***This is a heart-warming addition to our shop because Salman is one of the nicest guys I know - he's even shared surprise birthday cake at our shop, for one of our staff. I know I say that a lot, and that's partially because we, Jon and I, somehow landed ourselves in Toronto and in Canada, where the pen community is incredible and we have some of the friendliest and most supportive stationery nuts in the world, but Salman really is one of my favourite people. He is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to both calligraphy and letters and so open and passionate about sharing it. We're honoured and thrilled to be carrying Salman's holders, and even more so as he has a waiting list for his custom holders three months long. He's offering these holders at truly a very, very reasonable price considering all of the work and time each one takes, along with the experience and knowledge he has in making them. Salman once came to our Letter Writing Club and did free envelope addressing, and I can only imagine the reaction of people receiving the letters in the mail, as though invited to tea with the queen (although I hope, in my case, that the recipients were not then disappointed by receiving the scribbles of the proletariat). The part I liked best, though, was watching him pull out all his various inks and nibs and tools and goodies. I'm mostly just a lowly letter writer and journaler, and occasionally I make a mark on an invoice, usually just a doodle, so I can only dream of having all of these tools to make beautiful words with, and now of course, I have this gorgeous wooden nib holder.
I have always been really interested by handwriting - I loved looking at different ways people wrote and different styles they had. I first picked up a calligraphy pen when I was in elementary school and my dad gave me a set. My favourite colour was purple at the time so I pretty much wrote exclusively in purple ink (until all the ink spilled in my bag...).I didn't come back to calligraphy again until two and a half years ago when I had just moved to Montreal. I wanted to pick up something stress-relieving and relaxing, so I started experimenting with calligraphy, and ended up becoming obsessed with it!
I totally lose track of time when I get to do calligraphy, so I have no idea how long I'll usually go for! I do a bunch of warm ups when I start - a lot of loops and ovals to get my hands warmed up, and then a word or two I'm thinking of.Sometimes when I'm wanting to experiment with different styles, I'll write the same quote over and over again, but I'll play with the spaces in between letters or how the letters loop or their width and length - it's quite fun, and before I know it, an hour has gone by just with one quote!
Ooh - there's so much I love about it! I love the movement of it, watching ink set and dry (especially if it's gold ink!), the little scratch of the nibs against paper. I love that calligraphy is like this old art form - in an age where everyone brings laptops to take notes, I love that calligraphy is a meeting of the hands with the heart and mind, and how you can touch and feel the raised ink, the etch of the nib, the very words.But I also love that it's this sweet marriage of art and words - I've always loved words for their power and how they can create worlds and move hearts, how they can give life and death. So what I especially cherish about calligraphy and hand lettering is the way it can reflect the beauty of the content of words through their very form.
***That's a lot of information! But it's really because we have so much going on here these days. What a blessing, although it feels like everything is just a million never ending loose ends waiting to be tied up. I'm in charge of doing most of the ordering and emailing with our vendors and manufacturers and distributors, and most days it seems like I can hardly keep up. Every once in a while Jon looks through the email and says, oh hey, did you see this email about this deadline that passed you know, like two weeks ago?? And I look away and try to pretend that Caleb is in need of attention. If it's a really old email, I pretend like Caleb is doing something to get into trouble. I just responded to a letter I found in a box by my desk from January. I think that might be a record low for me, but who's keeping track. The exciting news is that I only found the letter because I was sorting and re-sorting my stationery (you know, priorities) when I found this beautiful cabinet on Kijiji! The very next day it arrived through our doors, and it now houses some of my favourite things. One day I'm going to really organize and sort through everything, and maybe even do a blog post on the treasures of my new stationery cabinet, but for now, here's a photo I shared last week on Instagram.
- Kaweco Tin Case
- watercolour in tubes
- little pans (6) + half pans (7)
- rubber cement
- foam (optional)
I'm hoping this will inspire me to be a bit more creative! Having to break out all of the tubes and palette and clean it off after is a bit of a pain, so maybe this will be incentive for me to try something new without too much work. My brush lettering is so-so at best, but practice makes perfect ;)
It's been rainy couple of days here, after our golden and sunny weekend. The grey skies and rain is sometimes a bit depressing, but I'm absolutely loving the cool and misty air compared to our snowy days just a few weeks ago.
Caleb is just loving the rain - he's got this thing about jumping in puddles, or just walking in and marching around and laughing like a maniac. It's crazy because he doesn't have rain boots, just these sock shoes that are socks with rubber bottoms, and running shoes. If we go out more than twice, and both his shoes get wet, he's left wearing his snow boots to go to the park.
If only my in-laws could see how I do things here...
It still needs to be lacquered, so any ink splashes or spills don't soak into the wood (which would only come out with sanding it off, which could affect the shape), but of course I couldn't resist, and I've done just a bit of very careful doodling.
