Category Archives: Workshops

Our Calligraphy Group at the Luton Irish Forum, Four Year Anniversary

LIF new poster

It seems like only yesterday but I was reminded that it is four years today since Noelette, CO of Luton Irish Forum, gave us the chance to set up what might be the only Calligraphy Group in  Bedfordshire or perhaps even further afield. Since then many have come and gone but our little band has grown and continues to flourish (excuse the pun), with three more beginners just this week. It seems we have become a wee community of great friends among the greater community which is LIF.

We are never happier than when we have an ongoing project. Members always asking for another banner or some-such thing to work on. Here are a few projects we have  enjoyed sharing over this period.

Due to the nature of my blog editing software the pics may be a little out of order but you will see that we have had some great fun over the years. Thanks again to all at LIF, members past and present, not forgetting our late great friend and Fine Artist, the Hat Man, Richard Lees.


Luton Calligraphy Workshops. Week 5

Link to week 4

It was good to see that PPP has obviously been partaken of over the last few days. If letters have not actually been made with pen and ink, or passages planned upon an actual page, then there must have been a great deal of making of letters and planning of pages taking place in the minds of our scribes in the making. Perhaps my theory of “Don’t count sheep. Make letters”, is bearing fruit. The pens are now beginning to work as they should, more ink on the page than on the fingers this week. Some nice work is beginning to emerge.

Due no doubt to my involvement with the Red Dot exhibition some of my plans for this class had to be put on hold, hopefully for another time. I had planned to bring along my collection of home made equipment, cola pens and the like, some vellum scraps and other interesting bits and pieces I have amassed over the years. I stupidly left them at home, along with the camera and lap-top. I did, however, have some hand cut quills, bamboo and reed pens for everyone to try. Everyone was so taken with the bamboo though, that we got no further down this road.

Hand made pens. Cola pens. img. jpg

Taken from Getting started in calligraphy.

My take on the Cola pen. The RED STRIPE Pen. To my mind, much more fun emptying the can.  A chisel cut pencil to dip.  A needlepoint and 6mm with film reservoir, bamboo, and a 2mm Reed.

Make sure mummy and daddy are supervising.  Heheh. We don’t want any cut fingers! With scissors, cut top and bottom from the can, making sure you have first downed the contents.  (Adults, it might be best to leave this stage ’til tomorrow, depending on the strength of the aforesaid). Carefully, (The cut tin can will be very sharp).  Open up and then fold down the length of the metal. Cut whatever shape you are looking for for the nib…then continue down the length,making sure to leave enough for the handle. These are rolled and then taped tightly. Perhaps strengthening by rolling the handle round a pencil. You could make a much prettier job by soldering.  Just make sure that all bare edges are covered or blunted.  ‘speriment and enjoy.
You might like to note that I have been experimenting with various materials to use as reservoirs. The best so far is old fashioned film or even negatives. Used flat it can be cut and pushed into a slit formed in the quill, reed, bamboo or whatever, or rolled into a spring and pushed into the aperture.
Some other examples…………..!/video/video.php?v=303620954270

Bamboo / Reed pen. Clarinet qalam. img. jpg

This one is made from bamboo and a clarinet reed with film reservoir.

We then had an impromptu discussion on the differences  in scripts over the years and how, due to the number of books being made, the speed of hand needed to produce them, and the scarcity of animal skins, there was a shift from the rounded forms of Uncial, Carolingian and Humanist, to the much more compressed angular forms of Blackletter or Gothic scripts.

Uncial & Blackletter script. img.jpg

The comparative roundness of Blackletter capitals enough to let in a little light to the page.

Blackletter Capitals.img. jpg.

And so, we regretfully started to wind up this final session of what to me has been a most rewarding five weeks of calligraphy workshops. I am hoping that from these humble beginnings of Roundhand and Roman scripts, all who have participated will now have the inclination to learn more, to hone their skills by way of practice, practice, practice, and go on to become the scribe that I always wished to be.

We all agreed it is a shame that the group should come to an end. I have written to my contact from “Luton Culture”, with a view to an extension, either at the museum or some other venue. It seems she is on leave until Wednesday May 8th. Once I have word, I shall update this blog and will be in touch.

UPDATE :- A new group has begun at Luton Irish Forum.  All Welcome.

Until then, my inky friends, I wish you all a fond farewell. By way of homework I refer you To Mr Reynolds’ little series.

Cheers.   Bill.

Keep watching this space.

Luton Calligraphy Workshops. Week 4

Link to week 3

Luton Calligraphy Workshops. Week 4.Img. jpg

Before I begin this week’s write up, I would like to thank Andrew for getting in touch and offering some toughened glass suitable for light-tables, and also for delivering same to the museum. Your generosity is greatly appreciated. They were soon snapped up and are probably in use already.

Luton Calligraphy Workshops. Week 4. Light Table. img.jpg.

Here Peter is trying my portable Light-Table and finding it easier to transfer lines from his guideline sheet.  For more information on working with Light- Tables, especially layout issues as discussed this week, have a look at this earlier post on hints and tips.

Luton Calligraphy Workshops. Week 4. Pen-work. img. jpg

Now, while beginning to get to grips with broad nib and ink, we explored how the balance of the written page is found, bearing in mind that the optical centre, is, as with letter construction, (i.e. the central cross stroke on “E” sits on the centre line rather than straddling or hanging from it), slightly above a measured centre. The hints from “My Cool School”, on putting together a brochure give a very good illustration. As the author writes,

You can measure all you want, follow all the rules, and do everything you have been taught, but the bottom line is:  If it doesn’t Look right – it isn’t!”

Luton Calligraphy Workshops. Week 4. Coming on Nicely. img jpg.

Next, how to plan a page of script, perhaps a poem, without having to write out the whole page only to find you haven’t left enough room. It is a good idea to always copy text from a printed page. It saves any ambiguity (specially when dealing with a client), and at a glance you can pick out the longest line. After first working out, with your guide-line sheets, how many lines you can get on your page, write this longest line in the chosen script  and size. If it is too long or short for the sheet it is meant for, you can either modify the page size, or the size of script, or use a more compressed script, or opt to write that particular line on two lines. Either way you are now in a position to know that what you have planned for the page will actually fit. Your work will now fail only due to faulty execution rather than bad planning.

Luton Calligraphy Workshops. Week 4. A nicely balanced page. img. jpg.

Having been asked to PPP with all their might, the slightly bemused, exhausted group, left with these words ringing in their ears, “Heheheh”.  “Just wait to see what I have in store for you next week”

Looking forward to the final session, for now, I hope, and to seeing you all next week.

Cheers.   Bill.

Link to week 5