Truth be told I don’t really know if either of my grandmothers did calligraphy.
Both of my grandmothers had neat and distinctive penmanship- something I always admired and aspired to. A skill that is becoming less and less easily found.
Calligraphy feels like something my Grammy (Virginia) would have loved. My Aunt Susan (Grammy’s daughter) is a talented letterer and occasionally does lettering work for hire. Grammy loved to dabble in all sorts of mediums and try her hand at anything that would create beauty. Her home was filled with countless treasures created by her hand.
Calligraphy is an old school art form. Even if I’m not sure if mine participated in the art, there have been plenty of grandmothers over the years who have. Maybe someday I’ll master the art of traditional calligraphy. But, for now, I’m drawn to the more modern “flourish” style lettering.
It’s a perfect example of the grandmother craft I talk about on this blog, a tried and tested art that is enjoying a modern renaissance.
My sister, Clare, gave me a dip pen set for my birthday this year. It was a thoughtful and unexpected gift. For the past few weeks we’ve both been working on our lettering. It’s an incredibly zen process. The scraping of the pen against the paper, watching the ink filter down the nib, and the way the fresh ink practically sparkles on the paper before it dries. Seriously, it’s like yoga. I found that there were so few tutorials around the internet for modern calligraphy and I want to give a miniature rundown of the basics. It’s really a fun distraction. It’s an art form that isn’t expensive to dabble in and the supplies don’t take up a lot of real estate in your craft drawer. It’s the perfect craft to dip your toe into.
Here are the essentials you’ll need to get started.
- dip pen and nib set
- India ink
- lots of paper (I like using cardstock for practice and cheap computer paper for tracing work)
- a small cup of water
- wet and dry paper towels for cleaning up splatters and dirty pens
When you have a quiet minute, set up your calligraphy station. Have all your supplies on hand and start practicing. Your favorite pandora station and a cup of a warm drink are essential. For the style of dip pens I have, you load a few drops of ink onto the back of the nib into the reservoir. (Ensure that the back portion of the nib is in contact with the nib tip. It took me a long time to figure that out.) Hold the flat edge of the nib tip parallel to the paper and get to writing! The video tutorial, linked at bottom, from “Made By Marzipan” gives a great visual and more in-depth explanation. She recommends doing some line work to figure out the vertical and horizontal lines and when to make thin and thick strokes.
The next step is to practice. And practice again. Then, when you have a second, practice! I’ve only been at it for a few weeks. But I’m starting to get the muscle memory necessary to get it right. Get prepared for lots of puddled ink blobs, splatters, and scraping when you haven’t gotten the hang of the how much ink to use. Once you get hit your groove you’ll understand the zen I was talking about.
It’s a neat little hobby that I’m only in the beginning stages of learning. I can’t wait to share more with you as I perfect my own lettering skill.
You can find the video tutorial by Made By Marzipan HERE.
You can find the tracing sheet pictured above HERE.