If you have any questions about the class, please let us know! You can see more details here, or you can leave a comment, or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
***In other news, Monday is our grocery shopping day, so this morning we headed off to T&T, which is an Asian supermarket down by the waterfront. It's great when Caleb's sitting the shopping cart, since he just stares around as you push him up and down the aisles, but as soon as you have him out of the cart, he's a disaster. He likes to grab things and then re-stock them in alternative locations, which I guess is part of what he does in the shop here. Barely acceptable in our shop, or at least barely tolerated, but in public...we're working on it. The sadness news of all is that my favourite potato snack is no longer being carried at T&T. Or rather, they're only carrying the BBQ and spicy flavours of it. Jon has been trying to appease me by suggesting other snacks, but you know, life just isn't the same when your snacks don't hit the spot. Good thing I have a Nanaimo bar for dessert :) (And in case you were worried that it seems like I'm basically just subsisting off unhealthy foods, I just ordered water bottles for the entire family. They're very cute glass water bottles with silicone sleeves, and Caleb's is a mini one with a straw. I may have spent 45 minutes of my life that I'll never get back deciding which ones to get.)
***We've been running calligraphy classes in our new space for a while now, which has been something we were very excited to do after our tight quarters at 906 Dundas West. We've held classes at our shop, in the back, while customers came in to browse and look at inks, but we're now ready to announce that we will have a separate space for calligraphy classes, just down the hall. It's a wide open space, with windows and echo-y sounds and concrete floors and white walls, which certainly brings me back to last winter and early spring, when we were walking through the empty shop and packing area and apartment units, and it was all cold and industrial and bright and full of hope. We have even more planned and soon to come, including a March Break Children's Calligraphy Class, and more. It's been pretty exciting, to say the least, to see how the interest in calligraphy has grown over even just the last couple of years we've been running classes - we've had graphic designers and artists and calligraphers attend our classes, but even just "regular" folks who see the beauty in this art. It's a way to put a bit of intention and mindfulness in the writing we do everyday.
The ink recommended for ornamental penmanship is Higgins Eternal Ink. It is a black, carbon-based ink that has been used for this type of writing for over a century. Higgins Eternal has just the right viscosity, or thickness, to produce thin hairlines and broad shades of excellent smoothness and clarity... - page 5.Now that you've read this, I hope you'll forget that I have this book for guidance, as the following writing samples are done by me and reflect very little of the discipline and precision necessary for truly mastering a beautiful Spencerian Script. I'm working on it! For these writing samples, I used Rhodia paper, a Brause wooden nib holder, and the Brause Blue Pumpkin nib. This is my favourite nib to use, mainly because I think it's the most foolproof - it gives you some good flex and variation without being too fragile. I didn't do anything to prep the nib for writing - just dipped in with a brand new nib. There are a few things you can do to prepare your nibs, but I'm hoping to get into that in a later blog post. This ink is exactly as it is described by almost all of the calligraphers I've spoken with. It's smooth and flows with your nib, just that perfect balance between thick (so it doesn't railroad or blob on you) and thin (so you can get nice hairlines for line variation). Fountain pen ink does sometimes work with dip pens - one good fountain pen ink for dip pens is J. Herbin Perle Noire - but sometimes you can get less regulated flow: the ink can sometimes go onto the paper very thick and wet at the beginning strokes, but thin out as the nib runs closer to empty. One calligrapher mentioned he prefers fountain pen inks for when he needs to do very fine, precise work, as its very thin consistency helps with fine hairline, so I think it also depends a bit on the type of work you're doing and of course if you need a certain colour. This Higgins Eternal Ink has a consistency that ensures your writing is evenly "wet" and black - it flows smoothly and has very even output from the nib, if that makes sense. You won't be able to tell when you've just dipped your nib. This also means there is almost no shading, it's just a dark, rich, almost opaque black ink. You do have to check your nib to make sure you've still got ink in the tank - I'm sure for calligraphers this just becomes second nature to re-dip every few words. You can see from the close-ups of the writing samples that there are no "wetter" and "drier" words or letters, the flow is evenly thick throughout. Writing with a dip pen is much, much different from writing with a fountain pen. Fountain pens are smooth, and mostly seem to disappear as you're writing. You don't need to apply pressure, or think about dipping, ink doesn't just run out every couple of words or lines. Writing with a dip pen you can really feel and hear the nib scratching against the paper. I think the word "scratching" sometimes has negative connotations with fountain pen users, but I really do mean it in the best possible way. You can feel the nib making contact with the paper, and I think the natural tendency of a soft nib like this being a bit scratchier lends itself well to cursive or some sort of flowing and swooping script as you press and release with the nib. If you're an experienced calligrapher, no doubt you have already heard of (and may already own a bottle or two!) of this ink, but if you're just thinking about it, I highly recommend this ink, and even more so because it's so inexpensive. There's a black and a sepia - you know me and brown inks - but this ink is great for no nonsense, even flow with dip pens, so you can focus on your technique and your beautiful calligraphy.