cheap alternative to calligraphy invitations
Place names are the most affordable little treat of all. Prices start from 50p for a simple, sweet, elegant handwritten place name card.
If your wedding budget won’t allow for handwritten invitations, save the calligraphy for the big day and hire me to write you some beautiful place names – they make equally beautiful keepsakes for your guests to treasure.
I went down to Manchester the other day to check out Ziferblat (and do some birthday shopping for my man) – and without a shadow of a doubt, if I lived closer to Manchester I’d be working from their comfy mega-living-room at least one day a week.
Ziferblat’s classroom is where my next modern calligraphy workshop will happen. It’s easy to get to, with plenty of space for lots of calligraphers (I mean you!) – I’m really excited to be running a class in there!
Ziferblat, it turns out, is a genius place for self employed and creative folks to get shit done. It’s practically next door to the Craft & Design Centre, and you instantly feel welcome from the moment you arrive.
On a normal visit you’re greeted at the door by a lovely person who’ll explain, in a nutshell, how the biscuits work (They write your name down and what time you got there, you wander off and drink coffee with cakes or whatever, then you pay for the minutes you’ve spent thereon your way out.
On the day of the calligraphy workshop, the classroom at Ziferblat will be set out ready for us with tea / coffee, biscuits etc laid out for us. You could also grab a cake or a sandwich from Ziferblat’s selection on the way in.
Ziferblat hosts (they’re all lovely friendly people) will show you to the classroom when you arrive. I’ll be the one by the blackboard, chalk in hand, playing teacher – I can’t wait!! – We’ll each have a desk (it’s properly like school!) and I’ll set up my little pop up shop so you can buy a pen & nib to take home if you fall in love with calligraphy!
Anything you eat or drink during the class is included in the ticket price of the workshop. Yes – once you’ve bought your ticket it’s all free until the end of the class! And if you’d like to stay for a coffee after the workshop, simply check in at the main desk, grab a comfy chair and enjoy the Ziferblat vibe!