The other day I was contemplating the process of calligraphy and it made me realise that every calligraphy project begins and ends with my hands. I think that’s what made me start calligraphy, the connection and tactile nature of putting pen to paper, being in that moment is a joy.
These are my hands, they are the same hands that held my daughters when they were born. They have looked after them, stroked their heads when they were poorly or held their hands to cross the road when they were little. They are the same hands that tiled a bathroom in my first home or played the piano when I was a child.
When I was doing my A levels my left hand (the hand I write with) ached after 3 hour exams and as my natural writing style curves over, I felt it cramp as I furiously wrote as fast as I could. These hands took me through university, with giggly friends on nights out in the middle of the week and drove my first car (a very old mini) to the beach just ‘because I could’. They have rowed boats up and down the river Thames twisting to the rhythm of the oars on misty mornings when the air was so cold you could see your breath.
These hands can be dry in the winter so I use gorgeous hand creams to keep them soft and supple and I even have different thumbs – my left takes after my mother and my right after my father. My brother has the matching pair – if you put our thumbs together – they match up! They have lugged a backpack all the way to Thailand, Vietnam and Australia, they have helped nervous divers and led them to see the spectacular beauty of the underwater world on the Great Barrier Reef. They have been the makers of beautiful coffees in a shop I co-owned with my mother. They have created pretty cakes and patisseries. They have pumped iron when I was a personal trainer and have flung high in the air when I was a Zumba Instructor. They have worn a gold band which has since been removed but left with a friendship and joint love of our children. They have twirled my daughters around the kitchen most evenings and jitterbugged as dinner is cooking. They have caressed wonderful bread and made food to warm your soul.
Every Autumn they have pulled out a knitting or crochet project for Christmas and harvested natural dyes to make beautiful hand dyed silks and linens. They have carefully styled and created websites and painted watercolour illustrations. When I found calligraphy it started with just picking up a normal pen and creating faux calligraphy, but my hands craved more, they wanted to create these beautiful shapes and thick lines that changed to the thinnest lines with a simple movement.
I watched videos, bought books and a starter kit with ink, a pen and nibs, at first I faltered like a baby learning to walk and being left handed found that my hand wasn’t happy to work underneath the set guidelines but after trial and error I found a way, and the letters started to flow. I practised for hours and hours, trying different nibs, ink and pens but loved every single minute. I tried handmade, vellum, watercolour and parchment paper, all with their own unique qualities and responses to my nib and inks.
The history of my life is embedded in my hands, my passion and love to create something bespoke and beautiful is part of my muscle memory as the nib scratches across the paper (my favourite sound). When I tell people my profession I often get met with a strange look and then a ‘ooh, with those funny pens?’. I love what I do, the excitement of a new wedding client or a list of names sitting on my desk waiting to be turned into place cards or addressed envelopes is what gets me up in the morning. As I write their names I can imagine them all sitting around a table enjoying the party or event and perhaps taking their place card home with them as a souvenir. Or the thought of carefully designed wedding stationery landing on the mat inviting a loved one to share the joy of the couple getting married. I also love the opportunity to write wedding vows or letters. Working with corporate clients has also been a wonderful experience – creating a special piece of spot calligraphy or illustrations for their own unique branding is a wonderful and original way to keep ahead of the pack. I recently created my own calligraphy font which was a lengthy but amazing process and one I will continue to develop.
I read an article the other day that calligraphy was considered a luxury item for weddings and it made me very sad, I appreciate that the prices often sound expensive for ‘just writing’ but it’s the time and history behind each calligrapher that provides their unique ‘hand’. No two calligrapher’s hands are the same, we cannot copy each other – it can be similar but it will always be slightly different. I am learning traditional Copperplate and Spencerian which is a bit like training to be a Zen Master, but I am happy to take my time perfecting this skill. I want everyone to be able to access calligraphy and the happiness it can bring. We live in a world where everyone is constantly ‘connected’ but just holding something handmade and unique can ground you and keep you centred. For that one moment you can just appreciate what you have in your own hands. When I have finished a project I often lay everything out and just appreciate the beauty of each letter or design. Everything I make gets wrapped in tissue and tied with ribbon, then packed very carefully before it gets sent to the recipient. I imagine them opening it and pray that they love it as much as I do. My testimonials always mean so much to me.
I love the freedom of the pen and how you can change your shapes and flourishes depending on how hard you press or what type of nib you have, calligraphy reminds me so much of life, it can be unpredictable and messy at times but what you will always have is love, passion and authenticity behind every word that I write.