Modern Calligraphy Workshop in Manila

Calligraphy Workshop in Manila via Happy Hands Project

Last January marked my first modern calligraphy workshop in Manila, Philippines. It was a lovely Saturday with absolutely no traffic jam. It was sunny, and bright light was streaming down the floor-to-ceiling windows of The Picasso‘s function room. I’ve set up without a hitch, with fairy lights nicely hanging on the glass wall.

I brought all tools and workpads from Singapore, so the class in Manila was basically the same Happy Hour Workshop that we have in here. Thanks to my kids who have airline baggage allowance for themselves (even infants get 10kg!), I did not have to pay extra for more than 20 sets of workshop kits! Yay!

Calligraphy Workshop in Manila via Happy Hands Project

We were packed to the brim that day. These amazing ladies got to work, practicing their letter forms, as I went around to see how each of them were doing. It’s so satisfying to see them struggle during the first strokes of the drills, then start improving as they start filling the pages with more letters.

Of course, a workshop is not complete without coffee and pastries, so we stopped mid-way to refuel and mingle. It was great to get to know each and everyone of them, find out what they do for a living and how they stumbled upon this workshop (someone said Google, which was awesome).

Thanks to everyone who came to the Beginners’ Class — hopefully I’ll be back later this year for an intermediate one, or even brush lettering! We’ll never know. Hugs to the ladies who had to travel quite far just to get the workshop. Lastly, high fives to the amazing team at The Picasso Boutique & Serviced Residences for giving in to my requests and setting up so nicely. I can’t wait to be back! Now here are more photos of the class. To those who weren’t able to come, hope to see you guys next time!

Calligraphy Workshop in Manila via Happy Hands Project

Calligraphy Workshop in Manila via Happy Hands Project

Calligraphy Workshop in Manila via Happy Hands Project

Freebie: Printable Valentine Card

Printable Valentine Card via Happy Hands Project

So. Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and let’s face it — not everyone is in the mood for cheesy love cards. I wanted to paint something using my black Higgins Eternal ink, but I was painting with my 5-year old (and she was happily blending reds and greens to make cherries) so I thought pink would be nice.

Here’s my interpretation of the unromantic Valentine card. A prickly cactus in a blend of pink and purple, giving free hugs to those who dare. I threw in a tiny heart just for kicks. Perfect for those you have utterly no romantic feelings for, but you love ’em anyway. Hope you love this free printable as much as I did!

 

Raw & Regal: Industrial Themed Wedding

Industrial Wedding Theme via Happy Hands Project

The past two years have all been about vintage and rustic weddings, with white, blush and champagne. It’s a very pretty, pleasing theme and I always enjoyed designing invitations in such a warm colour palette.

Last year, I was approached by Wedrock Weddings and Ideal Weddings Magazine for an Industrial-themed wedding styled shoot. It would be mostly grey, with hints of magenta, copper and forest green. So it’s cool, with hints of warm tones to balance everything. Without a thought, I said I was in!

The venue was at a restaurant in the East, with raw grey walls and marble countertops — perfect for an industrial wedding, indeed. For this editorial shoot, I provided lettering and calligraphy for an invitation suite and envelopes, framed signage, and menu.

Hope you lovely couples who are planning a wedding would find inspiration from these stunning photos from the shoot!

Styling: Wedrock Weddings
Venue: Mad Nest
Photography: Visual Artisans
Makeup: Makethisout
Flowers: Lavender Love Florist
Cake: My Fat Lady Cakes

Industrial Wedding Theme via Happy Hands Project

Industrial Wedding Theme via Happy Hands Project

Industrial Wedding Theme via Happy Hands Project

More photos of the shoot over here. Enjoy!

 

The Calligraphy Oblique Holder Year-end Giveaway

Oblique Holder Set Giveaway | Happy Hands Project

Woot woot! Time for a year-end giveaway! 2016 is coming to a close, and I have to say that this year is indeed a very special one. I have so much to be thankful for, despite the ups and downs that almost made me feel like I was riding a year-long roller coaster. So who wants to win for herself (or himself!) a custom-made wooden oblique holder set?

This year our little family had another addition. The Happy Hour Workshops continued to be extremely in-demand, and I have grown so much just by teaching the craft I loved most. I had my first online workshop (or more appropriately, speaking engagement) over at Modern Thrive. I continued having classes at my favourite studio, The Untitled Space, and said goodbye to it last November. I’ve had lots of amazing memories in that place, but now I am on the lookout for new workshop venues. That in itself, is another adventure. I adore the wedding invitation suites that I designed this year — thanks to brides who were never short of creative ideas!

