Workshop announcement!

You guys, I am so ready for this. ย I love teaching so much, and I love Brisbane, and I love the guys at Elemental Creative Hub – so I’m putting the three together on April 1st this year!

(No, not an April Fool’s joke!)

If you are a total beginner or you haven’t done calligraphy for years but you want to get back into it, come in the morning – everything is provided, you don’t need anything, just turn up and you get a lovely goody bag to take home.

And if you love it and want to stick around, or if you don’t need a beginner class but you want to spend some time refining your script, come in the afternoon and I’ll sort you out!

If these book out (I sent out the announcement to my mailing list fifteen minutes ago and had my first booking ten minutes later! ย Guys, my FACE RIGHT NOW!) I might be able to put together another – but I’m only in Brisbane for a limited time so we’ll see how that goes.

And if you want to join in: ย here’s the link to book!

 

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“As featured at the Golden Globes” … no, for real, though.


This year, for the first time, the Golden Globes Red Carpet was streamed live on Twitter. Super cool, right? They had some awesome promo videos …

They even had them playing in the background of the red carpet show …

(Yep, that sure is Mel Gibson standing in front of my hand! Also Chrissy Metz, Michael Keaton … okay, I gotta stop going through and watching these over and over again.)

Needless to say I watched the entire red carpet show, which started early on a Monday morning here in Australia. I was supposed to be working at the time, but I was far too busy squeaking with glee every time I spotted myself.

But I think the biggest thrill was a couple of days later, at a workshop in Fitzroy Gardens, where I mentioned that I’d done some videos for the Globes to a total stranger, and he said “Oh, I noticed those!”

‘scuse me I’m just going to be bouncing up and down in my seat in excitement for, oh, at least a few more days.

Shoutout to Karl at KustomHaus wax stamps – I needed a custom seal for this video in a big hurry, and he was fantastic to work with. ย If you’re in Australia and you need aย wax seal or ten, highly recommend!

Calligraphy and letterpress: a match made in heaven

Earlier in the year I was contacted by a letterpress studio I do quite a bit of wedding work for – Bespoke Letterpress in New South Wales. This time they were in need of a tiny bit of lettering for their 2016 Mother’s Day Card.

I was more than happy to help!

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Photo by Bespoke

The process of creating lettering for letterpress is, I have come to learn, not quite the same as regular calligraphy. The output is never quite the same as what comes out of the pen – a letterpress plate interacts with the paper very differently to a nib. Little gaps in lettering, like an ear on a ‘g’ that’s not quite touching the bowl, can come out of a letterpress looking like the plate is damaged or the ink has skipped just slightly. A stroke that leaves my nib as a fine hairline may need to be thickened in order to show up at all. So on top of the usual draft-contemplate-redraft-consider-rework process, there’s always a need to keep in mind what the design is for, and how it will get there.

I was seriouslyย soย delighted to see the final versions of these cards. Rose gold foil and the most beautifully delicate border!

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Photo by Bespoke

 

And of course, the best thing about social media and the modern world is that, 750km away, I still get to see a snippet ofย them being printed. How cool is that?

How to: Calligraphy on macarons!

Yes, you read that right!

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The jobs that come out of the blue are always the most creative and inspirational. I was contacted by a really beautiful bride, about a week before her wedding, asking me if I could write guests’ names in calligraphy on salted caramel macarons. Wow!

I had never done such a thing before, and had no idea if it was even possible … so I immediately emailed the best bakers I know (Kadri of cakeophilia – check out her blog for some seriously impressive baking – and Suzanne of no-blog-but-who-really-should-make-one) – to ask a few important questions. Like: is there such thing as edible ink? Does it come in gold? And, even more importantly, with five days to go, where do I get it in Melbourne?

IMG_3333.JPGThe answers were yes, yes, and West’s Cake Decoration in Burwood.

We trialed a few things and found that the pens they sell are useless for this purpose, butย ย they have tubs of edible paint that’s only a little too thick to use a brush with – and that dilutes nicely with just a touch of water.

