An Introduction to Modern Calligraphy


Last weekend I did something exciting. I did something just for me, acquiring a new skill and indulging in a few hours of calm and creativity. I attended a Craft Courses workshop, giving me an introduction to Modern Calligraphy, and I absolutely loved it.

Craft Courses is an online directory listing hundreds of courses across the UK to begin or develop creative, craft and artisan skills. I am delighted to be working with them over the coming months as I want to be able to bring you details of a variety of new experiences that I will try, on the premise that with my non-talent, if I can do it, you can!

As such, I will preface this post with the reminder to you that I have zero artistic talent. Zero. I also have appalling handwriting, as my poor long-suffering pen pals will attest to. So I’ll admit I was curious to see whether I could even get close to doing something as beautiful as modern calligraphy, but the takeaway message from this experience would be – please just try new things if they interest you, as you never know whether you’ll like them or are any good at them until you try. And am I glad I tried.

The workshop that I attended was in central Birmingham, in a beautiful location on Bennetts Hill. For £55, it included a three hour session, afternoon tea and a small calligraphy kit. This one was run by the lovely Heather at Feather and Flourish, based in the Midlands.

I think, for me, the workshop was successful on several levels. The session itself was lovely – a great teacher, a friendly group of people, delicious food, gorgeous surroundings and a wonderfully relaxed pace. It felt so luxurious to spend a few hours like that, to myself doing something entirely for me.

And then there’s the second thing, to be trying something brand new was so much fun, and as you can tell, I have come away from it very enthused and keen to continue developing my new skill. How often do we really try something that is completely new to us? I think it’s so good for us to do this, it certainly has been for me. It has lifted me, given me renewed energy and has made me wonder what else I could do, what else I could try. To spend time on something as creative as this was absolutely brilliant, and it was great to do so in the company of like-minded folk. At this particular session there were 7 of us, along with Heather, and just two of us knew each other. We’d all gathered together to try something creative, it was a lovely feeling.

Which brings me to the third thing, I have acquired a new skill. Yes, I know I was only there for a few hours, but I do feel I have learned something new and I just need to continue to practice in order to improve at it. I don’t feel that I need more tuition or books or work sheets, I know what I need to do from just that one workshop and I will now work to develop my skills. So I am deeming it to be an all-round success, and an experience that I would highly recommend.

This being the case, and with so many of you interested and asking me questions about it on social media over the weekend, here are a few top tips that I picked up:

Thicks and Thins! Yes, the first rules of modern calligraphy. Down strokes are thick, up strokes are thin, and the greater the contrast the better.

Find a lettering sheet that you like and copy and practice these. The letters do vary a little in modern calligraphy, so look around for some that you like, or with practice, you may develop your own anyway.

Use a dip pen and ink. I know that there are so many pens and brush pens out there, but the lines you get with the dip pen are just gorgeous. The Husband has been brush lettering for a while now (you might like to check out Getting Started with Brush Lettering) and he does love it, but he did say that the lines with the dip pen were sharper, the think and thin contrasts greater. It depends on what you’re looking for, and he enjoys all of the colours and blending with his pens, but having given both a try, I am sticking with the classic feel of the dip pen – I am using the Nikko G Nib and a Speedball Penholder

It might be your paper that’s the problem. We used paper at the workshop that enabled my pen to flow freely, but then when I’ve practised at home, I have tried several different sheets (because yes, I have a lot of paper and notepads here!) until finding one that allowed me to write as well (a Rhodia A4 Plain Pad). So if you’re struggling, try switching your paper.

Write on paper you know. If you’re writing a card or on an envelope or similar, it might be an idea to write the name/address/message onto paper that you know will be fine and then stick the paper onto the card. This avoids problems if the ink doesn’t work well with the card and allows for any mistakes.

New nibs often come with a film on them, use fire or a potato ??! (yes, really) to remove it. It occurred to me that some people might not know about the covering, and if they do, perhaps not the best way to remove it.

Thicken up or thin down ink to suit you. Leave the lid off to thicken it, or add water to thin it down. You want it to flow and get 2-3 letters from it before needing to dip again. I am using Higgins Eternal Ink

Joined up lettering does not need to be joined up. Just make it look so, but take it slowly and do letters separately if need be.

Do not think of it as writing. It is art, not handwriting, which should reassure those with terrible handwriting amongst us!

Practice, practice and practice some more! Heather recommended a couple of half an hour sessions a week.

If you’d like to take a closer look at the equipment and see me forming a few letters, then do check out my video, too:

In my case, I know I will practice and keep this up as I have a reason to do so. I regularly send out snail mail, so I will use this to address envelopes and letters and I might even indulge in a little more envelope art  -there may be another post on that soon if I can do it! I do think it helps to have a reason to do it, though it is a relaxing and enjoyable hobby in itself. Perhaps one to develop for this year’s Christmas cards?

Thanks again to the wonderful Craft Courses for sponsoring me to go along and give this a go. I hope to be continuing to work with them on further workshops picking up different skills, so watch this space, and let me know if there’s anything you’d like to see me try!

What do you think of this experience? Has it tempted you to try it, or something creative, yourself?

Disclosure: I attended the workshop FOC, with thanks to Craft Courses, and this post contains affiliate links

An Introduction to Modern Calligraphy


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4 thoughts on “An Introduction to Modern Calligraphy

    • Jocelyn Post author

      Ah, that’s wonderful!! So pleased to have inspired you to give it a go, you’ll have to let me know how you get on if you do go along x

  • Hayley Smith

    Love the sound of this Jocelyn and I’m so glad you enjoyed the course. It looks like a brilliant way to learn a new skill and a nice spot to do it in too. I would love to learn calligraphy but whenever I try at home I lose interest, having someone show you how to do it must make it easier. Love the video too!