Most of you might not know this, but I’m a self-taught calligrapher. I was able to take a course with Eleanor Winters(all hail), but that was after I struggled for a couple of years to teach myself. I must admit that I had experience in Italic and Blackletter when I studied Art in college, but those two styles really did not strike my fancy. Fast forward to 2010, this was the time when I became very much influenced by the beautiful scripts I saw on wedding stationery.
I told myself — you can do this! Remember your Typography class? Piece of cake!
Um, no. The flexible pen used to write scripts is difficult to control, ink was splattering everywhere, a bazillion sheets of paper was wasted. So I did my research and taught myself. During that time, there was no abundance of workshops like what we have now, so I guess ‘struggled’ is an understatement. I went straight to writing letters and sentences, flourishing here and there as I went along. I told myself, you can do this! Write longer words and everything will all fall into place!
Again, no. I realised after a bit more reading and practicing that I need to start at the very beginning. I need to start with the basics, and basics meant drills. Those boring, repetitive loops and strokes that I tried to avoid for as long as I possibly could. There was no escaping it. So I got myself the best book in my possession (after my Harry Potter collection, I suppose) — Eleanor Winters’ Mastering Copperplate Calligraphy. I drew my grids, prepared my workspace, took a deep breath and started writing. And you know what? A few years later, I’m still practicing with drills and have become really fascinated with the rhythm and consistency of the letters I make. These exercises made me write better.
My simple advice? Practice with drills before you actually start writing. Throw in some fun coloured inks to make it more enjoyable (I usually practice with walnut ink). Think of it as a warm up, and would give you the momentum when you finally start writing your project for the day. I’m always looking forward to finishing calligraphy commission works because that means I’d have more time to practice. Have fun writing!
I don’t own a lot of custom-made wooden pens for calligraphy. I’ve gotten by with my century oblique holder for a loooong time. Well, I’ve been looking around for custom-made pens and I must admit they’re all extremely beautiful. I’ve ordered a few wooden pens for the last few months (I feel sorry for my credit card, but hey, I call it Investment), and I’m looking at ordering one or two more in the next few months.
First off, this is not a sponsored post — I just fell in love with this pen! The latest one I’ve acquired (or more like invested on) is this beautifully-handcrafted wooden oblique from the Philippines. It’s called the Manansala, named after cubist painter and illustrator Vicente Silva Manansala (1910-1981).
This belongs to a family of pens which are the first oblique holders ever made in the Philippines, thanks to Lennie of The Curious Artisan. She describes the pen as ‘made from Kamagong (Ironwood) with Mother of Pearl shell body; Magnusson-inspired silver nickel flange; comfort curve pen foot and is approximately 8.5 inches long. The cube pattern shell inlay of the holder’s body using Mother of Pearl shell is inspired by Manansala’s signature cubism’.
It’s my first time to try a Mag-inspired flange and I love it. It’s perfect for Copperplate, and I’ve been using it to practice lately. I think this has magic powers as well because somehow my writing looks prettier when I use it. Not kidding. Oh, and I haven’t even started on the packaging yet. Look at that typewritten note!
If you’re in Singapore — news flash — this pen and the rest of its siblings will be coming here! I’ll be updating on Facebook, and you can also contact @thecuriousartisan on Instagram for overseas orders.
Hey you guys! I’m still on a high from weeks ago where I had the first ever Calligraphy In Colour Advanced Workshop. I kept thinking about how immensely talented each of the participants were, and when I saw them writing all I could say was, ‘Wow, you have been all practicing, weren’t you?’
And they were! Some were present in my beginners’ class from months ago, and they have been practicing diligently and have improved their calligraphy by doing so. I’ve probably said this before, but it took me 2 years to find my own style. Calligraphy is not easy, but it’s a continuous learning experience for me. I never stop learning, and I never stop practicing. That’s what’s great about this craft. There’s always room to grow.
