I am beyond excited to announce that after months in the making, the Make Your Own Happy Hour Modern Calligraphy Starter Kit is finally ready!
I know there are a lot of you who are not in Singapore and have always wanted to come to the in-person workshops. Here’s the next best thing! The starter kit is similar to the kits given out during the Happy Hour workshops, though the booklets were downsized from A4 to A5 for more affordable shipping costs. You will receive the tools to get you started—2 flexible nibs, a pot of black ink, a wooden straight holder, my favourite Blackwing pencil, a writing booklet, instruction guide, and practice tips. The kit also includes a screen printed tote and an assortment of cards and kraft tags for you to show off your calligraphy skills.
I’ve spent months planning what goes into this box, and re-designing the booklets and instruction guides. I hope this will help kickstart your journey in pointed calligraphy. It also makes an awesome gift for that guy or gal who has always wanted to try their hand at modern calligraphy but did not know where to start.
Each kit is hand-assembled and peppered with a lot of love (from me, of course!) so I hope you’ll love this as much as I do.
Khadi handmade paper is made of cotton rags and handmade in South India. I’ve purchased a few packs of the handmade paper I’ve been seeing all over Instagram for years—and it did not disappoint. The sheets have natural deckled edges and beautiful texture.
I wanted to use the Khadi Papers with what I’m most familiar with, and that would be watercolours, gouache and Finetec metallic inks. The paper may look oh-so-prefect, but don’t be deceived. For those who will be writing on Khadi paper for the first time, be prepared to encounter some minor hiccups.
Due to its handmade nature, the paper is wonderfully textured. This means pointed nibs like the Gillotts or Hunts will snag on the upstrokes. Fibres will accummulate during the downstrokes, so there is a need to frequently wash or wipe your nib before the upstroke. I’ve found that the Blanzy-Poure 2552 nib works well with gouache or Finetec.
Write slowly, slower than you normally would. Tread lightly—do not write with a heavy hand, and you will be BFFs with your Khadi paper in no time.
100% cotton papers tend to absorb more water compared to cellulose ones (non-archival, student-grade paper). So painting leaves and florals using Khadi means you need more water on your brush. It works very well for wet-on-wet techniques as well, which will give you beautifully-blended washes.
In conclusion, writing on Khadi handmade paper needs a bit of trial-and-error, but when you get the hang of it, you wouldn’t want to stop. There are so many types of paint that you can try, and I’m sure there are a lot of pointed nibs that work as well.
Tokyu Hands at Westgate Mall had its share of Pentel brush lettering workshops last August. Organised by my friends at Pentel Singapore, we had 2 afternoons of short classes for brush lettering beginners. Similar to the classes we’ve done at Tokyu Hands at Orchard Central, we used the ever-so-colourful Pentel Fude brush pens.
It was my first time visiting Tokyu Hands at Westgate Mall, and the shop is quite huge. This time around, we had a lot of families coming for the 40-minute crash courses. There were quite a lot of kids this time, which made the classes all the more fun. Kids love to experiment and are very eager to learn and they don’t overthink the process—we can always learn from them, don’t you think?
What I love about the Pentel fude brush pens is that it’s very easy to use. Kids had a lot of fun exploring the vast array of colours. It was also quite easy for the young ones to follow the alphabet guides provided—mostly because they get to choose what colour of pen to use. The more colourful it is, the more fun they have!
Here are more photos from the event—feel free to share online if you’re in them! We’ll be back for a third instalment of brush lettering workshops with Pentel, this time at Tokyu Hands at Suntec City Mall. See you guys on 11-12 November! Click here for the schedule and sign-up details.
More photos from the event can be found on Pentel’s Facebook page. All photos courtesy of Pentel Singapore.
A trip to Art Bar PH should definitely be on your list when you’re visiting Manila, Philippines. First, you can immerse yourself in art books and hoard art supplies. Second, there are so many things to see, eat and do around the area. Did I say eat? Yup, but that’s another story.
