I Really Do Still Love Calligraphy

Not to brag or anything, but I have really, really neat handwriting.

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As a former coworker once said, “That’s the handwriting of a sociopath.” 

It’s the number one thing that people always, always comment on about me. Always.

When I first learned that people sometimes pay $2 an envelope to have a calligrapher address their invitations, it planted a seed in my brain. Could my obsessively neat handwriting one day pay off (quite literally)? I’m no artist, but handwriting? That I can do. (This meant that the first time I heard, “You should think of calligraphy as drawing, not writing,” I almost ran for the hills.)

The first time I tried to act on that little seed was when I was studying for the bar. (Coincidentally, that was the same time Mr. Hammer and I decided to get our diver certification. Productive procrastination is the name of the game!) I took a teach-yourself-copperplate-calligraphy book out of the library, bought a fountain pen set at AC Moore, and got to work. The results were…not the awesomest.

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Yep, those are con law notes that I used to practice my calligraphy. Desperate times. 

At the time, I thought my efforts were OK, but not great. I had a sneaking suspicion that I needed a dip pen (where you dip a pen nib into a jar of ink) to really get that typical calligraphy contrast between thick and thin strokes, but I was too scared to try something that potentially messy on my own. So, I gave up on that ambition for the time being.

When we got engaged, I realized that I suddenly had the perfect excuse to try starting over with calligraphy:

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Image via Mrs. Bruschetta on Weddingbee
I mean, look at the pretty!

But I was still freaked out by dip pens. So, I tried fake calligraphy, where you write in normal cursive with a fancypants ballpoint pen or marker and fill in the downstrokes after the fact. The results weren’t half bad.

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However, that “follow” took me, oh, 30 minutes to draw. Plus, when I tried to scan it into my computer at a high resolution, you could see the bare spots in the letter where my pen didn’t quiiite fill in the stroke enough.

So, all right, I decided to bite the bullet and use a dip pen—but I wasn’t about to do so unattended. Unfortunately, we kinda live in the middle of nowhere, and there aren’t any calligraphy course offerings around here. But one night, I learned about I Still Love Calligraphy. And I swear to you, the heavens opened up and I could hear singing.

I Still Love Calligraphy is an online course taught by the lovely and talented Melissa Esplin. $130 gets you a kit of her favorite supplies (gotta love taking the guesswork/aimless craft store wandering out of that equation) and 30 days of access to her videos and written letters. Plus, during those 30 days, you can upload your work to your personal gallery and get individualized, specific feedback from Melissa herself! Best of all, Melissa’s work is off the chain. She specializes in gorgeous, modern calligraphy, and does everything she can to help you get your own calligraphy juuuust right.

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Image via Melissa Esplin
Excuse me while I wipe the drool off my laptop. 

The day I got my calligraphy kit in the mail, I was like a jittery, clumsy puppy.

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Calligraphy is so close I can taste it…actually, that’s gross.

I timed my course so that the first week would line up with the week I was taking off for a summer vacation. I was going up to Vermont with my family and knew I’d have plenty of quiet time to get through her lessons. My thinking was that if I got through all her lessons as early along in the course as I could, I’d have the maximum number of days to keep uploading my practice work to my gallery and get feedback from Melissa. So, over the course of a week, I went from this…

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Practice strokes with a pencil

…to this:

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Still blotchy, not perfect, but not bad, either

All with plenty of time to spare for hanging out with the fam! When I got back home, I practiced, practiced, practiced, and uploaded, uploaded, uploaded. And even when the course was over, I kept practicing. I tried to do a little bit every week.

Now, I’m right about here:

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My reference alphabet for addressing invitations…and my most recent favorite guilty-pleasure lyrics.

Not bad, eh? As freaked out as I was by the dip pen initially, I’ve really had a lot of fun learning how to use it. Practicing calligraphy is almost meditative for me. (That is, when I’m not cursing a blue streak because the ink’s not running and/or the nib got bent out of shape.) I’ve loved developing my own style, and Melissa was really great at helping me get there. She encouraged me to try different shapes for my letters, giving me examples and pinpointing where I still needed some work.

Could I have found someone to just address my (~125) envelopes for me for $140? Eh, maybe (but probably not). But even if I could’ve, personally, I’d rather spend the money on learning a new skill that’ll stick with me for life (and, OK, probably only be useful every once in a while) than on envelopes that I’ll have to send out and never see again. If you’re looking for a convenient, informative, fun way to learn calligraphy, I would highly, highly recommend I Still Love Calligraphy. For me, it was worth every penny.

Any other calligraphy geeks out there? How did you learn it? Did you also have an irrational fear of dip pens?

BLOGGER

Mrs. Hammerhead

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  1. hammerhead Bee
    Mrs. Hammerhead 0 posts, Wannabee @ 5:11 pm

    @msnarwhalbee, ha ha, awww, thanks! Yes, some day that’s how I’ll make my millions…because the people on Extreme Couponers totally make millions off that show, right? 😉

    @mrsmayabee, YAS I love her Facebook group! I really like that it has a mix of newbies and people who’ve been doing it for years. Some great advice on there! I’m also obsessed with her #istilllovecalligraphy Instagram hashtag, have you seen it? People post the most amazing work!

    @Melissa Esplin, of course! I’m honored that you stopped by the blog, too–you’re like a celebrity to me! :)

    @msclownfish and @puffer, thank you! Let’s just say my handwriting is pretty much the only neat thing about me, ha ha, so gotta take advantage of it somehow…!

    @LoveMyBrit, thank you (and props for the straight up-and-down handwriting–I’m pretty sure those personality tests have told me I’m an emotionless robot before, ha ha ha)! I’m super impressed by your use of the fake calligraphy pen, as I was a big fat fail at that one–if you managed to get something pretty out of that (which it sounds like you did!), I totally encourage you to try the dip pen! I promise, it’s not as scary as it looks…

    @happycamper8, nice, thanks for the referral! And I’m glad I’m not the only crazy person who finds it meditative :) I actually digitized our names for our invitations, too (and got weirdly addicted to Illustrator in the process–but not enough to cough up the money for it after my free trial ended). I’d love to see how yours turned out!

    @mswallaby, thank you! I’m actually a little sad now that I’m reaching the end of my invitation addressing, so I’m definitely thinking up ways I can keep using it in our wedding and our normal life. I’m almost tempted to calligraph-ize our escort cards, except I know it’ll be a bad idea to take that on so close to the wedding 😉

    @kellijo13, thank you! And ha, what type of engineering department do you work in? Mr. Hammer is a software engineer, and his handwriting is, well…not typewriter-worthy. I always think it’s so funny how different the various types of engineers are!

    @mssquid, thanks so much! It’s definitely been nice to take a break from wedding- and non-wedding-related stress every few days to write some pretty addresses :)

  2. Member
    Meggo79 21 posts, Newbee @ 3:39 pm

    I, too, am always complimented for my handwriting. Therefore, when I got to the point of addressing wedding envelopes, I thought it may be a good opportunity to learn a new skill – calligraphy! I took a 2-hour class near my work in Boston, and that weekend addressed all my envelopes. It took me a long time, and they didn’t come out perfect, but I was so happy that I did this personal touch! And I got many compliments after the fact. A couple people told me they thought they were printed! Now I’m just trying to figure out where I can use this skill in the future!

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