Olive Branch & Co Calligraphy in the Studio

Olive Branch & Co Calligraphy in the Studio

If you've stopped by the shop this week, you may have noticed we have a new chalkboard design up - done by Melissa Chan of Olive Branch & Co Calligraphy teaching a few Introduction to Modern Calligraphy classes here in our calligraphy studio! I've actually known Melissa since we were in university together! But I've been following her story on Instagram over the last few years and have been in awe of everything she does. I was so thrilled to hear she was going to be in Toronto for a few weeks, en route a big move from Montreal to Vancouver - and even more so to have her here to do our chalkboard and teach a few calligraphy classes here! Olive Branch and Co Modern Calligraphy Classes in Toronto
Melissa has been practising calligraphy for a few years now, and it's been unbelievable to see how her business has taken root and grown. You can check out her website portfolio here and see a few of the beautiful custom pieces she's done for weddings and events - she even has a blog! (You know I'm all over that.)
For those of you who might need some inspiration, here's bit of her story.
How did you become interested in calligraphy?
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!
What's your typical practice session like?
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!
What's your favourite part of doing calligraphy?
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.
Olive Branch & Co Calligraphy Modern Calligraphy Classes Toronto Canada Wonder Pens
We're so excited to have her here to teach a few classes of Introduction to Modern Calligraphy in our studio! Melissa is incredibly gracious and friendly, and is the perfect teacher for anyone looking to begin calligraphy. She's only here for two weeks, so we're pretty honoured that she has found the time for us here.
You can find more details and register online for her classes here. The classes are:
Thursday, May 19th from 7-9:30 pm
Friday, May 20th from 7-9:30 pm
Thursday, May 26th from 7-9:30 pm
Friday, May 27th from 7-9:30 pm
All materials are provided, and you'll a few hours practising and learning how to make some beautiful strokes.
She was kind enough to let us take some video of her in action, putting up the new chalkboard wall!
May 18, 2016 — wonderpens
New Calligraphy Classes Coming Up

New Calligraphy Classes Coming Up

I'm so excited to share with you a few new calligraphy classes! We are certainly keeping busy around here. Maybe it's the spring, but I've always enjoyed playing around with flex nibs and dip pens, and what better time than this new season to freshen up. Of course we continue to have classes for our Introduction to Calligraphy and Introduction to Pointed Pen - you can visit both of these links to see all available dates. Calligraphy Classes in Toronto Oblique Nib Holder Pointed Pen Modern Calligraphy We're thrilled to be getting such good use out of our new Wonder Pens Toronto Calligraphy Studio, which is just down the hall from our class. The separate space means teachers and students have room to stretch and to concentrate (or chat!) without distractions. Also, I've been spending some time there with the dog to get some "real work" done, although I am prone to distractions even when I'm alone in an empty room with a sleeping dog. All-Ages Calligraphy Class - Saturday, April 30th from 1:30-4:30 Coming up very soon (this Saturday!) is our first All-Ages calligraphy class. We've had a lot of questions about whether or not kids can attend the regular classes, and the short answer is no. There are a lot of reasons, and while it's mostly due to the speed of teaching, it's also the difference in development of fine motor skills between kids and adults, the comfort level of other adults in the class, and the need for teachers to work with individuals students in a balanced manner. But now, we're remedying this oversight by offering our first class where kids can attend with a parent or older sibling, or older kids can even attend on their own! It's an introductory class, so you can attend with zero prior experience, and all materials are provided. You can see more details online here. Intermediate Italics - Saturday, May 14th from 1:30-4:30 If you've taken one of our Introduction to Calligraphy Classes and are looking for the next step, this is it. Intermediate Italics covers this beautiful hand in more detail and depth, building on skills you've already learned or begun to practise. Intermediate Calligraphy Class Toronto Wonder Pens There is no official prerequisite, as in you don't have to have taken the Introduction to Calligraphy class with us, but the course will be taught assuming you've already had some introduction of the basics. Mark Lurz, head of the Calligraphic Arts Guild of Toronto, is teaching the class, and I cannot speak more highly of him, both as a calligrapher but also as a teacher. See more details and register here. Intermediate Copperplate Calligraphy - Saturday, June 11 from 10:30 to 5:00 Another big new class for us! Salman Khattak is now preparing for our upcoming Intermediate Copperplate Calligraphy Class. This 6-hour intensive, class will be a small class size and a focused exploration of copperplate calligraphy (with a break for lunch halfway through). You'll be covering the foundations of learning copperplate calligraphy. This is an intermediate class, meaning you will have had some basic knowledge of using dip pens and applying varying pressure. Rest assured, though, that Salman will be teaching you this beautiful style of writing from the ground up. For this class, you will likely already have your own oblique nib holder and tools to bring, but you have the option of purchasing an oblique nib holder from Salman if you don't already have one - selection from the drop down menu to register for the class as well as purchase materials (oblique nib holder, nibs + ink). Paper will be provided for everyone. You can see more details and register for this class here. Unfortunately these hand made wooden oblique nib holders will not be available for purchase outside of this class. Salman is offering these at a discounted price as part of registering for the class. If you would like a nib holder from Salman and are unable to attend this class, you can contact him directly here or see more of his work on his Instagram. We are hoping to hold another class on carving an oblique nib holder some time this summer, so stay tuned to our website for details on that. And! Introduction to Modern Calligraphy with Melissa Chan from Olive Branch & Co - Friday, May 20th from 7pm - 9:30pm OR Friday, May 27th from 7pm - 9:30 pm I am so crazy excited to share with you that we're going to be hosting a class with Melissa from Olive Branch & Co. She is a modern calligrapher, and offers custom wedding invitations and other custom work, as well as cards and prints. Modern Calligraphy Class Toronto Wonder Pens Melissa is currently based in Montreal, although en route for a big move to Vancouver, but will be spending a few weeks here in Toronto, and we're thrilled that she'll be teaching two classes here in our studio while she's in town! You can see more of her work on Instagram. These classes are already filling up fast, and be careful to see that they're on Friday night, and not on Saturdays, when most of our other classes are held. All materials are provided and this is an introductory class, so no prior experience is needed.  You can register and see more details here.


