Monday, March 29, 2010

Copperplate Goes to Washington

My storyteller friend Anita had a dream: to tell an African folk tale at the Presidential Inauguration in January of 2009. She had been a passionate campaigner for him, and she wanted to do everything she could to get Obama's attention to her proposal. So she asked me to address an envelope to him and do some offhand flourishing on the folder that contained a copy of the story.

I believe the envelope was actually a "Presidential blue" color, not black as it appears here. The script is Copperplate, or Engrossers' Script; the inks are Dr. Ph. Martin's Bleedproof White and Spectralite gold.

I did three different outer envelope styles and let her choose. This is the one that went to Washington...

...but alas, no response! But as Anita's grandma told her, "The only failure is not trying!"

Friday, March 19, 2010

Have Tag Will Travel (Tutorial)

A nice sturdy luggage tag is a big help when you’re trying to recognize your suitcase among all the others. It’s essential if your luggage is lost or misplaced, but it’s not a good idea to have your address readily visible. These tags proclaim the owner loud and clear, but keep contact information tucked inside yet accessible when needed.

Luggage tags were my go-to holiday gift this past season, and people really seemed to like them and want to know how to make them, so here they are.

Materials & Tools

  • black (or any deep color) paper, not too heavy, cut 3” X 10½”
  • x-acto knife and cutting mat
  • ruler
  • pen and white ink or gouache (I used Dr. Ph. Martin's Bleedproof White)
  • ¼” hole punch
  • blank white stickers, approximately 2 ¼ “ X 3 ¼ “ (I used Staples name badge labels)
  • ¼ “ (6 mm) eyelet kit (I used Dritz from Jo-Ann Fabrics)
  • hammer
  • sticky-backed Velcro dots (found these at Jo-Ann’s and at FedEx Office). Alternatively, you can purchase larger pieces and cut them to size, as long as they’re self-adhesive.
  • plastic loops for luggage tags known as “worms” [at office stores they usually come in packs of 25 along with laminating pouches (pouches are too small for this project), but they also are available separately in packs of 100 online at]
  1. Lightly pencil in vertical dotted lines to define writing area. These lines will also be scored after laminating. Do not fold yet!
  2. Calligraph name in glorious Spencerian, slightly to the right in the space to leave room for the eyelet.
  3. Take to office store, (i.e. Staples or FedEx Office) and have laminated with 5 mil film. Three mil would also work but 10 is too thick to fold.
  4. Trim lamination close to paper all around, leaving about 1/16” to 1/8” of film. Optionally, trim corners (I use a corner punch for this).
  5. Score firmly along penciled lines on front (side where name is written).
  6. Fold shorter (2 ½”) side toward back and punch hole as shown through two layers.
  7. Place sticker on back of tag directly opposite name inscription. It will be on the inside of the luggage tag.
  8. Insert eyelet through both holes so that it holds the fold in place. (You may need to widen the hole a little by pushing a pen or pencil through it.) Use tools (“anvils”) that come with eyelets and secure with hammer.
  9. Fold longer (3 ½”) side and tuck under shorter side. It will probably stay in place as is, but will be more securewith Velcro dots attached.
  10. Loop “worm” through eyelet as shown.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

End-of-an-Era Envelope

This was the last envelope I sent to a dear old family friend before she moved from her lakeside home of sixty-five years to a high-rise retirement community on Lake Erie---where, by all reports, she is having a blast. I can hardly imagine Findley Lake without her. I would see her during summers my family spent at the lake, and we corresponded regularly the rest of the year thoughout my childhood and beyond. She still writes me long, "newsy" letters, as she calls them, at least a couple of times a month, in hand-addressed envelopes, of course. I try to reciprocate in kind.

The script is, of course, Spencerian, and the blocky lettering is after a style (unnamed?) designed by the inimitable Michael Sull. The ink is Dr. Ph. Martin's Bleedproof White, with the cartouche detailed in Spectralite gold. And of course, the Queen of Hearts stamp is perfect.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Nibs to the Highest Bidder

Seems like for a while there, every school and sport my kids were involved with was soliciting donations for silent auctions. Another successful item was simply offering to address a hundred envelopes--invitations, announcements, or holiday cards. Good practice for me, a little cash for the school. This was the display set up at the fundraising event. The green envelope is done in Dr. Ph. Martin's Bleedproof White, the ecru envelope in J. Herbin Nuages Gris. Both are Italic hand.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mission (Statement) Accomplished

The mission statement at my kids' alma mater, Marin Academy, is oft-quoted and central to the life of the school, so it seemed like a good idea to render it calligraphically for an auction item at their fundraiser a few years back. It's a potpourri of Uncial, Italic, Copperplate, my own scribbly handwriting, and some bits of stamped color and gold ink. The large Italic was done using my rinse water as ink. By cutting the mats myself I was able to make it fit into a stock frame size, which saved custom framing costs.

I don't remember exactly how much the piece went for, but it was a respectable sum. I was later asked to make a similar piece as a tribute to the Head of School's tenth anniversary (two different mattings here, not sure which one we settled on)...

...and another to honor a founding Trustee.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Paperweight of the World

I'm always looking for little gifty ideas that involve calligraphy, and this was a pretty simple one. I purchased crystal dome paperweight blanks, which come with pre-glued felt ready to finish off the bottom. A few strokes of the pen with walnut and gold ink, a pretty coin from Buenos Aires, and I had a little keepsake to give a fellow traveler. The same company sells glass coaster blanks as well.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Grandes Dames de la Musique

Quotations from these two remarkable women, both female orchestra conductor pioneers in the 1930s, inspired pieces that celebrate their talent and wit. The photocopied images were transferred with xylene (though nowadays I would use Citra-Solv, which is less toxic and smells way better--see their artists' site with all kinds of amazing ideas here), and the calligraphy was done in walnut ink. The hands are copperplate and Roman miniscule. Both were done with pointed pen, and the originals are about 12" x 18".

Friday, March 12, 2010

Not Their Cup of Tea

Every so often I am asked by a graphic designer to create some calligraphy for a commercial or corporate project or product. The designers always love the hand-crafted look but the clients...not so much. It would seem we've grown so accustomed to the "perfection" of the digitally rendered letter that it is rare for the look of real pen and ink to be appreciated. Here is a label I did that was pitched by the designer to the client but didn't fly....sigh...although, to be fair, neither did this logo created by the firm.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mixing It Up Again

Here's another piece I did for the frontispiece of a family memory book. It is photographed rather than scanned, so the shape looks odd. Again, the contrast of two very different hands, one with pointed and one with a broad nib: this time Spencerian and Blackletter/Pointed Gothic/Johnstonian Italic. The little gold feathery flourishes are done with the pointed pen and Spectralite, a line of paint made for airbrushing. The white is Dr. Ph. Martin's Bleedproof Ink.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Mixed Meta-forms

I am always intrigued with the possibilities of combining various hands for contrast---kind of time-traveling in calligraphy! Here's some Johnstonian Italic (aka Pointed Gothic) for the organization names, with some Copperplate (aka Engrossers' Script) thrown in to tie it together.


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