A guest post from Milly of Blink Lettering - how she got started with calligraphy, and how it became more than just a hobby.
How it all started
I’m a graphic designer by day, which I absolutely love, I feel so lucky that I get to be creative every day. However it means I spend a lot of my day in front of a computer, so having a hands-on creative outlet is so important to me. At university I discovered bookbinding, which I carried on after I graduated. I loved the process of it and being able to feel the physical product. The only thing that was frustrating was space! Bookbinding takes up an awful lot of room, especially when you're living in a one bed flat with your other half. I felt like I needed to find a creative outlet that was easier to do in a small space (little did I know then that I would take over half the bedroom with my studio and about a million pens). Nearly 5 years ago now, I remember stumbling across a few Instagram posts of beautiful calligraphy. It brought back memories of playing with calligraphy pens in primary school and being obsessed with copying other people's handwriting. I was hooked. After a little bit of research, I bought myself a Pentel Fude Touch Sign Pen (don’t do what I did first and buy the one without the flexible nib!) and dived into my calligraphy journey.
Today I run Blink Lettering, while still working as a full time graphic designer. It’s hard work juggling these, along with attempting some sort of social life, but it’s 100% worth it. In the past year, I’ve moved away from selling prints and cards on Etsy and stepped into teaching. One of the reasons I fell in love with calligraphy was the community. People are always so happy to help, guide and teach, and I wanted to give something back to this amazing community. I started up the UK Calligraphy & Lettering Facebook group, a home for all things calligraphy for people in the UK. I also co-host with my friend Carrie from Carriegraphy, a meet up in Bournemouth called Coffee & Calligraphy, where people who love calligraphy can come along, chat, eat delicious food and play with pens. I am so excited to see the calligraphy community growing more and more in the UK.
Behind the scenes
I’m still amazed at the audience I have managed to grow on Instagram. In the past few months, I came to the realisation that what I’m sharing with the online community has an influence and impact on aspiring calligraphers. So I started being more transparent with my followers. Showing them photos of the 20 attempts of a post before I create something I was happy with, or sharing the constant mess of my studio/bedroom. For a long time Instagram has always been about the ‘perfect’ life, but I think it’s so important to break away from this. I’ve found being more open has created a more positive and friendly community. I had so many people reach out to me, saying they appreciate that I share the ‘failures’, and it’s given them to confidence to start sharing their work online.
Don’t jump straight into words. It’s best to learn the basics, just like you did when you were a kid learning to write. Start with the basic drills, these are used to form letters. When you have mastered your drills and letters, words will be so much easier.
Try not to compare yourself to the beautiful videos you see all over Instagram, because the reality is, it wasn’t perfect the first time and that person may have had years of training.
If you would love to take your calligraphy further - that might be setting up a dedicated Instagram account, starting a business or teaching a workshop - but you’re scared you’re not ‘good enough’, believe in yourself, you can achieve what you dream to do. Every step of my business has been terrifying, but I’m so, so proud of what I have achieved, even with the mistakes that have happened.
Have fun! That’s the most important thing. Enjoy calligraphy, let it relax you. Make friends in the calligraphy community, a friend you can talk to about pens is definitely a keeper.