Last weekend, I had the pleasure of teaching a beginner’s brush pen calligraphy workshop in Toledo, Ohio. I have been a fan of the Art Supply Depo ever since the first time I set foot in it, so that when the opportunity arose I grabbed it with both hands.
It was a beautiful, sunny day- rather hot for Fall- but I wasn’t complaining. When I entered the studio, I was enchanted by the colorful bar stools hanging from the ceiling. They looked so pretty! Looking at the art supplies lying around the studio made my heart super happy. I’ve always loved being surrounded by creativity- it could be people or supplies- and that day felt like a dream come true.
Creating the Calligraphy Quill Experience
My mother and sister were kind enough to accompany me to help set up the calligraphy workshop. Since Jules, the owner of ASD was my student that day, I didn’t want to ruin the surprise for her. Once she let us into the studio, the three of us took over. It took us about 40 minutes, and every minute felt like a dream. One by one, we brought to life all the little details I had visualized in my head for what seemed like forever.
Whether it is to brides or to students, I always want to give anyone who comes in contact with me an experience to remember. My clients call it the ‘Calligraphy Quill Experience’. I take a lot of care to make my brides feel special- considering them my guests that I love to serve- and I had no doubt that I wanted my students to feel the same way. No stone should be left unturned when it comes to creating the Calligraphy Quill Experience
Which is why, not only was the cover page of the exclusively-designed workbooks handwritten, but so were the place cards. My theme for this brush pen calligraphy workshop was pink, white and gold. I feel that these colors exude peace, love and luxury. And that is exactly what I wanted my students to feel. With the correct accents at the right places, we were able to bring it all together. I’ll be honest when I say that I couldn’t have felt more excited.
In the meantime, my mom and sister left me to go exploring around town. By the time all the students arrived, I could feel a palpable sense of solidarity and good vibes. The energy in the room was pulsating with positivity! It felt like I had know my students forever, it was so comforting in there.
Ready, Set, Go!
That excruciating half an hour finally passed (with much difficulty), and we got going. I started by introducing myself and then jumped right into the three pillars of calligraphy. Since almost the whole class was made of beginners, I made sure they started on the right track. Poor posture can be a real detriment to enjoying calligraphy, so I made sure everyone knew about these before we started. As a beginner, it can also be difficult to understand how to hold the pen, or place the paper in front of you, or how to create contrast, even how to use the whole arm movement. Which is why, I spent about ten minutes covering the basic basics.
Before you begin on your calligraphy journey, it’s not only important to know why but also the how. A few weeks ago, I wrote this blog post to help put your goals in perspective. It helps you understand the purpose behind your effort and gives you the clarity to define it.
We then started warming up our muscles. Similar to a workout, its important to warm-up before you get into the real stuff. After a few fun exercises, it was time to dig into the basics of calligraphy- the strokes. These are the basic strokes that make up almost every letter. Its crucial that you practice these as much as you can before you start writing letters. If you’re anything like me, you probably already want to begin writing sentences, haha! I’ve certainly been there, which is why I would advise you to invest more time in practicing the basics. The letters will seem second-nature to you when you get to them.
From the basic strokes, moving on to the lowercase letters is natural progression. In my workbook, I have grouped all the letters that use the same stroke on one page (for the most part). For example, all the letters that have a descender stroke in them have been grouped together on one page. This makes it easier to develop muscle memory as you repeatedly practice that stroke, while learning to form a new letter. Win-win!
To put our learning into practice, we wrote a few words from the workbook. We also worked on a few words that don’t always begin with an entrance/exit stroke following which I demonstrated the uppercase letters that appeared most challenging to the class. This followed writing a complete sentence to put everything that we learned into practice. Once you learn the basics, its difficult to not want to write words and looking at my students I could completely empathize with their feelings!
My aim was to provide each student an experience that they could call their own, which is why it was important for me to give attention to each student. This is also why I prefer a smaller batch to work with, especially with beginners. Every person learns differently. And what comes easily to one person might not to another. Plus, I consider my students my guests. If I didn’t take care of them, I would be failing at my duty. Hence, individual attention it is.
The workshop came to an end, but it felt like we had just started! Three hours seemed to have passed in a jiffy. By the end of the workshop, it felt like I knew my students much better. I felt both humble and honored to have been the person who introduced them to this art, and looking at their work I became a proud teacher as well! It made me immensely happy that they had made such tremendous progress in only three hours. That’s the magic of calligraphy. Work on your basics and study them well. You will be rewarded well. Just like I was – with the happy smiles and grateful hugs from my class.