You might be surprised at how joining a modern calligraphy workshop is a great way to relax and have fun…read on.
Practising the creative art of modern calligraphy is a great way to slow down and relax. It is a style of writing that has to be done slowly in order to develop the thick and thin lines that are the signature of the lettering style. There are no short cuts if you want to develop your own style of modern calligraphy – from the way to hold you nib and pen to learning the shapes that make up each letter.
I have the pleasure of running modern calligraphy workshops in and around Birmingham and every one is a joy. To see how learner’s progress from never having used a nib and ink before to being able to confidently write words is fantastic. I am passionate to share my skills and show how relaxing and fun writing in this beautiful script is.
Learning the new style of writing involves retraining your brain so you are completely immersed in what you are doing, blocking out the day to day issues. Your complete focus is on learning.
Once you pick up that nib and dip it into ink, you open up a whole new world of gorgeous script. And the ability to relax and be in the moment as you concentrate on each stroke of the nib is a gift. It is not a competition to see who can write the best script, in fact, the slower and more attention you focus on writing, the better the outcome.
Growth of Modern Craft Workshops
We live in an age of fantastic strides forward in modern technology where we can access the world at the touch of a button. With so much technology available, we can communicate electronically and not need pen and paper any more. Even children in schools complete their homework online instead of handing in written word. So in a time of so much texting and typing, why has the relaxing art of creating gorgeous script captured the attention of so many?
It is an interesting question as we have the ability to digitise modern calligraphy lettering using Adobe Illustrator and/or Photoshop. However, more and more of us are choosing to join modern calligraphy workshops to relax and have fun instead.
Craft has grown in popularity over the last few years as an escape from normality. The opportunity to take time out and learn or practice a new craft skill has many benefits. And Modern Calligraphy workshops definitely falls into this category. A chance to switch off your computer, put your phone on silent and relax by putting nib to paper is a real benefit in our constantly busy lifestyles.
Why has modern calligraphy become so popular? Maybe because anyone can learn the style of writing, it is easy to access through books, online and workshops and gives you the ability to develop your own style of writing.
A Relaxing and Fun Skill Open to All
Whatever your day to day handwriting style has no impact on how beautifully you can write using modern calligraphy. There are schools of thought that say you can tell a lot from a person’s handwriting, for example, whether you are shy or an extrovert. However, your normal handwriting
has no impact on how well you can write modern calligraphy. In fact, those with terrible handwriting in their day to day life may even excel when it comes to this new style.
There are no age restrictions and is a craft that can be enjoyed by young and old. The only requirements is the ability to hold the nib and pen.
A Look Inside a Typical Workshop
So what happens in a modern calligraphy workshop? The first step is to practice shapes (sometimes referred to as drills). The objective is to relearn forming shapes to make letters and get used to the difference between thick and thin lines. This is a great first step and a fun way to get used to using a nib and ink. The group tend to go quiet at this stage as everyone is concentrating so much.
Only once the shapes have been practised should a learner move onto the next stage, lower case letters. Again practice time for each letter is needed so you get used to forming different shapes to normal day to day writing. Conversation normally starts again as members of the group share their favourite letter to create – which often changes as they go through the alphabet. And who knew they would be having a conversation about favourite letters!!
When the learner is confident in lower case, the next stage is upper case letters. This stage is quicker, as the leaner will have grown in confidence and a number of upper case letters are similar to lower case – so less new shapes.
The final stage of the workshop is to practice writing words. This is the really fun bit as you learn how to connect letters to each other – either in one flow or by removing the nib off the page between letters. Suggested words are provided to practice from but learners by this stage are very confident and happy to write their own words. Although the first word tends to be their own or family names!!
As confidence grows through the workshop so does the volume of chatting, with lots of sharing of what they have achieved. It is a great bonding session and is able to spark new friendships.
So in a matter of a relaxing half day, everyone is able to write words in the lovely modern calligraphy style.
Traditional forms of calligraphy have many rules which dictate how you write, giving uniformity to each writing style. Rules extend from the angle you hold you nib and pen to how far above and below line you can extend letters.
There is an ongoing battle in the calligraphy world between free style and discipline. One group advocates disciplined and legible work where everything produced is uniform in style to the next calligrapher. This is where the rules are important in setting out very clear parameters to be adhered to.
The other group advocate for a more free approach where lettering is abstract and expressive. And if the odd words is illegible, it is viewed as acceptable as it is more about the strength of the style.