Most importantly, my dream of having a Happy Hands Project calligraphy oblique holder came true!

So guys, to give thanks to everyone of you who stuck around Happy Hands Project and continued following this humble blog of mine, I’m giving away a set of the Happy Hands Project oblique holder set, crafted in collaboration with woodworker Mr Keiichi Sato in Japan.

Join in! The set consists of an oblique holder for right-handed writers, an ink jar holder with 2 ink bottles included, and a pen rest. I will ship the set to anywhere in the world via Singpost registered mail. One winner will be randomly chosen on 1 January 2017 and will be announced thereafter. The giveaway opens 14 December 2016, and closes on 31 December 2016.

 

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THE HAPPY HANDS CALLIGRAPHY OBLIQUE HOLDER

The Happy Hands Calligraphy Oblique Holder | happy hands project

I finally have the date for the next intermediate calligraphy class, and it’s the most special one I’ll have in my almost 3 years of teaching. When I started with modern calligraphy, I’ve been using a straight holder. After getting Copperplate lessons from Eleanor Winters, I became more comfortable with an oblique pen and now I use an oblique 99% of the time.

Now what makes the upcoming workshop so special, you might ask?

Well… (drum roll please), introducing — the custom wooden calligraphy set specially customized for the Happy Hour Workshops! It’s a collaboration between yours truly and wood worker Keiichi Sato of @garagewoodworkingjp in Japan. I’ve worked closely with Mr Sato with regards to the grip, flange, size and finishing for this beautiful set, and I’m blown away with how amazing everything turned out. I have been using the oblique holder for a couple of months now, and it’s been my go-to pen ever since.

The Happy Hands Oblique Holder | Happy Hands Project

Participants to the workshop will each receive a wooden oblique made of Hinoki, or Japanese Cypress with a flange to fit most nibs. It’s handy and lightweight, which is one of the first things I look for in a holder. The set also includes a matching base for ink jars and a pen rest made of Douglas Fir. The wooden base for inks is specially designed to stabilize those jars — I’ve been known to spill inks all over my desk (which also happens to be white) so this made my life easier.

Mr Sato opts for natural, old-fashioned finishes like shellac and beeswax. A traditional woodworker, he uses hand tools made in the late 18th century. When asked about his choice of wood, he explained that he likes using Japanese Cypress for the holders because it is a softwood that’s lightweight and gives a good feel. “Weight is very important to make hours of writing comfortable”, he noted. “Japanese Cypress is also waterproof. As a matter of fact, many high end Japanese ryokans use Japanese Cypress to make bathtubs because of its nice smell and water repellency”.

Making calligraphy holders is also different from other wooden pieces because according to Mr Sato, holders are not art pieces but practical tools. Some calligraphers like his daughter for instance, don’t like staining their pens with ink (quite contrary to me, because I stain mine all the time). Liquid can be trapped in the slots for flanges which may result in problems only a woodworker may understand. “It’s a huge challenge for me, and I am learning new things everyday”, he mused, and I can only nod in response.

The Happy Hands Oblique Holder | Happy Hands Project

“I used to travel 100,00 miles a year when I was a sports photographer in the US”, he told me. “Now I stay in my garage with a Siberian Husky.” When asked how he got started making wooden pieces for calligraphy, he said, “I love woodworking because I love to use my hands. My daughter is a wonderful calligrapher, and I started making calligraphy supplies with wood to support her.”

When it comes to aesthetic, Mr Sato is a mad snake when it comes to details (my words, not his). “I don’t mind spending hours perfecting details while keeping the design as simple as possible”, he replied. He values good relationships with calligraphers, many of them asking for custom pieces like boxes, pen trays, coffee scoops and chopping boards, to name a few.

The Happy Hands Oblique Holder | Happy Hands Project

“If I were living in Singapore, I’d love to make my shop open to calligraphers to stop by. Fix their holders, change their grips, or anything I can do to help them”, he offered. I’m sure I won’t be the only one hanging out in his shop everyday if that happens!

Now that I’ve shown you all this beautiful set, I’d love to have you at my Intermediate Workshop! Interested in advancing your skills in modern calligraphy, and the same time snagging your own custom oblique set? More details can be found here. Hope you’re as excited as I am!

