In response to emails from other calligraphers, this is how we work at Calligraphy for Weddings.
Pens and nibs
Our calligrapher uses pointed pens for most work. A steady supply of Gillot 303 nibs from Blots Pens is all we need both for small work (wedding place card calligraphy) and for larger lettering (table names, table plan headings).
We generally work with a nib for a couple of hours: perhaps 100 place cards or a single poem in calligraphy is enough for one nib, then we begin with a fresh one. It’s important never to lose the smooth slide along the paper, which tends to go with use.
Japanese sumi ink from Blots Pens is fantastic. We dilute it with a few drops of water so it flows freely through our nibs, and use it for poems, envelope addressing and place card work. It has a slight shine when dry. Most importantly on those occasions where we have to rule pencil lines the sumi ink won’t smear like gouache can.
For coloured inks we use calligraphy gouache. This is mixed with water, and if writing on a black or dark background we always add a tiny bit of white to the mix. For our calligraphy art the white gives an amazing brightness against black paper.
Metallics are always gouache: gold and silver are lovely, giving a raised surface to the calligraphy. Copper is a beautiful colour but it doesn’t dry so well. There seems to be too much loose pigment and not enough adhesion in the gouache.
Paper for calligraphy
Smooth, uncoated papers are always best for calligraphy. Our own stocks are from the Conqueror luxury paper brand, milled in Plymouth. For calligraphy art and special commissions we use Daler Rowney papers (made in Berkshire) and Saunders Waterford watercolour paper which is manufactured at St Cuthbert’s Mill in Somerset.
We’re sent place cards, invitations and envelopes to write on. 95% of the cards we receive pose no problems whatsoever for calligraphy. Occasionally we have to return orders. Certain paper surfaces are too slippy or rough to take the ink and the quality of calligraphy cannot be achieved. Poor surfaces include:
- glossy printed card or paper
- satin or matt coated card – any coating has the potential to prevent ink sinking into the card in the way we need it to. Satin or matt coated cards are worth testing though, as some coatings are ok.
- pearlescent cards – again, some are shiny and slippy; some take our calligraphy ink well. Sample cards are welcome.
- rustic papers with long fibres – these include place cards from Cox & Cox. The paper is just too hairy to be written on. Instead we’ve found our own alternative to these using a handmade paper from the Khadi mill in India.
Recommended calligraphy suppliers
Blots Pens in Manchester (mail order calligraphy supplier)
Turners Art Supplies in Cheshire (for papers, brushes, glues & general art supplies)