 

So, here’s the rundown:

Supplies:

  • gold paint and deep brown paint from West’s Cake Decorations in Burwood, mixed (and with a little distilled water added to create the perfect consistency for painting;
  • a taklon watercolour brush in a size 1, brand new and washed thoroughly first;
  • food-grade silicone gloves and a face mask for handling;
  • macarons!

The process:

  • don’t be afraid to mix edible inks! I was, at first, but the combination of deep brown and gold ended up looking fantastic, where just deep brown would have been too stark and just gold would barely have shown at all.
  • don’t work in the studio! I ended up doing these on my kitchen table. There’s just too much in the studio – I was working on a piece at the time that I was using lapis lazuli pigment to decorate, and trust me, you do not want that stuff in your food. But even if I wasn’t using mildly toxic pigments, I didn’t want to risk exposing food to anything I wouldn’t eat at all. The kitchen table was a much safer bet.
  • EAT FIRST. I wore a face mask and a headscarf to keep my hair out of the way and my breath off the food (because ew) – but I still spent hours bent over delicious, delicious salted caramel macarons … I didn’t want to eat the mistakes, either, because it was the day before the wedding – you know who’s a lot more in need of a sugar hit than a calligrapher? A bridal party, that is who! – so my tummy definitely made some noises.

Care and handling:

  • keep the macarons in the fridge as much as possible! I ended up just taking out one box at a time, working as quickly as I could, and putting the box straight back in. The filling will melt at room temperature and make the top half slide around – and that ends badly for calligraphy.
  • don’t touch them! just don’t. macarons are so light and delicate that I did not want to risk one single crushing, or slip, or even fingerprint. I wore food-grade silicone gloves and the only thing that touched the macarons was the paintbrush – which I bought new for the job, and washed in dishwashing detergent first (and rinsed thoroughly) just to make sure.

And finally:

HAVE FUN. I love doing things as unusual as this – and the lovely bride was so thrilled with the result. Working with someone who’s as excited as you are about what you’re creating is such a joy.ย This one has to go down as one of my favourite jobs for 2016 – I know it’s a little early to make that call, but I’m making it anyway!

Ames Guide helpful links

I’m addicted to Periscope lately. It’s an amazingly good teaching tool for calligraphers – so much of our craft is really difficult to convey without hearing and seeing someone do it, and seeing it close up; Periscope lets that happen and even gives you the opportunity to interact. I’ve stayed up far too late a few times listening to Paul Antonio (@pascribe) discuss flourishes or Kei Haniya (@keihaniya) talk about drills!

And of course, seeing all that teaching and learning going on makes me want to join in – so I did one a while ago (now safely lost to the internet) on how useful I find the Ames Lettering Guide.

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I can’t seem to make Instagram embeds work here (I’m sure I could figure it out, if I put some time into it, but I’ve got better things to do!) but here is a link to a 15-second clip of how the guide works that I posted on Instagram the other day.

I’ve had a few questions about it since then, so I thought I’d put together a few links. You can use this tool on anything as long as you have a t-square and a pencil – or even just a ruler and a pencil, but it’s really the t-square that makes the magic. I’ve done a few large-scale wedding seating charts lately, and this is the device I used to rule up all of them – there’s no other way I could so quickly and accurately get lines exactly 6.5mm apart all the way down a one-metre-high piece of card.

The Ames Guide was originally, I believe, designed for engineers, architects, and comic book letterers. All three of those professions now letter digitally for the most part – it’s just us calligraphers now.

The guide itself seems to go for something ridiculous onย eBay … but you can get it for $3.30USD at Paper Ink Arts. If you don’t have a t-square, you can just use a ruler, but you’ll have more difficulty lining up the guide if you don’t have an easy way of ensuring your ruler is perfectly horizontal.

You’ll also need an edge to rest the t-square against. With these seating charts, I used the table – I taped the chart down with artists’ tape against the corner of my kitchen table, so that I could be sure I had a perfectly square edge to work from. With anything smaller, I would have used my slope drawing board. Occasionally, if I am working flat, I just use the edge of my lightpad, which is conveniently squared and has ruled markings.