I was in my hometown of Manila recently, and I’m telling you, every time I step foot in its familiar soil, I always find something new. One of them is Art Bar PH at Serendra, Bonifacio Global City (more commonly known to locals as simply ‘BGC’). It was boarded up the last time I was there, but in its place now stood a smallish yet eye-catching arts and crafts supply store.
There are quite a lot of pens to choose from, and they’re actually carrying Palomino Blackwing pencils! Near the staircase and one of the shelves on the first level are a few calligraphy supplies. It’s a modest selection, but still adequate for those starting out. There are different brush pens stacked in one of the shelves as well.
For those looking for different pads, be it for watercolour or calligraphy, there is a wide selection of local products. As far as I know, you won’t find these in Singapore.
The highlight is on the second level! Oh, I loved the sunlight streaming onto the book shelves. There are huge glass display cabinets with Winsor and Newton products. They also have Arches watercolour paper in blocks.
I saw quite a lot of art books here, from hand-lettering to interior design. They also carry locally-printed titles and books by Filipino artists. Surrounded by the arched bookshelf is a cozy work table meant for workshops. I imagine it to be a great venue for a calligraphy or brush lettering class.
I can stay up on the second level for hours, browsing through the books. Aside from that, I checked out the paint brushes and got myself my first Princeton brush. There are a few other paintbrush brands as well.
So I went home with a bunch of pads and a Princeton paint brush. I’ll let you in on the pads I got next time. Overall, I’d say Art Bar PH is worth your while when you’re in Manila. You don’t really need to hoard tons of supplies—I got myself a pretty decent haul even if it’s not much. The best part is I left feeling exhilarated and inspired and looking forward to start doing something creative again.
Here’s what happened during the latest Modern Calligraphy workshop for beginners here in Singapore.
Last September, The Happy Hour: Beginners’ Modern Calligraphy workshop is back! I love teaching this class because almost 99% of the time, the participants have not tried their hand at pointed pen calligraphy. Why do I love this, you may ask? Because they leave the class truly inspired by what they learned, and are able to write the alphabet using the beginners’ tools.
The special ‘Make Your Own Happy Hour‘ booklet is a wonderful workbook to get started, printed in premium, super smooth paper. It has stroke-by-stroke instructions on how to write the letters of the alphabet. This is the pad that we use in class and will be used for further practice when at home.
I always tell the story of how I started out in class. When I started modern calligraphy in 2012, there were no classes here in Singapore at all. The struggle was real, my friends. When I finally got the hang of it (after 2 years!), my friends convinced me to try to teach this craft. Needless to say, I felt very unsure. I finally took a shaky step and taught my first class—and I’m still having a wonderful time teaching modern calligraphy after almost 4 years!
It’s the first modern calligraphy class hosted by the awesome people at Fika Swedish Cafe, who prepared this delectable canapé spread for all of us. We had the cozy second level all to ourselves, and on a sunny day, the natural light is just perfect for writing with pen and ink.
My advice to beginners is still the same. Practice makes pretty! Here are some photos of our most recent modern calligraphy class. Upcoming classes are posted here. Enjoy!
It’s been a while since I’ve posted a nib review here on the Happy Hands blog. During the recent Modern Calligraphy workshop, I got asked several times how different the Leonardt 40 nib was from Nikko G. These 2 nibs are usually the ones included in my workshop kits. However, I always advise to use this blue nib only when they’re already used to the G nib. So how different are these 2 nibs, really?
MORE FLEXIBLE THAN THE NIKKO G NIB
The Leonardt 40 is also called Hiro 40, or Blue Pumpkin. Similar to the Brause Steno Blue Pumpkin in appearance, this is a large nib with an equally large ink reservoir. It’s very flexible, so the pressure needed to get a thick swell in a Nikko G is not necessary with the Leonardt 40. Because it’s softer, just a bit of pressure makes the tines open up—allowing the ink to flow and form thick swells.
The Nikko G is stiff and somewhat tough, but the Leonardt is soft and more flexible.
