I really do get to work with the loveliest people! From the moment Emma emailed about her wedding invitations, every correspondence was a pleasure.
Emma and Duncan’s day was classic, beautifully styled and in a timeless colour palette. I wrote hand calligraphy in a dusky pink ink, on luxury stationery with a slight texture. Printing was in a soft dove grey.
Emma and Duncan ordered invitations from me at first, then for their reception at Cripps Barn went on to have a table plan, place names and wedding menus for all of their tables.
They styled tables with macaron favours, gorgeous table numbers and white linens with a dusky pink ribbon.
Read my article about making practice fun, where I explain a little more about all of these – and don’t be afraid to experiment!
Modern calligraphy isn’t about making the perfect shapes on your page. It’s about exploring an art form, trying something new and finding your own personality through your writing.
So if you’re a rose-gold on black kind of person, this is how you should practise… be a little flamboyant, spoil yourself, and pop to the shops with gold ink all over your hands and face! You’re a calligrapher now…
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!)
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!
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.
Decent printer / copier paper (at least 100gsm)
A dip pen and nib (straight or oblique penholder and a pointed nib – I recommend the Nikko G)
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.
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!
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)
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!
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.
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