What I Learned from a Calligraphy Workshop
If you're toying with the idea of learning calligraphy to DIY your wedding invites, ceremony programs or escort cards, you're not alone. A few of The Knot editors (this girl included) participated in a calligraphy workshop taught by Laura Hooper and her sister, Alyssa. It was full of wide-eyed brides eager to dive into the world of calligraphy, and to those brave ladies: We tip our hats to you. After two hours of writing and rewriting the alphabet, I had some revelations, six to be exact. Most of all (spoiler alert!) my hands were feeling the burn. Here's what you should know before you dip your nib into the ink pot.
1. Twenty-six letters are far too many for one alphabet.
I get it—the alphabet has always had 26 letters, but dang, all the loop-the-loops in calligraphy make each swooping letter feel like your writing two or three at a time. Seasoned calligraphers know which strokes should be thin and which should be thick, further adding to the challenge. Not to mention that capital letters are totally different from lower case, so really, you need to memorize strokes for 52 letters. See what I mean?
2. The hand muscles of our generation are severely neglected.
When planning a wedding, you quickly learn that decision fatigue is a thing. But let me tell you, hand fatigue is the real deal. Everyone in the workshop had to stop for breathers and shake out their writing hand. (And by "breathers" I mean doughnuts.) Texting and typing has made us out-of-shape writers who require snack breaks between "D" and "E."
3. Calligraphy is a mindful art form.
The thicker strokes in lettering are made by applying more pressure on the nib (the "quill" of the pen if you will), which means you have to be mindful about your horizontal hand motions that run parallel with the paper, and the vertical motion of applying pressure in just the right places. At the same time. It's hard. But admittedly, with practice it starts to come naturally—or at least, I think I was improving?
4. Posture is everything.
Posture plays a huge part in penmanship. Calligraphy isn't just comprised of hand movements alone—your arm gets into it too. To create big, sweeping letters, your whole limb has to move in tandem with your hand motions. For that to be a fluid gesture, you have to sit up super straight, angle your paper just so, and stay that way.
5. Sometimes you just need a real-life pro.
Being a self-certified yogi, I like to think that I know what I'm doing when I'm transitioning from a warrior one into warrior two, but the fact of the matter is, sometimes you need an instructor to correct your form. I've tried my luck with calligraphy before and it just hasn't looked right. I needed a pro beside me, telling me why my Xs looked like two back-to-back Cs to really improve. I needed her to point out which lines needed to be straight and at what point exactly they needed to start curving. (As you can see above, they were totally back-to-back Cs. Did I know that before Alyssa told me? Not in the slightest.)
6. It's totally worth it.
After class, I went home and wrote a letter. Okay the letter itself was written quickly and in unattractive handwriting, but I took my sweet time calligraphing that envelope. There was no official timer, but it took a few Orange Is The New Black episodes (not even joking) to get it post-ready. For all the work that goes into penning calligraphy, I must say, the end result is so worth it.
So, would I undertake DIY calligraphy for my wedding? I thought long and hard about this and here's what I came up with: It's doable, but I wouldn't do it myself.
I'm the type of person who DIYs a project then sees all the imperfections rather than how amazing the final product is. But, if you've got a passion for DIY and you don't mind a challenge, you could take this on and totally rock it. But I would absolutely recommend a workshop to get started. Getting tips first-hand from a seasoned pro is invaluable. Once you have the hang of classic copperplate, you can branch out and find your own swooping style.
To give you a taste of what beginner's calligraphy looks like, here's a letter I'm sending to Harry Potter—we're pen pals. It took 10 minutes of pre-envelope practice and five envelopes.