Calligraphy Workshop with Louise

Calligraphy Workshop in Cult Pens' officeCalligraphy is for life, as far as Louise is concerned, not just for World Calligraphy Day! So - as we waited for the final touches to be made to the special Calli-Penorama newsletter - a lucky few of us gathered in the meeting room for a Cult Pens Calligraphy Workshop. Admittedly it felt a little like being at school again, with paper and pens neatly laid out and an expectant teacher hovering (Louise), except the chairs were a bit bigger and there was a dog underneath the table. Still, we almost chanted 'good morning Miss'!

For Louise, calligraphy is a big part of her life: she can't not do it! And, as is the case with many enthusiasts, she was very happy to pass on snippets of her expertise, and show us all how to do it. Armed with sheets of different typefaces, plain and dotgrid paper, and a few pens, we got started.

Calligraphy appears to be a peculiar combination of free-spiritedness and self-control, depending on which type snags your soul. You can pick up a brush pen - Tombow ABTs or Pentel's Sign Pens are good - and, by applying various pressures to your up- and downstrokes and trying to be fairly loose with your arm movements, create what's known as 'modern calligraphy'. This is basically beautiful lettering that will enhance anything from the title of a hand-written story, to an address on an envelope or the greeting inside a birthday card. It's almost like joined-up writing, as we used to call it, but with swirls and curls and flourishes to add extra interest. Really, you need nothing more than a brush-tipped pen and decent paper (Louise swears by Rhodia). The ABTs are especially good because they're dual-tipped, which means that if, during your wild abandonness, you accidentally miss out bits of lettering, you can fill in these gaps with the finer tip on the other end of the pen. Or you could use a different colour, just to make it look deliberate!

Different calligraphy stylesLouise uses modern calligraphy a lot when designing her stationery and creating birthday cards, and of course she often designs the banner for Penorama.

The aforementioned self-control comes in with the more disciplined forms of calligraphy, where there tend to be rules! But the rules are there only to impose some sort of regularity to the writing in terms of spacing and alignment, which - because of its very nature - adds to its visual appeal. Take the sort of writing that you see on old-fashioned pub signs - 'Ye Olde Inne' type places with lots of e's and ye's - the typeface that Shakespeare probably favoured when he wrote Macbeth (or perhaps not). These are almost drawn, rather than written: each letter takes several strokes of a pen to create and each is a work of art in itself. This is the type of calligraphy that takes tongue-protruding concentration and might cause you to momentarily stop breathing. But it's worth it. Louise loves it because the finished artwork - and yes, I feel compelled to call it 'artwork' - is so striking.

Doing calligraphyIf you want to give this type a go, a pen fitted with a calligraphy nib is essential. Louise's absolute favourite pen, the sort she'd probably sell Shady for (Shady's her dog), is Pilot's Parallel Pen. It's a pen fitted with two narrow strips of steel set in parallel, which look quite lethal. The ink comes from either a cartridge (or bottled ink if you fit a converter) and feeds up between the strips to spread deliciously over the page. The nib comes in four widths, from the more dainty 1.5mm and 2.4mm up to the substantial 3.8mm and really rather stupendous 6.0mm. You can really go to town with these (and we did, let me assure you) - they make thick, bold strokes or deceptively thin ones, depending on the angle at which you wield them, and the two combine to make lettering that really stands out: it nags at you until you can't help but look at it.

I must admit, the Parallel Pen brought silly grins to a lot of faces: it was strangely easy to produce lettering that was compelling to look at. We were using fairly standard ink colours: green, red, black and so on - but imagine if we'd been using Diamine's Shimmering range, for example? They look like a great way to show off such speciality inks!

Some of the results from our calligraphy workshopAfter an hour we sadly had to bring the workshop to a close. Calli-Penorama was waiting to be launched and Louise had to go back to her day job as a Customer Service Advisor. We really did have a lot of fun; we've all been working extra hard lately - filling in for those on holiday (well, it is August after all!) and feeding the world's stationery obsession - so the Calligraphy Workshop was a welcome break. Many thanks to Louise for all the hard work she put into setting up the workshop, and for being so patient in showing us all what a pleasure it is to create beautiful lettering!

23 August 2018


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