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!

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!

 

Freebie: Printable To-Do List

Free Printable To-Do List via Happy Hands Project

I was inspired to design this printable to-do list because I feel that writing down our goals for the day (or week) is better than typing it on our smart phone calendars. You can post it on your wall, and it’s easier to see. It makes the list more ‘real’, and it personally helped me manage my time better.

Free Printable To-Do List via Happy Hands Project

The past few months were filled with wedding invitation designs and calligraphy addressing, plus a few commission works here and there. I had to list my deadlines, and make sure I stick to them.

So here’s something to help us stop the procrastination and actually do something! Coz you know what? I love the feeling of ticking one task and proceeding to the next one. The feeling of satisfaction is priceless. I hope you like the freebie for the day!

Download the to-do list printable here.

USING WHITE GOUACHE IN CALLIGRAPHY

My first couple of years writing calligraphy, I was always on the look out for the richest, most opaque white ink out there. I discovered PH Martins Pen White, which was fortunately available here in Singapore. It was great, but I had to mix it with water every time I had to use it.

When I had to make custom coloured inks for a project, I decided to be adventurous enough and mix it myself using gouache and water. For those who haven’t tried it yet, gouache is a actually a water-based paint similar to watercolours. But unlike watercolours, it’s opaque and will give you richer, fuller shades. That’s when I started using white gouache instead of the pre-mixed Pen White, and since then a pot of white gouache has been a mainstay on my desk.

Here’s a video of me writing in real time — I’m a slooooow writer, but hey, that’s the beauty of calligraphy! It’s pretty close to channeling your inner zen.

I’m planning to upload more demo videos in my Vimeo chnnel, so stay tuned for that! Enjoy!

A Travel-Themed Wedding in Phuket: Tom & Simone

Phuket Wedding Calligraphy via Happy Hands Project

It’s 2016 (woohoo!) and I’d like my first post of the year to be special. So here’s one special destination wedding I had the pleasure to work on last year – Tom and Simone’s big day in Phuket, Thailand.

Phuket Wedding Calligraphy via Happy Hands Project

It was a travel-themed wedding, so each table number featured the couple’s photos from different places. And not just that — either of them were holding a small chalkboard with a number on it! I thought it was a very cute idea.

Phuket Wedding Calligraphy via Happy Hands Project

I also did the calligraphy and lettering for the signs and stationery used at the venue. There were the menus for dinner, cocktails and cupcakes, photo booth sign, and wedding programme to name a few. My favourite has got to be the escort cards which weren’t cards at all, but little paper airplanes hanging in strings! The colour motif was grey and dusty blue, which were perfect for a classy beach wedding. I’m very happy for this sweet couple, and I’m pretty sure you’ll like the photos as much as I did. Scroll down to see more.

All photos used with consent from the couple.
Photography: Julian Abram Wainwright
Venue: Grand Villa Satis, Aleenta Phuket Resort

Phuket Wedding Calligraphy via Happy Hands Project

Phuket Wedding Calligraphy via Happy Hands Project

Phuket Wedding Calligraphy via Happy Hands Project

Phuket Wedding Calligraphy via Happy Hands Project

Art Deco-Inspired Wedding Invitations

Art Deco Wedding Invitations via Happy Hands Project

I became an instant fan of the classic 1920’s look because of this art deco themed invite suite I had the privilege of designing. It was a vintage theme, yes, but the beautiful thing is, it doesn’t look ‘old’ at all. It’s just pure class, and I truly enjoyed the whole design process.

Art Deco Wedding Invitations via Happy Hands Project

The suite is a mix of handwritten elements and digital design, and searching for the perfect art deco font proved to be a challenge. A self-proclaimed font snob, I found myself browsing through fonts that were too mediocre to use. I finally found one or two that would suit the design excellently. Paired with the classic art deco pattern and modern calligraphy, the printed suite came out so much prettier than what I saw on my laptop screen. The colours came out soft and pleasing to the eye — exactly how I wanted it to be.