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.
April 27, 2016 — wonderpens

How It Went: Carving My Oblique Nib Holder

This past Saturday, we had our first Creating an Oblique Nib Holder class, which I attended, and I am now in possession of my very own oblique nib holder! The class was taught by Salman Khattak, who is a calligrapher, but who also makes and sells beautiful and ornate nib holders. We're running another class on Saturday, April 2nd, from 2-6pm -you can register online here. We're also hoping to strong-arm Salman into teaching a few calligraphy classes, so stay tuned for that as well. I was a bit nervous going into it, especially because Salman wanted us all seated in a circle so he could make sure we were all doing okay. I'm more of sit in the back corner kind of student, so I don't embarrass myself by breaking my nib holder in half or cutting off my thumb while carving the wood. It was a bit intense when we were picking up all the tools from Lee Valley and Home Depot and Canadian Tire, because the list involved utility knives and metal cutters and "round bastard files" - but once I was in the class, everything came together and made sense. It was great. It was so much fun, especially because the other students were super easy going, and of course Salman is, as always, so disarming and funny. Even though everything he teaches he can do five times as fast, he really lays it all out so we can follow along and do as he does. The class was originally scheduled for four hours, which I thought seemed like a long time, but we ended up running over! It was really great, though, to have Salman walk us through and show us exactly how to adjust things or tweak things or to help us make sure the flanges were all installed perfectly. Here are a few pictures from the day: Salman Khattak Wonder Pens Custom Oblique Nib Holder Calligraphy Supplies Toronto Canada Salman showed us some of the holders he's carved, in different shapes and sizes, and explained how each design might work in someone's hand. We got to pick our own sizes of wood, and Salman walked us through our rough plans for our own designs, and how to use the knives and files to shape the wood. After sanding it down, we cut notches to install and adjust the flange to accommodate various nibs. It sounds pretty simple when I say it like that, but trust me when I say that there's a lot that goes into making a custom oblique nib holder, and especially in fitting the flange. Oblique Nib Holder Calligraphy Supplies Toronto Canada Salman Khattak Wonder Pens Custom Oblique Nib Holder Calligraphy Supplies Toronto Canada Salman Khattak Wonder Pens Custom Oblique Nib Holder Calligraphy Supplies Toronto Canada Salman Khattak Wonder Pens Custom Oblique Nib Holder Calligraphy Supplies Toronto Canada Salman Khattak Wonder Pens Custom Oblique Nib Holder Calligraphy Supplies Toronto Canada Salman Khattak Wonder Pens Custom Oblique Nib Holder Calligraphy Supplies Toronto Canada Salman Khattak Wonder Pens Custom Oblique Nib Holder Calligraphy Supplies Toronto Canada Salman Khattak Wonder Pens Custom Oblique Nib Holder Calligraphy Supplies Toronto Canada Shaping the wood itself was maybe my favourite part of the class, but of course installing the flange to make it a complete nib holder was pretty exciting, since you really see it turn into an oblique nib holder. It was also the most complicated part, which Salman definitely had to walk us all through. It was my first time attending a class in the new studio space, and I loved it! Our new studio space for classes is just down the hall from the shop, which is super convenient when we have to move furniture around or set up the coffee and tea for the day. It was also great to have room to maneuver and stretch, especially because Caleb was in and out of the class, too. Since the class took place on a Saturday, which is typically our busiest day in the shop, Jon took care of Caleb for most of the afternoon, but dropped him off every now and again. In Jon's words, Caleb was "getting a bit unruly for the shop." And here's mine! I went for a simpler design, rather than something more ergonomic or complicated, mainly because I had no idea how it was going to go. It's slightly ergonomic in that there's a small dip near the front end for the fingers to grip into, as Salman advised, but nothing like some of the beautiful ones made by the other students in the class. Salman Khattak Wonder Pens Custom Oblique Nib Holder Calligraphy Supplies Toronto Canada