Because it’s more flexible, putting a lot of pressure results in a very thick downstroke. This thickness cannot be achieved using a Nikko G nib. The only downside is that the upstrokes are not very thin, which is essential to Copperplate calligraphy.
THE BLUE PUMPKIN GIVES THICKER SWELLS
For those who love to write modern calligraphy and aim for super thick swells, then this is the nib for you.
For beginners, it’s always best to start with the stiff Nikko G nib (or Tachikawa G, which comes from the same manufacturer). Once you’ve mastered the concept of the pointed pen (pressure on the downstrokes, release on the upstrokes), then you can proceed with using the Leonardt 40.
I’ve also noticed that my ink lasts longer with the Nikko G. I get to write more letters with one dip of ink with the Nikko than the Leonardt. Again, this is due to the flexibility of the latter. Because it produces thick swells, the Leonardt 40 needs more ink. So I dip this nib more often in ink when I’m writing.
I’d say this nib is worth a try if you haven’t done so yet. Nibs behave very differently with every calligrapher, so a nib that works well for one may not do wonders for another. But the paper and ink used also play a part, so make sure all your tools work well together. All in all, this nib is still one of my favourites. Check out my other favourite nibs in this roundup.
So have you tried using the Leonardt Blue Pumpkin? Yay or nay?
Are you a beginner who wants to get better in calligraphy? I’ve a question for you. Since you began your sojourn, have you become better and more confident with your pen? Or do you think there are too many mistakes and you’re ready to give it up?
I’m telling you—don’t give up just yet.
In 2011, modern calligraphy was starting to infiltrate my Pinterest feed, and I was curious. I was lucky enough to receive replies from popular calligraphers, telling me what tools they used. I excitedly ordered them from the US (this was a time when there were no calligraphy tools here in Singapore; Straits Art didn’t even have Higgins Eternal!). When I started using those so-called awesome nibs and inks, I realised I couldn’t get them to work.
But I didn’t give up. I learned from my mistakes. And here I’m sharing with you how I’ve learned from the mistakes I’ve made so that you, too, would get better at calligraphy.
1:: Keep your first few calligraphy attempts
You’d think the first time you tried to write a few strokes was terrible, right? I did, too. There were no workshops at the time in Singapore so I had no choice but to self-study. My experience with dip pens were in college, but we used broad edge. That’s a different beast right there, so when I used the pointed pen, I was floored.
But I kept the pad I used at the time. That jotter pad that didn’t know anything else but feather everything I write on it. I even tried to write what nibs I used (which of course, didn’t help). It’s good to keep your first attempts at writing calligraphy, so you can go back and see how far you’ve come. That in itself, is enough to give you the inspiration to keep going.
Eeep! If I stopped here, I wouldn’t know that I wasn’t a hopeless case.
2:: Write the dates on your practice sheets
The good thing about writing the date is that you will look at it a few months later, and realise you have improved. And for those who don’t practice often, it’s a good reminder that you should DO YOUR DRILLS!
3:: Mark your mistakes
I have learned that writing continuously is pointless if you don’t refer to an exemplar. This Engrossers’ Script exemplar from IAMPETH is perfect. Always have your alphabet guide in front of you so you can compare it against your own. Then review your practice strokes or words, and make little notes on your sheet. This will help you remember which parts have to be improved. It can be as simple as a loop that’s too big, or a descender with a line variation that wasn’t done smooth enough. Mark it, and make it better.
4:: Join A Calligraphy Community
This is also called, ‘find your tribe’. Or form your own cheering squad. Join a local guild if there’s one, or socialize with like-minded enthusiasts on social media and take it to the next level and meet in person! Having friends who like the same things you do are priceless human beings who will contribute to your growth as a calligrapher. Heck, they will also help you grow as a person. Friends who support each other in sickness and in health, through group purchases and art jams, are the best kind of friends if you ask me.
They will tell you when your letter form just ain’t right, the logo you made looked funny, or convince you that yes, the Blanzy nib works well on handmade paper.