In calligraphy, practice is something that you cannot be without — that’s why I came up with this calligraphy quote. Making time for the things you love is important, because simply put, it makes you happy. If you like to read, set aside even a few minutes to have time for yourself. With calligraphy, it’s not easy to be able to practice daily specially with everything that’s going on around us. Why not set aside an hour every Saturday? It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing!
Oh, I currently have a bunch of downloadable calligraphy over at the shop, the ones above included… go get ’em! It’s been a while since I’ve put new items for sale and this is the start of a new batch of downloadable calligraphy. I hope one of these will adorn your walls someday.
It’s such a pleasure to be showing you the logo for Mita Kelder, a photographer here in Singapore. I really enjoyed working alongside this lady! Mita wanted a logo, and a logo mark as well that will serve as her photos’ watermark. She also wanted a hand-drawn camera to go with her name.
I’ve been doing a number of photographers’ logos lately, but each one is different. I enjoyed drawing different styles of the camera for her, and after a few mixing and matching, I was able to finalise the logo and watermark symbol. I’m very much delighted to share these photos with you today!
Late last year, Yasmin of Coffee Creative got in touch with me through my Etsy shop to write their wedding invitations in calligraphy. It was for their wedding in Texas, USA, and I was thrilled! It turned out to be a lovely suite, because calligraphy matched the awesome drawing Yasmin did of her and her groom! I would be totally inspired by this idea, now I wish I’m getting married again. It has a lovely, organic feel and I am super happy to have provided calligraphy for this wedding. Photos were taken by Kristen Swanson.
When I need to write small, I always reach for my Esterbrook 355. I don’t have a vast nib collection (though my husband might have a different opinion), and I only have a few favourites, but more often than not, small sized calligraphy always calls for the Estie 355.
Those who have been to my workshops here in Singapore have probably heard of that small nib I burned when I put it over a flame. This might be the same nib, actually. The Esterbrook 355 is tiny – it can easily get sucked down the drain when I wash it!
At first glance, it may look intimidating, with its tiny body and pointy tip. It’s very soft and flexible, so you will get very nice line variation with minimal effort. You won’t get very thick swells though, that’s why I use this when I write penpal letters.
I struggled a little bit when I first started using this nib. Be warned – because of its thin and pointy tip, upstrokes will be a pain specially on textured paper. The ink might not flow on your first dip, so always have a jar of water so you can dip your nib. This helps with the ink flow.
Once I got over the first few obstacles (which were worse when I was starting out 3 years ago), I’ve learned a couple of things to make writing with 355 easy peasy.
1. Start small If you’re a beginner, start writing small with this nib. It will write beautiful thin strokes when you opt for bigger letters, I admit – but practice with small characters first.
2. Keep your upstrokes feather light This nib gets stuck during upstrokes sometimes. To avoid this and ultimately save your work from the splatter, use no pressure at all during those tricky upstrokes. No pressure at all. Zip. Zilch. Nada.
So are you ready to practice with the Esterbrook 355? I always purchase mine from Paper & Ink Arts here. Happy inking!
After weeks of painting, writing, designing and test-printing, I’m happy to let you all know that the Happy Hands Project’s (first ever) calendar is now available for pre-order!
I wanted to come up with a design that I would display on my desk myself. I came up with these hand-painted, hand-lettered calendars with minimalism in mind – and what’s the best way to achieve that? By going black and white, of course!
All sheets will be loose and printed on premium white card stock. You will receive 13 cards altogether – that’s 12 monthly calendar sheets plus one calligraphy print to top it off. You can mount it on a small easel like what I’ve done, or hang it with bulldog clips. You can tape it on the wall with wash tape. I’ve given this calendar much thought and love, I hope you like it, too!
Because I’m super excited to get this calendar project going, I’m giving away 2 sets of this calendar to 2 of my lovely readers. I will ship this out wherever you’re located so come and join in. Just leave your deets below – there are many ways to win – and ask your friends to join in, too! The giveaway ends at 11:59pm on 17 November 2014 (Singapore local time).
