Way back in March I had the urge to start learning calligraphy. I looked around the web for local classes to discover they were all booked up. Some classes had a 60+ person wait list provoking me to think 'WTF! Is calligraphy a trend?'
In my hunt for the perfect calligraphy class I discovered that Mr. Billy Ola was teaching a class at San Francisco Center for the Book. I'd long admired his work and was determined to take a class from him. I was able to take the three part beginning hand lettering class in May after I'd stalked the SFCB website until a class opened up.
Each class was three hours long. We did not get to jump in and start writing elegantly with a dip pen. As Billy says "You have to wear your mom jeans before you can put on your thong." First we were given a fat felt tipped calligraphy pen to start practicing line work and a simple gothic hand. The second class we used the same pen to learn italic.
Below is 14 seconds showing over 6 hours of calligraphy done in class and as homework. You may recognize the notebook from grade school handwriting exercises.
I'm learning new lingo. As a graphic designer I'm used to thinking of letterforms as typefaces but in the case of calligraphy you're writing with your hand so those letterforms are referred to as the hand you are writing in. The hands we learned were Gothic, Italic, and Copperplate.
On the third day of class we were ceremoniously given our pen nibs and started to dip into our ink wells and learn the Copperplate hand.
We spent the whole evening learning each swash, swoop, loop and furl of the upper case letters. My personal challenge was learning to write on some funky paper. I'd bought paper with a laid finish which the nib kept getting caught on. I decided to stick with the awkward paper in hopes that future writing challenge are made easier.
The capital letters are so detailed that we only focused on them in class and did not learn the miniscules (more lingo). In the weeks following the class I've taught myself using the Mastering Copperplate Calligraphy book. The book is really good at explaining each letter and Billy's class was a great foundation for continuing a calligraphy practice.
To keep track of my progress I've picked a set of words to use as my version of The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. I'm sure I'll be writing that as well but I don't want to have to think of words every time I practice my fancy capitals.
Besides my practice sheets I've been marking most special occasions with some pen and ink.
Since I've taken the calligraphy class I've encountered a bunch of people who've been learning calligraphy as well. If this is a trend I'm all for it. Maybe people are tired of typing. I'm certainly gaining some vintage skills. If I ever have access to a time machine and get stuck in the 1800's I'll be pretty prepared with letterpress and calligraphy.
San Francisco Calligraphy Resources
Mr. Billy's class. If it's full get on the wait list to be notified about upcoming classes. It's currently open! Billy was a great teacher and I loved every minute of this class.
Hand Lettering, One night stand with Mr. Billy. For people who have already taken the first class series. I just signed up!
San Francisco Center for the Book has added more classes featuring many teachers from the Friends of Calligraphy society.
Calligraphy in the 21st century with Maybelle Imasa-Stukuls. She teaches about once a month at Makeshift Society. i've heard great things about her class from students and have recently had the pleasure of meeting her. She also sells these adorable workshops in a box.
Arch has lots of supplies. The last time I was in the store they had a whole table dedicated to hand lettering tools. See it's a trend!