"You have such pretty handwriting!"
^^^ I've heard this approximately 3,670 times in my life... and have heard it exponentially more since I started doing calligraphy.
But calligraphy is SO much more than just "pretty handwriting". It is an art, an intentional art that is centuries old, with its own unique lingo, styles, and techniques. I could write an entirely separate post about learning swells and flourishes, about baselines and majuscules and minuscules. Every calligrapher takes a journey to discover his/her own style, and I am no exception. Today, I'm going to share some insight into my process, including a few materials that I love.
Prior to this year, I was almost entirely self-taught. Between Instagram and YouTube, I learned by watching and repetition. Truly, I could not even begin to describe how many hours of practice I put in, especially those first few months. At the time, I exclusively used brush pens like these because I was scared to use ink and nib... but now I prefer pointed pen! I love the Moblique nib holders, and I often use a Nikko G or Brause "blue pumpkin" nib.
This autumn, I attended in-person workshops with two of my "calligraheroes": Laura Hooper and Suzanne Cunningham. I think these workshops awakened even more of a love for the art within me. Both were not only incredible experiences but also investments into my expertise. I came away with refined skills, tips for some pain points, and new calligrafriends! I'm hoping to go to IAMPETH's national convention next summer. There's something to be said for the magic of being surrounded by people who share your passion.
I truly wish I had more time to simply practice. Oddly enough, I feel like I need to practice MORE now than I did when I was getting started!
Behind the Scenes
People would be surprised at how much time goes into what I consider "set-up and administrative" work. For example, in no particular order... managing the website, responding to inquiries, managing social media, project management software (I love Asana), booking clients, CYA work/invoicing/contracts (mandatory shoutout to Mr. TriStar Scribe, my literal in-house attorney), ordering materials, arranging pick-ups and drop-offs, mixing ink, testing ink, testing paper, managing guest lists, etc. It's difficult, but I have to learn to value this time - just as much as the time I actually spend writing. Especially when balancing it with my full-time job, which I love (and pays the mortgage!).
Once everything is set up, I actually... write. Rather than describe this, I'm just going to tell you to go to my Instagram and watch one of the many videos I have posted! (And let me know if you have any requests - I am always looking for another "series"!)
QA and Finishing Up
I finish up the last envelope, name, etc. and let out a huge sigh of relief... but the job's not done. At the end, I always do what I call my "QA" process. If I'm working on envelopes, I go back through Every. Single. Address. Line. and double-check for spelling or human error [this is why I always, always request extra envelopes!]. Once that is complete, I go through and do a general quality check: does each envelope meet my standards? Is anything off-center or does anything just look funky? Then I count the envelopes to make sure it matches the address count. That's 3 different rounds of QA!
Non-envelope orders will look similar, with some form of spelling check. However, with items like seating charts, 90% of the work is on the front end. Wanna know why seating charts look so satisfying? They are meticulously measured and planned out before a single drop of ink touches the material. (Fun fact, because everyone asks: acetone takes off the paint pen I use on mirrors. #themoreyouknow.) Every letter height, the distance between columns, every bit of it is measured.
Once I'm satisfied with the completed project, I send the final invoice and arrange for pickup! If I'm really on my A-game, I'll take some photos as well. I've been doing this for a couple years now, and I still get butterflies when I'm handing over a completed project. Will they like it? Will they spot the wonky capital K in their cousin's name, that isn't actually wonky, but I don't like how it looked? Will they recommend me to friends and family? Will they share photos with me later? (Please, please always share photos!) I have come to accept that at the end of the day, the beauty is in the process.
I know much of this post was stream-of-consciousness, borderline babbling. I may look back and regret sounding so informal, but it truly came from the heart. Much of it was left intentionally vague. This post easily could have been 3x as long, so thank you for reading even this much, ha!
I suppose I should have had a specific "audience" in mind for this, but I really did not.
Future brides and potential clients, I hope you learned a little bit more about what to expect from the process and the value you are receiving for the cost. My heart goes into every bit of it.
Vendor friends and "calligrafriends", I hope you were able to relate to sharing the amount of extra work we put in, or what I call the "iceberg" that lays underneath the surface. Take a bow, friends, because we deserve it.
Friends and family, I hope you learned more about something I love but am not always comfortable talking about. I wouldn't be doing any of this if it wasn't for your support.
Thanks for the love, yall!