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 info@wonderpens.ca.


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.)
New Calligraphy Classes + New Wonder Pens Calligraphy Studio

New Calligraphy Classes + New Wonder Pens Calligraphy Studio

The most exciting news: we have two new calligraphy classes here in our Toronto shop! Mark Lurz has been teaching our Introduction to Calligraphy class, which is a terrific intro course for complete beginners, or even calligraphers who need a solid refresher. This class has been extremely popular, and I don't think we've run one yet that hasn't been full with a wait list. Mark will now be teaching an Intermediate Italic Letters class on the afternoon of March 12th, from 1:30-4:30, for those who have either taken the Introduction to Calligraphy class, or who have some experience in italic calligraphy. This is a next stage level, for those who are a bit more serious about calligraphy, to work towards an elegant script with Swash Capitals. Mark is the head of the Calligraphy Arts Guild of Toronto, so we're constantly in amazement at the beautiful work he puts out, and his wealth of experience teaching at all levels. And, if that wasn't enough, we have Salman Khattak creating a workshop to teach you to make your own oblique nib holder! This Creating an Oblique Nib Holder class means you come empty-handed, and we have all the tools and materials you'll need to leave with a complete and ready-to-use oblique nib holder. We have two classes, four hours long, one on February 27th, from 2:00 - 6:00 pm, and one on March 5th, from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm. If you aren't already following Salman on Instagram, you definitely have to take a look, because he shares some beautiful stuff on it. We've been searching for about as long as we can remember to find a high quality oblique nib holder at a reasonable cost, but they are hard to find! There are some plastic options out there, but they don't offer the same flexibility to adjust angles or nibs - so you can bet we're excited to now offer a class where you can make your own, and even more so taught by someone like Salman, who makes some pretty unbelievable and gorgeous nib holders. Oblique Nib Holders Wonder Pens Modern Calligraphy Classes Toronto With Salman, you'll be carving and shaping a piece of wood, and fitting & adjusting brass flanges to accommodate nibs of various sizes. You'll walk away with an oblique nib holder shaped to your hand size and preferences, and a few extra nibs to make some beautiful calligraphy. Both of these classes are available for registration online, or you can call or visit the shop to reserve your spot. We've had a number of people doing it with a friend or as a small group, and if you know you'd like to attend the class with someone, you should all register as soon as possible, so one of you doesn't end up on the waitlist. As with all of our classes, if you have to cancel unexpectedly, you can receive up to a 50% of the class fee back as long as you let us know before 48 hours of the class. After 48 hours, unfortunately there are no refunds.