8 LETTERING ARTISTS TO FOLLOW ON INSTAGRAM

Lettering Artist to Follow on Instagram via Happy Hands Project

Instagram has been an important part of my journey in calligraphy and lettering. I’d say I’m quite a visual person — I get inspired by the things I see. The lettering and calligraphy community on Insta is like one big happy family, and when one is stuck in a rut, there’s always someone out there who’s ready to help. I’ve personally met some really inspiring people over there (if you’re reading this, hi!) and it was awesome.

For those of you looking for inspiration on social media, look no further. Here, I’ve compiled 8 up-and-coming lettering artists from different parts of the globe to inspire the handlettering lover in you!

Indonesia
@anggiivee

Lettering Artist to Follow on Instagram via Happy Hands Project

Spain
@gartz_

Lettering Artist to Follow on Instagram via Happy Hands Project

Russia
@oh_letters

Lettering Artist to Follow on Instagram via Happy Hands Project

Australia
@letterhstudio

Lettering Artist to Follow on Instagram via Happy Hands Project

USA
@jaekimdesigns

Lettering Artist to Follow on Instagram via Happy Hands Project

USA
@artbyhal

Lettering Artist to Follow on Instagram via Happy Hands Project

elarus
@dimaphew

Lettering Artist to Follow on Instagram via Happy Hands Project

United Kingdom
@yourgrayce

Lettering Artist to Follow on Instagram via Happy Hands Project

MY CALLIGRAPHY OBLIQUE HOLDER COLLECTION (SO FAR)

Calligraphy Oblique Holders via Happy Hands Project

When I started with calligraphy, I was writing with a straight wooden holder. I became familiar with the oblique when I learned Copperplate with Eleanor Winters, and I never used a straight one since then. Because Copperplate needs to strictly follow the 55-degree angle, the oblique pen holder has helped me maintain a consistent angle.

After using a Speedball for some time, I felt that I was ready to have a custom pen made. It was kind of like a coming-of-age moment (in calligraphy years). I had an ergonomic one made by Heber Miranda and it’s still by far one of my favourites because it’s lightweight and has a Bullock-style flange that’s perfect for someone who uses various kinds of nibs.

I received one comment on Instagram asking me why I have quite a number of holders when they all work the same way. Well… it’s kind of like shoes. You may have several strappy high heels, but they come in different colours and each pair fits your feet differently. They’re all strappy high heels but one pair is used for a particular dress style, and some of them won’t look nice with jeans. I could go on and on but well, you get the picture. So I guess it’s the same with my holders! I have ones with Bullock-style flanges, and I have a couple of ergonomic ones, so depending on the nib — and my mood — I would reach for one that would be best suited for the job. Oh, and I have a leather pen roll that fits 18 or so pens so I want to fill it to the brim.

If you’re curious, here are the oblique holders from my collection so far:

1 :: The Curious Artisan, Philippines (I wrote a review here)

2 :: MP Obliques, Turkey

3 :: Yoke Pen Co, USA

4 :: Heber Miranda, USA

5 :: ObliquePen.ru, Russia

6 :: The Curious Artisan, Philippines

7 :: Huy Hoang Dao, Vietnam

8 :: Bukvawood, Russia

9 :: Unique Obliques, USA

I have one more pen that I have yet to reveal, and it deserves its very own blog post because it’s extremely special. I’ll update you all next month, but in the meantime, I hope you liked reading about my modest collection. If you have a pen maker in mind, let me know in the comments so I and the lovely readers can check their work out!

MIXING YOUR OWN WHITE GOUACHE

Mixing Gouache via Happy Hands Project

I remember the time when I was on my diligent quest for the perfect white ink. I wanted something opaque, yet thin enough to flow through a variety of nibs. At some point I thought I’ve found it — I was happy with the PH Martins Pen White. It could be the stuffy weather here in Singapore, or it could be the way I was storing my inks (like all over the place… oops), but every time I pick up the bottle and open it, I had to add a few drops of water to thin the ink out. If I have to add water every single time, then it’s not so perfect after all, isn’t it?

Then I had to mix some custom ink colours for a project. Before I used gouache, I was using pre-mixed inks in various colours (note: I wouldn’t recommend that at all). Aside from the fact that I had to buy a bottle of ink for every colour I need, the pre-mixed inks just can’t do the job. They’re too watery (yes, I’m talking about you, Daler Rowney Calli!).

