I’m not saying I pack my calligraphy travel kit before I pack my clothes when I’m going away … but I’m not not saying it. I think my priorities are perfectly in order, don’t you?
Anyway, there was some recent discussion of what we take with us when we travel and how, so, here it is – the kit I take with me whenever I’m likely to have some downtime in a pleasant place.
It miiiight be a little excessive, but I stand by my decisions.
(I mean, it is also the kit I take with me to classes locally, which is why it’s so thorough. Usually when I go to a local class or to somewhere that doesn’t involve flying I’ll take liquid ink as well. And if I’m going somewhere I know I’ll be very busy, I’ll pare it right down. But this is the standard.)
Here we go. The blue bag is a rubbish little thing I bought years ago from a kid’s stationery store (Smiggle, if you have those over there!) but it’s actually the perfect size and shape and I love it. I haven’t found anything better to upgrade to in all that time.
Pictures should click through, if you really need to see close ups … maybe I should have washed the bag first … maybe. (Inkstains are part of the chaaaaaarm!)
So, closer view:
My three most-frequently-used Parallel Pens: 4.5mm (specially cut down), 3.8mm and 2.4mm. I have the 6mm and the 1.5mm also but I don’t use them anywhere near as often (and I don’t really like the 1.5mm; there’s not much difference between thicks and thins. If I’m working that small I just use a William Mitchell nib). For travelling I wash the barrels out (thoroughly!) and load them with cartridges. At home I’ll sometimes eyedropper-fill them with whatever ink I prefer at the moment, but I don’t trust the barrel seal in an aeroplane.
Broad pens – I don’t like forever taking nibs in and out, especially if I’m working with a few different sizes at once, so it just makes sense to have a bunch, right? I think I have here most of the Speedball C-series and one lonely William Mitchell.
Two empty holders, one oblique and one straight. Just in case.
An oblique holder with a very fine nib – Esterbrook 356 or 355, I think? – and one with my beloved Leonardt EF Principal. I might need either! SHHH. I just don’t like to be very far away from them …
Finally, my hot foil pen and a packet of foils! This is my favourite new toy and I’ll have to do a review post on it soon, since there’s not much information out there. It’s not really gilding and it’s not really writing with gold, but it’s definitely the closest thing to gilding you can manage in a travel kit – and it’s an awful lot of fun. That’s a rainbow foil on the top, but there’s blue, red, green, silver and gold in the package, too – so many options!
Now the front section:
I cram a lot into a small space.
Let’s see. So, an assortment of stirring sticks and spoons (I like those little airplane spoons and always try to save them!); an assortment of brushes. Mostly 1, 0, and 00 watercolour brushes of varying grades, for painting and mixing, although I can see I’ve got one long one in there for brush lettering. No flat brushes this time, oddly. A pipette – always useful.
More specialised tools next. My ruling pen – just a very cheap eBay one, but it’s more useful than i would have thought. I like lettering with it; I LOVE ruling with it. For some reason I never realised how useful it could be to have an adjustable-width monoline pen you can fill with any kind of paint or ink and rule a perfectly straight line with!
Speaking of which: my fluid writer. It’s a monoline pen you can fill with any kind of paint or ink … but you can draw with it rather than rule straight lines. It’s also incredibly useful for adding tiny dots – handy when illuminating capitals or decorating acanthus leaves.
An automatic pen (number 3.5, I think?) I don’t know why I love it so much, but I just do. It’s a lot more forgiving and flexible than a parallel pen, and you can really load it with anything – including masking fluid or gold size – and still get a perfect line.
An automatic pencil – always need a pencil! One 0.01 micron pen and two Copic fineliners (0.05 and 0.01, I think).
And tucked in the other side, all my little bits and pieces. Top to bottom, more or less:
Finetec gold. You ALWAYS need gold. This is just a refill pan, which you can get separately – much more portable!
It’s sitting on top of a couple of sheets of blotting paper. Next to that, in the plastic tub, a kneaded eraser. Next to that, another little tub full of walnut crystals – these are my favourite ink to travel with, because you just add a sprinkle of these to a tiny bit of water at the other end!
Next, a package of mixed-colour Parallel Pen refills. I don’t think much of the ink and it has a tendency to feather on nearly everything, but it’s great for layout work and the colour-changing is just plain fun.
A brush rest (well, a pen rest for me more often than brushes). This one I’ve had for a thousand years or so; I’m not even sure where it came from. It’s much fancier than most of my pen rests, which I usually make on the spot just by folding up a bit of paper and snipping a V into them …
Two little empty tubs, for ink. I’ve found about a quarter of an aeroplane-spoon of walnut crystals is the right amount for a tub this tiny, and I’m not likely to use much more than that unless I’m doing something serious.
In the middle there, a stick of ink and a little tiny grindstone, in case I need black. I bought the stick in an art store in Kansas once upon a time and I’m very fond of it, even though it’s quite low-quality ink as far as stick ink goes. Stick ink is great for travelling as well as being the best ink to practice with even at home for my money – it just takes a little patience, which I often don’t have …
A travel toothbrush (with a few blunter pointed nibs shoved in the case for off-hand flourishing practice) for cleaning nibs after use; a tiny travel toothpaste for cleaning nibs before use. I’m not really sure why there’s two toothpastes in there at the moment. Maybe, like bobby pins, they breed in the dark? Maybe there’ll be three next time I open it!
Blu-tac – blu-tac that I mostly use to plant my tiny plastic tubs of ink into, to make sure I don’t knock them over with a casual flying hand because they’re so little and light.
A little glassine envelope of spare pointed nibs, and a little Leonardt tin of spare broad nibs. I usually have at least one spare of all my favourites, and usually more … I like to be prepared, what can I say? (I was, indeed, a Boy Scout! — well, I was a Scout, anyway. Well, a Cub; I don’t think I made it to Scouts.)
And that last pink thing is a tiny magnifying glass the size of a credit card.
It all packs up very neatly into the little blue case, which goes in my handbag. I’ve only ever once had airport security ask questions – they just looked through it curiously before putting it back in. Of course a scalpel and a craft knife are not part of the kit when I’m flying! When I’m taking it to and from local workshops, I slip those in, but so far I’ve always remembered to take them out before flying.
The other thing that’s usually in there and isn’t today (not sure why) is a carpenter’s pencil – the flat type. Those are great for practicing, because you can sharpen them to any width you like, and you can practice anywhere with a pencil. I’ll have to remember to put them back in.
And that has been my travel kit. I have to take it with me – can you imagine if someone needed calligraphy and – gasp! – I didn’t have my kit? A calligraphy emergency can strike at any time, kids! You need to be careful!
(Of course there are plenty of calligraphers out there who can work magic with anything – I’ve seen people make beautiful art with a ballpoint pen – but I’m just not that good.)
You know, I like to tell people that you don’t need anything special to learn calligraphy except for a nib, a holder and some ink. And then I look at the amount of Calligraphy Stuff I seem to have amassed, and I suspect that I might be a little mistaken about that first part. Just a touch.