If a local community is non-existent, connect with other calligraphers online instead. Flourish Forum is an amazing online community where everybody lends a helping hand.
So there you have it. Challenges in the world of calligraphy is never ending, that’s why learning is contiuous, too. If you’re just starting out, keep on practicing and don’t give up. Use the mistakes to your advantage and trust me, after a months of serious practice, you’ll laugh at how your first attempts looked like. I sure did. And it felt good.
A couple of months ago, I introduced a new workshop—painting leaves and wreaths using watercolour. I’ve been teaching calligraphy and brush lettering classes for a few years now, and I use foliage to frame my lettering pieces. I was super excited to be able to share how I paint my green tea, fern, eucalyptus and olive leaves to make lettering prettier!
It was a beautiful bright morning at Fika Swedish Cafe. You’re gonna love the Nordic feel of this place—it’s cozy and well-lit—which makes it perfect for classes like this. They also serve us delicious Swedish canapés so nobody goes hungry.
What’s so special about this class is the instructional booklet that the participants get to take home (on top of all the tools and materials for painting). It contained instructions on how I paint different kinds of leaves and how to form them into a wreath.
Oh, there were a lot of familiar faces as well. A lot of those who come to the modern calligraphy classes come back for the intermediate classes I introduce, so it felt like seeing old friends once again. Looking at everyone’s works, the olive leaves were most popular. And the Swedish meatballs from the canapé boards were a hit, too. I was soooo proud of how these ladies began the class with no painting experience at all, and finished with a beautiful wreath to take home!
Here are some more photos from the Leaves & Wreaths Workshop’s ‘maiden voyage’. Let me know in the comments if you’d like to join the next one!
Hey everyone! I’ve been busy last month setting up shop over at Creative Market, and it’s still an ongoing process. CM is a great source of design inspiration, and a very busy marketplace for creatives. There are tons of graphic design elements that one can use for a myriad of design projects. Oh, and did I say that thay have a bazillion calligraphy fonts (like this one right here) available as well?
As a designer and artist, I was thinking of ways to make other designers’ lives easier—and that is by supplying digital artworks that they can use for their own designs. Finally, I found the time to open up a shop and paint and paint and paint, and turn those watercolours into digital backgrounds (not easy!).
Insider Tip: You get 6 free product downloads every week. That’s where I get most of my free fonts and patterns. You need to be a member to access the free goodies, and signing up is easy peasy. Just click the Sign Up button on the top right.
I know my shop is still quite sparse, and I’ve got a looooong way to go before I can fill it to the brim. But let me share with you 3 quality products that I have so far—hope you like ‘em!
Give your website a dose of personality with these custom illustrated brush lettering elements. Build your brand by using these hand-lettered goodies on your marketing collateral. Use these as buttons and headers on your blog, or as overlays on your photos.
All hand-painted in rich watercolour which is perfect for your marketing, stationery, branding and personal projects. Use each background on its own, or put 2 or 3 together for a different effect — the possibilities are endless and it’s all up to you!
Two afternoons. Brush lettering with some of my favourite brush pens. Happy place. Happy people. Well, that’s the best description I can come up with as I recall the brush lettering weekend I had with my friends from Pentel Singapore at Tokyu Hands Orchard Road.
Saying it was a busy weekend would be an understatement. Pentel arranged 30-minute brush lettering workshops for free, and we had about 80 attendees in all workshops! I met 80 wonderful people who want to learn brush lettering! I think that makes the event so awesome.
During the classes, we used the Pentel Fude brush sign pen. This pen is one of my absolute favourites, and is perfect for beginners. It has a durable felt tip which gives good control, so the user can easily create thick and thin strokes that are essential in cursive brush lettering. At the end of each class, the attendees get one free pen in their choice of colour.
Way to go, Pentel! There were a lot of people asking about future events like this because the classes sold out so fast the first time. I’d love to have another go at this (it was that fun), so like the Pentel and HHP Facebook pages for future updates.
Thanks to Pentel Singapore, Tokyu Hands, and to everyone who dropped by to take the class or just say hi!