Mixing Gouache via Happy Hands Project

During that time, I’ve heard about calligraphers mixing their own gouache. It was intimidating, and I thought I had to leave that to the pros. But I’m glad I experimented! As with all experiments, the first try wasn’t as good. But… BUT! I got better with it, and I realised it’s not that difficult at all.

So now I mix my own white ink using gouache. What you’ll need is pretty simple actually:

:: tube of white gouache (I use Daler Rowney Designer Gouache)

:: plastic pipette

:: gum arabic powder (optional, I use Jacquard)

:: tap water

:: ink jar

Ok, so what do we do now? Before we mix everything up, let me give you some background about gum arabic. There is liquid gum arabic, and there’s powder. I use powder and dissolve it in warm tap water — I usually mix 1 part powder to 3 parts water, stir it and keep it in a small plastic jar for multiple uses. Warm water dissolves the powder easily and does not result in a clumpy mess. Gum arabic is basically a binder that controls viscosity and does a great job in preventing feathering. It’s optional because mixing gouache and water alone produces great results as well, depending on the paper used.

Mixing Gouache via Happy Hands Project

Mixing your own gouache is trial-and-error, and you’ll get better the more often you do this (pretty much like calligraphy!). So fill your jar with some white gouache, add a few drops of your gum arabic mixture, and a few drops of water. Mix it well and add a few drops of water until you reach the right consistency. Test it with your nib to see if your ink flows. If not, then it’s still too thick. Just keep on adding drops of water and testing till you get the consistency that works well for you.

And there you have it — solid white ink that’s better than store-bought ones! What’s your favourite white ink? Let me know in the comments!

BORACAY WEDDING INVITATIONS: AIZA AND MELVIN

I love designing destination wedding invites, specially Boracay Island wedding invitations. It usually has a very carefree feel, and this invite for Aiza and Melvin is no different.

This is a combination of watercolour washes, illustrations and calligraphy using very soft hues that displayed a sweet, relaxed vibe. We started out with the Save the Date cards with a hand-illustrated ‘relationship timeline’ where I painted some landmarks close to the couple’s hearts — think Japan’s Mount Fuji for instance (where he proposed! Insert hearts here).

Once the Save the Dates were out, I then worked with the bride on the wedding logo which will appear on the main invite card. More painting ensued, including a map of Boracay Island (that was FUN, I’m telling ya). What I love about this invitation suite is how  pointed pen calligraphy, watercolours and illustrations in ink complemented each other beautifully.

Here are photos from Aiza and Melvin’s wedding… enjoy!

Photography: Niceprint Photography
Venue: Asya Premiere Suites, Boracay Island

Boracay Calligraphy Wedding Invitations via Happy Hands Project

Boracay Calligraphy Wedding Invitations via Happy Hands Project

Boracay Calligraphy Wedding Invitations via Happy Hands Project

 

 

FREE PRINTABLE MODERN CALLIGRAPHY ALPHABET

Modern Calligraphy Exemplar via Happy Hands Project

I was messing around with my guidelines and tracing paper, thinking of writing in another freehand style of modern calligraphy. Since I’ve become comfortable with my own style, it’s become difficult for me to try to come up with an entirely different way of writing the alphabet.

After a few tries, I came up with an entrance stroke that was pretty simple but all new to me. I wrote the uppercase letters in a similar style, but did not use my usual slant. Instead, I wrote this in a slightly upright manner, and that is how I came up with The Eloise Exemplar.

Modern Calligraphy Exemplar via Happy Hands Project

So why did I explore this other style? Well, I’m not planning on using this type of freehand in any of my calligraphy pieces, but it was a good exercise. I am very comfortable with my own calligraphy handwriting so coming up with a different way of writing letters (and eventually an entire alphabet!) was a challenge. But I’m telling ya, it was super fun.

So how about if I share this exemplar to my lovely readers? Yes? Modern calligraphy beginners, this will serve as a good alphabet guide that you can print out and copy. Having an alphabet guide in front of you while practicing will help you familiarise yourselves with the letter forms. This will also show you which stroke should be an upstroke (thin) and which should be a downstroke (thick). Once you are comfortable with writing each letter, then you can explore different styles and eventually come up with your own. How cool is that?

So get your dotted pad, ink, holder and Nikko G nib ready and print this exemplar on an A4 sized card stock. Happy writing! And remember — practice makes pretty!

 

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