In my years as a professional calligrapher I’ve written hundreds of family trees – mainly via my Not On The High Street store, where I sell small format, modern family trees with hand calligraphy. These are wonderful Christmas gift ideas with a very special personal touch – it’s coming up to busy season and I can’t wait!
I also write bespoke family trees for larger families – these are mainly the more traditional family tree layout, and often written in a more timeless calligraphy style. I use gothic lettering for titles, occasionally adding gilding or a little colour on request. Names are added in a Copperplate style flowing script with flourishing detail. Any dates can be included in a more formal italic or gothic lettering style, as per your wishes.
Family tree sizes range from A3 to A1 in size, depending how many names you have, and the required layout for your tree. I’m happy to advise – please don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions, and I’ll be happy to help!
The family tree calligraphy arrived today and I’m super pleased as I’m sure my parents will be when I present it to them.
Thank you for all your hard work and huge thanks again – it’s fabulous 🙂
With Kind Regards
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.
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!
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
Do a rough pencil sketch on paper
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
Measure the board and mark these sections lightly in pencil – using dots or tiny lines at the edge
Using masking tape, divide the board into sections
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’
Very gently, and in a soft (e.g. 7B) pencil, draw your letters to make sure you have enough space
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
Remove your masking tape and voilà! A beautiful wedding chalkboard sign
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…
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!
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!
Sometimes I just like to play with my pens and inks, to write a practice piece simply because I enjoy the writing process, with no restrictions on size or letter style.
This poem – always a favourite – is in a very straight (not slanted) calligraphy style. It’s ultra modern and trendy. The letters are curvy though, giving them tons of character and adding to the rhythm of the words.
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
This is poem is available to buy in my Etsy shop for £49.
Alexandra and Christopher asked me to write their wedding invitations earlier this year: they were 100% handwritten, in black ink and a modern, elegant calligraphy style. Teamed with burgundy envelopes addressed in gold ink, they set the scene for a beautiful and elegant celebration.
I was delighted to hear from Alexandra again a month before the wedding date, when she asked me to write place names and menus for the wedding reception.
The colours and fine paper choice was the same; the menus with 112 words apiece were a challenge to write in a tiny calligraphy script – but they were a joy to write.
Pricing for wedding menus depends on the word count, colours and paper types. Do get in touch if you’d like to find out more.
Last week was a bizarre and wonderful mix of calligraphy commissions – if anyone imagines the life of a calligrapher to be all wedding invitations, it couldn’t be further from the truth!
It’s one of my favourite things about Etsy: the requests for bespoke calligraphy commissions which come from all over the world can be anything, and no two weeks are the same.
This memorial scholarship award certificate was almost 600 words in modern calligraphy lettering, so space was at a premium even on A2 paper. Planning the layout for a piece like this takes a while and has to be meticulous – after 10 hours of writing you simply can’t afford to run out of space!
I generally take a few goes to be happy with the lettering on an important commission like this – the flow and rhythm of the calligraphy has to look and feel right… on this occasion it meant my first two attempts at the opening paragraph went in the recycling. The third just flowed and felt right – and this is the version you see.
Way back in 2012 I first came across Cox & Cox‘s handmade place cards. They were beautiful, handmade paper with soft, torn edges. Cox & Cox advertised them as being ‘beautiful to write on’ – but the opposite was true! These were rough, fibrous and almost impossible to write on with a calligraphy nib and ink.
But handmade papers are more popular now, more widely available and in a wider range of finishes. There are handmade paper makers who work primarily with calligraphers and wedding stylists too. Silk & Willow were the first; lovely Kate Cullen has launched her own handmade papers for the UK wedding market this year.
Are they suitable for calligraphy? The truth is, they’re incredibly hard to write on – but they are so beautiful it would be criminal not to try!
This week I’ve been writing invitations on Silk & Willow papers. They’re fibrous – cotton rag papers have long fibres which bind the paper together. But they don’t always lay flat, and they catch between the tines of a calligraphy nib. This makes choosing a nib super hard!
Rough surfaced papers wear nibs quickly. I’d bought in plenty of spares for this week’s order – and luckily I’d stocked up on some of my fave ‘standard’ nibs at the same time. Things weren’t going to work out as planned…
I’d had an email chat with Emily (the bride) where I’d mentioned I’d need to test the paper was ok for calligraphy – she sent me her Silk & Willow paper and I tested it with a Leonardt EF Principal nib – not too flexible, to allow fine hairlines which were essential for the small stationery and contemporary wedding invitation wording.
The test was a success, but I did have to warn Emily that fibres would catch in the nib as I wrote, and they’d create some thicker lines and curves.
We went ahead with Emily’s blessing.
The Leonardt nib wore very quickly as expected. The key to writing on handmade papers is to go super slowly, especially around curves and corners where the nib is travelling sideways. Loose fibres will catch in the nib – there’s no escaping it – so the trick is to watch every tiny movement of the pen and be ready to stop at the barest fraction of a second’s notice.
A brand new nib causes fewer problems. As the nibs I was using wore, they picked up more fibres and slowed me down, so I tried alternatives to the Leonardt nib on a similar paper – and surprisingly, the Nikko G performed best of all. It’s not sharp, and it’s tight enough to make super thin hairlines on handmade papers. Win!
I finished Emily and Matthew’s invitations happily with the Nikko G. They have a few little catches where the nib dragged those tiny fibres across, but overall the effect is beautiful. Hand calligraphy on handmade papers is a special kind of magic – it’s raw and real and I love it.
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