This is the absolute, honest truth. Attending an intense, 2-day copperplate workshop with Eleanor Winters has got to be the highlight of my calligraphy journey for 2014. I’ve had her book, Mastering Copperplate Calligraphy, for a couple of years now but there was a lack of motivation in me to start learning Copperplate on my own.
As a self-taught calligrapher, I’ve spent 2 years to find my own style. I’ve always practiced and have been happy to finally find a style that I could call my own. I tried to study Copperplate from Eleanor’s book, but I had no idea if what I was doing was right, or even acceptable.
Call it fate, or just pure luck, but I was very fortunate to be get a seat on Eleanor Winters’ series of calligraphy workshops here in Singapore. I was so excited that Wednesday morning in August, oblivious to the heat and crowd. Clutching my bread and coffee, I eagerly made my way to The Letter J Supply studio. And for the next 2 days, I was a bright-eyed student, ready to learn all that I can.
We were a small group of 8, each one of them an interesting character. During the class we were all mostly quiet, either writing or listening. Eleanor was an awesome teacher. She was very detailed in teaching the letter forms and the variations that we can do with it, while adhering to the rules of Copperplate. The concept may be strict, but the results are definitely beautiful. Having Eleanor beside me was very beneficial because I found out instantly if what I was doing was right. I became comfortable with an oblique pen, and even the tools that weren’t working for me then just started working great! So I guess Eleanor brought with her some magic calligraphy dust and sprinkled it on all of us when we weren’t looking.
I feel that I’ve grown quite a lot as a calligrapher after taking the class with Eleanor. What I love about her is that she’s all business when it comes to teaching, but was always ready to give constructive criticism. She was always willing to answer any questions we may have. So was the 2-day copperplate workshop tiring and intense? Yes. Was it worth it? Yes. Would I do it again? Definitely!
Eleanor Winters will be back in Singapore (gasp!) in January 2015, and will be teaching different calligraphy classes at the Letter J Supply studio. A super huge thank you to fellow calligrapher Joanne for hosting the workshop series!
I’ve purchased my walnut ink crystals months ago when I went on an online shopping binge for calligraphy supplies. I finally had the time last weekend to open my jar and do a little test. I was surprised to see that the ‘crystals’ were not the coarse crystals I thought it would be. Confession: I imagined them to be big and coarse crystals, similar to bath salts. In reality, it’s coarse, dark, and in powder form – which actually makes sense as it has to be mixed with water to be able to use it as ink.
So what exactly are walnut ink crystals? It’s dry powder made from English peat moss (not walnuts!) that is mixed with water to use for calligraphy, painting and staining. Writing with it creates varied tones, from deep browns to light sepia.
Making the ink itself is easy as pie for there is no perfect formula. I used about a teaspoon of the powder to half a cup of lukewarm water, which resulted in a deep brown tint. Mix more water to the mixture and you get a lighter colour. You may use tap water as well, but lukewarm water dissolves the crystals faster. Just have a small jar ready and put in your preferred amount of crystals, fill the jar with water, and mix till there are no solid crystals left. Use as you would use regular ink for calligraphy. A little goes a long way!
I was a bit wary about how thin the mixture turned out to be. In my experience, thin, watery inks are synonymous to feathering. But I proved myself wrong. Oh, how I loved writing with it! It was super smooth, and I adore how the hues vary the more I write. I had no problems with the ink flow at all. I swear I couldn’t stop writing with it! I used it on my Daler Rowney layout pad and have yet to try it on different types of paper, but so far, so good! You have to try it for yourself.
The walnut ink crystals were purchased from Paper & Ink Arts, written on a Daler Rowney layout pad with a Nikko G nib.
Hello brides- and grooms-to-be! I’m sharing a calligraphy printable today at one of the most loved wedding websites here in Singapore. Hop over to The Wedding Scoop and download this pretty! There is also a wealth of other lovely printables from different designers and yes, you may download to your heart’s content.