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. Wonder Pens Calligraphy Studio Calligraphy Classes Toronto 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. Wonder Pens Modern Calligraphy Classes Italic Mark Lurz Toronto Calligraphic Arts Guild Canada Wonder Pens Modern Calligraphy Classes Toronto Wonder Pens Modern Calligraphy Class Toronto Canada 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.
February 09, 2016 — wonderpens

Fundamentals of Calligraphy: A 6-Week Calligraphy Class in Toronto with Salman Khattak

I'm so incredibly excited that we've finally gotten the details ironed out and we're ready to go with a six week in-depth calligraphy class, taught by expert calligrapher Salman Khattak. I actually thought about joining myself (if Salman would take me!), but Caleb's bedtime is currently a time conflict - I'm keeping my fingers crossed for spring, when we're hoping to run another in-depth course on different calligraphic hands and styles. Calligraphy Class Toronto Wonder Pens wonderpens.ca Canada Salman is experienced in Western and Arabic calligraphy and skilled in scripts ranging from copperplate to italic to gothic styles, along with many others, like the ones in this upcoming course. He is also approachable, friendly and encouraging, making this the perfect class for committed beginners, along with students of calligraphy looking for a more structured learning opportunity. This is really exciting for us because here in Toronto, while there are a few one-day type calligraphy workshops, mostly "modern" calligraphy, there are no real places to seriously study the art and history of formal calligraphy, which is the basis of modern font design and handwriting and lettering. Anyone looking to develop their own personal style should consider first getting a firm grounding in formal calligraphy in order to establish and hone their skills. Getting a taste is great, but now we're able to offer a way for students who are really interested to deepen their skills and understanding over six weeks, with a master calligraphy to direct and guide. Calligraphy Class in Toronto Wonder Pens Blog In this six week class, you can expect to learn fundamental skills and basic practices progressing to the formation of Roman Majuscules, Foundational Minuscules, Batarde Minuscules & Majuscules. This multi-week course format allows for the development of skills over a period of time, as well as continual feedback from Salman. Between classes, there will be exercises for practise and even an online forum for posting work and receiving description feedback. I can't wait to start seeing the development of work from students! Students will also conceive and create a project under Salman's guidance. Within the general outline and structure of the course, there will be ample time and room for flexibility and small projects and assignments based on the skill level and interest of students. Classes are: Wednesday, October 28, 6:30 - 9:30 Wednesday, November 4, 6:30 - 9:30 Wednesday, November 11, 6:30 - 9:30 Wednesday, November 18, 6:30 - 9:30 Wednesday, November 25, 6:30 - 9:30 Wednesday, December 2, 6:30 - 9:30 Included in the course fee ($450) are all required materials, including nibs, nib holder, ink, paper and other supplies. Should you have any other supplies or materials, you are more than welcome to bring them to classes. In order to register for this class, students must have previously taken either Introduction to Calligraphy or Introduction to Pointed Pen Calligraphy. *Edit: We've had a few questions on this requirement, and actually, there is a bit of flexibility on it. While students who have previously taken an Introduction Class will have a bit of a 'heads-up' on this six week course, if you have not taken the class but are seriously interested in calligraphy, or of course have other experience, this is still a course for you. This pre-requisite was really designed both to ensure a baseline level of commitment, but also to avoid disappointment if you begin the class knowing not very much about calligraphy, and it turns out it's not what you expect: please remember that you can only receive  50% of your course fee back up to 1 week before the course begins, and absolutely no refunds after that.  See more details and register for the class here, or stop by the shop for a chat! Calligraphy Class Toronto Wonder Pens wonderpens.ca Canada The class registration fee must be paid in full in order to hold your spot for the class. Up until one week before the start date, up to 50% of the class fee may be refunded. After one week, there are no refunds under any circumstance. There will be no reimbursement for one or more classes missed. We need a minimum number of students to run the course, but if we need to cancel, you'll be given at least 24 hours notification.
October 10, 2015 — wonderpens