Picking up my pen

Calligraphy practice

Just about 10 years ago I came home from a visit to my parents’ house with a small box of my dad’s old calligraphy stuff. Like most girls who grew up in the 80s and 90s, I had spent plenty of time playing around with “calligraphy markers” and block lettering. I always enjoyed that and couldn’t wait to see what would happen with an actual dip pen. The result was this (December 11, 3013): 

December-11-2013 Calligraphy

Yikes! I would play around a bit but it was not until 2015 when I really got serious about it. This time I decided that I was ready to put some effort into it. I started to follow calligraphers on Instagram, I purchased the right tools, studied up, and found myself in love with Engrosser’s Script. This was when “modern calligraphy” was gaining popularity — you know, the bouncy beautiful letters. But as trendy as it was, I was drawn to this classic style.

In 2016 I invested in myself and took a calligraphy workshop taught by the incredibly talented David Grimes and Joi Hunt. That course completely changed the way I thought about lettering and it pushed me in the right direction. Here’s a sample that I lettered in June 2016:


Well, around this time we encountered a series of life events that started to change things: layoffs, new jobs, kids’ school activities, a pandemic… it was like someone had set up dominos and one by one they kept falling. I didn’t have the energy to put into a lettering practice, so by the end of the year it fell by the wayside.

In 2021 I tried a modern calligraphy boot camp, but… it just didn’t feel right. So the pen nibs and bottles of ink were once again relegated to a shelf in my craft room. But lately I have started to get the urge to dust everything off and begin again. So that’s what I did yesterday. 

I mixed up a new batch of walnut ink, I printed out a fresh set of guidelines, I prepped a new nib, and I spent a quiet hour noodling around, becoming reacquainted with the feel of my oblique pen. It wasn’t pretty (certainly not by my standards), but I reminded myself of how long it had been.

Calligraphy practice

In a way, though, it was like riding a bike — I hadn’t forgotten everything. 

Calligraphy practice

A while back there was an Instagram challenge called #handletteredabcs and I’ve decided to work through the alphabet again. Today was a sheet of minuscule a. This took about 30 minutes and I was still working too fast. I need to focus on slowing down, breathing, and my pen grip.

Calligraphy practice

I know I said I was throwing in the towel on Blog365, but maybe I won’t after all… at least for another 35 days since I have 25 letters and 10 digits to go! 😉

… Anyway, I’m excited to start this journey again and see how my work progresses over the next few months! Expect a lot of calligraphy content in the next few months!

My First Calligraphy Workshop

Bmas Calligraphy workshop in NYC

As I have mentioned ad nauseum, thanks to Instagram, I have been able to find a great group of calligraphy enthusiasts who share my love for pen and ink. Back in February, I learned that two of my favorite calligraphers, Joi Hunt (Bien Fait Calligraphy) and David Grimes (Masgrimes), would be hosting a workshop down in SoHo. I knew, instantly, that I had to figure out a way to make this happen.

I hustled to get a little extra copywriting work and excitedly secured my place for “A Foundation in Script Writing with Bmas Calligraphy” (at the early bird price!). Then I just had to wait for March 12 to get here. Being the nut that I am, I started to get nervous about going into the city by myself. I think the last time I went into NYC alone was back in 2004! Yeah, it had been a while. I had maps, I had apps, I had Plans B and C. Luckily for me, absolutely nothing went wrong. The weather was perfect, my timing was great, and I didn’t get lost.

I was also not the first one there (something that usually happens). I immediately recognized two other IG friends. It is always weird and wonderful to meet people in real life that you only know online. Surreal, in a way (but a good way). We made our way up to the workspace upstairs at the Lofts at Prince. David and Joi greeted everyone and both were so warm and welcoming! I felt nervous and awkward meeting these calligraphy rock stars, but they were awesome.

Once everyone arrived, we did introductions and then got into the meat of the workshop. As the title would indicate, we focussed on foundations. That is, we studied five strokes and how to manipulate the tines on our nibs to form these strokes correctly.

Bmasfamily Calligraphy Workshop, NYC

It is not as easy as you’d think. It was seriously a whole lot of study and work (that I am still continuing). David did a fabulous job diagramming the strokes and explaining everything. Joi and David were more than happy to answer our questions, as well as spend time with each student in the class. This one-on-one time was, in my opinion, what really made this workshop stand out. To be able to watch an expert calligrapher (though both are so modest, I’m sure neither would want me to use the word “expert” — but yeah they are!) show you how to make a V-stroke, and have their work on you practice paper? Pretty damn cool.

Bmasfamily Calligraphy workshop in NYC

The information I left with was so worth the price of the workshop. (And beyond that, I made new calligrafriends — and how can you put a value on that?!) I have been thinking about my letters in a whole new way: not as letters, but as a series of strokes. What cemented this type of thinking a was group exercise we did towards the end. David wrote a word and then, in groups, we wrote the word one stroke at a time. Each person drew a single stroke and we passed the sheet along until one by one, the word was finished. You can see my group’s work on one of the sheets in the photo above. (Allegory is like 26 or 27 strokes!.)

We also discussed Copperplate vs. Engrosser’s Script vs. Roundhand. We talked about nibs, about vintage nibs (and Joi gave everyone their very own vintage nib — I love this Blanzy 2552 below!), about paper, about pen holders, about ink… So much material was covered!

Bmasfamily Calligraphy workshop in NYC

My only regret was hastily leaving without getting a photo with Joi and David. Studying with these two lovely people was such an honor and I am feeling so encouraged and inspired to continue honing my calligraphy skills and look critically at my work to find out where I need to focus so I can improve. I hope the Dynamic Duo find their way back to New York for another workshop in the future. I would definitely attend!