When I was little, I received a calligraphy set as a gift.
It wasn’t all fancy with a feathered quill and ink bottle or anything, just a simple one with four colors of calligraphy markers and an instruction book that would spark a life-long fascination with illustrative fonts and typography. I wrote calligraphy constantly. It probably even helped give me halfway-decent regular handwriting to boot. It’s a skill that requires a lot of patience and discipline, which were some of my biggest obstacles.
In Greek language, calligraphy literally translates to the combined words “beauty” and “writing”, embellished lettering ranging from simple to ornate. Calligraphy has been used in many countries for centuries, from everyday correspondence, to important documents, to religious works, such as the Book of Kells in Ireland.
These days, we mostly see calligraphy on wedding invitations or the occasional Christmas card. The emergence of typewriters and computers have made regular handwriting a rarity over time, let alone its time-consuming artsy-fartsy cousin. I think we could stand to bring it back into the fray a little more, though. I’m game for some grocery lists with the words “eggs” and “tampons” written out with special flare. Roll them up like a scroll to really add some distinction to your errands.
Those calligraphy markers I used to have are still available in craft and stationery stores if you want to try your hand at a different type of creativity or just want to work on some exercises for improving your own handwriting. Larger sets should come with books to teach you, though you can always find a mini-tutorial online. More traditional nib pens and ink are available, too, if you’re ready to move into prime time. I recently purchased a new set, and the following day, even found a set of two dozen nibs at a thrift store for 8 bucks. Score.
If you’re curious about giving this artistic penmanship a whirl, these sites may inspire and assist you further:
- Paper & Ink Arts – An extensive online supply site featuring calligraphy materials as well as great gift items.
- Calligraphy Centre – This group hosts a week-long retreat for calligraphers, in addition to offering online resources and teaching classes to central North Carolina locals.
- IAMPETH – The International Association of Master Penmen-Engrassers-Teachers of Handwriting. That name alone should let you know how serious this group is. Lots of good history as well as resources on this site. If you’re really ambitious, you can strive to become a Master Penman, where “inductees are required to produce their own certificate as proof of their ability.”
- Calligraphy Art iPad app – “There’s an app for that.” Even calligraphy.
- Lisa Congdon’s 365 Days of Hand Lettering – Artist Lisa Congdon recently started taking calligraphy classes. Follow along on her blog as she experiments with a new way to express her art.