In contrast to more traditional forms of calligraphy, modern does not have the rules and constraints so once you have learn the basics, you are free to develop your own letter forms.
Reinventing Traditional Calligraphy
Modern calligraphy has captured our imagination. Just google or pinterest modern calligraphy and you will find hundreds of examples of alphabets, quotes and written poems, full of curls and flourishes.
So calligraphy has been reinvented. The rules and disciplines have disappeared and replaced with a letter form that is open to everyone. A fun and relaxed style.
Even the tools are easier to use. Instead of a flat edge nib where the style is based on the angle you hold it to form the letters. All making it easier to create thick and thin strokes. And no rule book or years of study!!
Restricted Supply Sources
An integral part of the workshop is being given a ‘starter pack’ which includes a nib, pen holder, ink and beginners guide. The nib and ink is for the learner to keep which is great for being able to practice on after the workshop. When new supplies are required, most sources of new products are online. It is a shame that as part of the changes to retail on the high street that we have lost many of our independent stationery stores. However, due to the growth of online suppliers it is easy to find products for learners to carry on enjoying their new found skills.
When you purchase a new nib, it is worth knowing that all nibs have manufacturer’s oils on them to keep them well-preserved as they are waiting to be sold. Before you use your nibs, you should clean the oils off. There are a number of ways to do this – striking a match and run the flame over the nib or stick nib in a potato to get rid of the oils!
If the oils are not cleaned off, you may find issues with ink blobbing on the paper or the ink may not flow. So cleaning the manufacturer’s oils off of your nib will ensure a smooth, seamless ink flow.
Developing Your Own Modern Calligraphy Style Through Workshops
It take between months and years to become an expert in the traditional calligraphy forms vs half a day for modern calligraphy.
It is definitely a skill that should be practised but you can be flexible and decide when you want to spend time on it. Other traditional calligraphy forms take a heavy time commitment which may be difficult for many due to the busy lives we lead. So how fantastic that when you have time, you can decide to continue to practice and perfect your own Modern Calligraphy writing style. This is time for yourself to get lost in creating beautiful lettering, a real chance to be mindful and good to yourself.
You can take time out to create lovely personalised cards or maybe write a personal quote for a friend’s special birthday or just to sit and practice developing your own style. Whatever the outcome, you will always benefit from the mindful time you take on modern calligraphy (or indeed any
craft you enjoy and have a passion for).
Getting started is straight forward with starter kits available online and many youtube videos you can access which provides an inexpensive route to start. Or as part of a workshop, you will be provided with your own starter kit. When you are practising, it is about the time you invest vs spending lots of money on expensive nibs, nib holders and paper.
Troubleshooting Early Issues
- Pen holder starts to crack – this is when you use a wooden pen holder and dip the nib too far into the ink. The result is ink pools at the top and seeps into the wood, causing it to crack. However, this can be avoided by only putting the nib two thirds into the ink
- Unstable ink flow – holding you pen at a tighter angle to the paper should stop this
- Nib catches on the paper – as above, hold the pen at a tighter angle. Issues are caused the more upright the pen is held to the paper
- Lines look the same thickness – make sure you are holding the pen straight onto the page as this will ensure flow of the ink and allow you to put pressure on for thicker lines
- Ink bleeds – normally caused by using the wrong paper. Always ensure you use a bleedproof paper such as Layout Paper
Expanding Your Skills
With your new relaxing hobby and confidence built, the possibilities expand, including using wonderful metallic inks to give an unusual finish to your script. Most liquid metallic inks are difficult to use as you need to constantly shake the bottle for the metallic particles to remain suspended whilst you write. However, you can relax on this too as there is an alternati
ve – solid metallic inks. A genius invention where you add water to the solid ink to create metallic liquid. This can then be painted into the nib and write as normal. There is also a much wider choice of colours in this type of ink.
With this process in mind, it is also possible to use watercolour paints in the same way. Simply adding water to the paints and painting onto the nib. And as you get more confident, you can experiment with using a paintbrush instead of a nib!!
Moving onto other Calligraphy Forms
Modern Calligraphy is only one form of the beautiful script. There are a number of other script forms that can be learnt.
The amount of time to master a new calligraphy form varies depending on the complexity and number of rules. For example, foundational (also know as roundhead) can be learned in 20-30 hours vs Copperplate (the traditional style you see in very old documents) can take two years!!
Whatever style you choose, they all have once thing in common which is a mindful activity for you to relax and enjoy the moment you are in.
So join a modern calligraphy workshop to see how what a relaxing and fun activity it is!!