Photos courtesy of Nelwyn Uy Photography
Wedding coordintation by the 3rd Party Wedding Planners

Modern Calligraphy: Finding Your Own Style

Find Your Own Calligraphy Style via Happy Hands Project

There are so many reasons why many would opt for modern calligraphy over the traditional styles. First reason would most probably be because there are ‘no rules’ in the modern style. Another reason would be its popularity all over the web and social media platforms. Modern calligraphy is everywhere nowadays, and a lot of people are doing it as a hobby. Third reason, and this is the reason I believe the most, is because the modern style can reflect the writer’s personality. It would display one’s individuality, and you can have a style you can call your very own.

Before I go on, I’d like to dispel the myth that modern calligraphy simply has no rules. It’s a myth. It’s false. Modern pointed pen calligraphy is based on traditional Copperplate, so we will still follow the basic rules that come with it — consistent slant, legibility, and uniform thicks and thins. I would prefer to write something that is actually readable.

Now, for the fun part. With so many calligraphers and enthusiasts out there, how can you make your work stand out? It took me 2 years to come up with my own style — and I’m still learning, everyday. For beginners who want to display your individuality, I’ve come up with a few pointers.

1. Learn your basic letter forms.

Once you have memorized how each letter would look like, your calligraphy will look more consistent. Try to write the same letter in that style every time. Once you’ve mastered it, make slight variations to make it a little more exciting. Which leads me to my next point.

2. Write your own exemplar.

To help you memorize your basic letter forms, why don’t you write the full alphabet in the same style? You can always refer to it whenever you’re writing. You can write your variations there, too.

3. Study calligraphy fonts.

Modern calligraphy fonts are different from each other, and observe why this is so. Some have thick downstrokes, some are very upright, while some are playful and carefree. While doing this, you can also gauge what style reflects your personality more.

4. Keep on practicing.

Even the expert calligraphers out there still practice and do their drills. Believe me, it helps! It builds muscle memory, so you’ll be able to do your letter forms right. Practicing also keeps your mojo going, and very relaxing, too. I can write drills for hours. Just remember to have your own exemplar around while practicing so you can be consistent with your slant and style.

Find Your Own Calligraphy Style via Happy Hands Project

Finally having a style you can call your own will take months, or even years of practice. I must admit I tend to jump from every style I can think of when I was starting out. It’s not bad, and it actually helped me come up with the style that I would actually stick to eventually. Good luck in finding your own pointed pen style! Remember — Practice Makes Pretty!

A Peek Into The Calligraphy In Colour Workshop

Calligraphy In Colour Workshop via Happy Hands Project

I was amazed by so much talent during the first Calligraphy In Colour advanced modern calligraphy workshop here in Singapore. I was happy to be back at Joo Chiat Place, too! There were some familiar faces, ones who I’ve already met in my beginners’ classes. There were new faces, too, and all 12 ladies were very enthusiastic about mixing colours and exploring new styles.

Calligraphy In Colour Workshop via Happy Hands Project

During 2014, I’ve always had beginners’ classes where we use black ink and focused on drills and basic letter forms. In the advanced class, we used different types of coloured paper, different kinds of inks and paint, and an end project that everyone so creatively pulled off. We got a little technical as well, because I believe that these things are better taught during an advanced class where everyone is already familiar with pointed pen calligraphy.

Calligraphy In Colour Workshop via Happy Hands Project

Oh, and as always, we’ve got a sumptuous menu for our lunch specially catered by Carpenter and Cook.

Calligraphy-In-Colour-via-Happy-Hands-Project-4

I’m looking forward to having another Calligraphy In Colour class in the next few months! If you’re curious if this class is for you, well, you just need a basic knowledge of using a flexible nib and be familiar with the letter forms. A more detailed class description can be found here. After practicing calligraphy in black ink, it’s a whole new experience when you start customising colours and finally creating your own work of art. Thanks to everyone who came, you were all awesome!

Calligraphy In Colour Workshop via Happy Hands Project

Venue: Studio @ Heaven In A Wildflower
Catering: Carpenter and Cook