Here is a clearly diagrammed article discussing its use in comics. Not so useful for calligraphers, but it is the clearest explanation of the ratios I have found.

This one focuses on broad pen scripts, and is very thorough.

And here is a quick youtube video (produced by someone else, not me) covering the Ames Guide, so you can see it in motion.

I hope those are useful!

If you want to follow me on Periscope, I can’t promise any particular wisdom, just the occasional babble … but you can find me under @moyagraphy.

In-store calligraphy: managing an event

As a working calligrapher in 2016 I get to doย all sorts of things. Most of my workย I do from home, in the peace and comfort of my studio; most jobs mean long hours alone. I like it that way, of course – most calligraphers do, I think!ย None of usย would do this job if we didn’t.

Whichย makes it all the more fun and interesting to be asked to attend an event as aย calligrapher.ย It’s a real joy to work with and in front of people, and to get a chance to talk with people about what my job is and how my pen works and how I learned to do it.

I’ve heard these events described as “event calligraphy,” “on-the-spot calligraphy,” “in-store calligraphy” – I don’t know if there’s a name for it. I generally go with “event calligraphy” for ease of reference.

And I have a few tips for managing these events, most learned from experience. If you’re planning to hire a calligrapher for your guests, here’s what you need to know.

Workspace:

I often get ย questions about how large or how high the table has to be, and my usual answer is: if you would find it comfortable to sit and write at it for two (or four, or five, or eight) hours, then Iย probably will, too. ย I once arrivedย to find a stool the same height as the table, so there was a small delay while we found another chair that was low enough for me to work. ย I’m lucky enough not to have any physical movement problems personally, but some calligraphers do, of course. And we all need to be able to reach the table!

Calligraphers need room for arm movement – or at least, I do, and I imagine anyone writing in the same style as me does. So the table doesn’t need to be so very large, but it does need to have enough space for a few bottles of ink, some pens, and the paper that I’m writing on, and there needs to be room to move my right arm and shoulder without hitting anything behind it. That’s about it.

Paper:

If you can get your calligrapher a sample ahead of time, she’ll love you! Not all ink reacts the same way to all paper, and having a sample to test inks on can save a little messing about on the day. If you can’t – don’t worry. I always bring along several types of ink and a few calligraphy ‘trade secrets’ (I’m talking about gum sandarac, of course) so that I maximise the chance of finding the right combination.

In general, very absorbent papers and very glossy papers are difficult; most high-quality cards and tags are fine.

Queue management:

Peopleย love watching calligraphy. (Which is fair enough, since calligraphers love doing it.) The most successful events I have been to were the ones in which a member of staff kept a watchful eye on the queue, standing by the calligraphy table and managing expectations. Calligraphy is a slow process! ย I can speed it up for demonstration purposes, but if there are a lot of people in line, it can be a long and frustrating wait. It’s great to have a staff member on hand to keep track of who’s waiting, to enforce a certain number of tags (or cards, or chocolates, or items) per person, and to make sure everyone leaves happy.

I highly recommend limiting calligraphed items to one per person, at least when there’s a queue. I have had some interesting experiences with clients requesting six or eight items while there was a queue ten deep behind them. As the calligrapher in that situation, it’s very difficult to say no, even if boundaries have been agreed before handย – things are a little simpler with a staff member who has the authority to say “No, just one each, please.”

Duration:

Even for those of us who do it every single day, nonstop handwriting is tiring! If your event goes for more than two or three hours, try to arrange a time for your calligrapher to take five or ten minutes off halfway through. It’s good if your queue manager can be aware of this so they can let clients know.

And one more thing:

If you think it’ll be too busy and you’ll have too many customers for a calligrapher to manage … hire two! ย It’s a small calligraphic world, particularly in Australia,ย and we pretty much all know each other – chances are good that any one of us can connect you with several more. And the more calligraphy the better, as far as any of us are concerned.

What are your thoughts on event calligraphy? What would you like to know? Comments are always welcome.