Celebrating two years of calligraphy + resources

In May 2013 I started my Calligraphy practice. That kinda makes it sound as official as being a lawyer. I call it a practice because just like anything else, to become proficient, it takes practice. And I finally feel proficient. Not perfect, but proficient. And while I don't get called for legal advice I am happy to offer my calligraphy skills to you. Get in touch.

Before it gets too much further beyond the two year mark (it's now September 2015) I wanted to see where my hand began and where it is now. To complete the circle I started with a blog post I wrote in 2013, a few months into learning calligraphy, I shared the wee-progress I'd made from even being able to hold a pen to starting to feel more fluid. I knew I wanted to be able to visually see my progress so I created a set of words to consistently practice.

It seemed important to do this comparison now because at the two year mark I could really feel a shift in the ease of my writing.

June 2013

June 2013

June 2013, miniscules

June 2013, miniscules

September 2015. Same size paper as the images above but I no longer need a whole page for just one practice set.

September 2015. Same size paper as the images above but I no longer need a whole page for just one practice set.

September 2015, a fancier version.

September 2015, a fancier version.

There you have it. My progress with 26 words. Check out that older blog post to see more of the early days. And this is how I was doing last year.

If you're just beginning your calligraphy practice, Copperplate or Modern pointed pen, Here are some book resources I've found especially helpful.

The subtitle, A step by step manual, really does say it all. This book was a huge help after I finished taking my first calligraphy class. It helped with the particulars of understanding the letterforms created by the pointed pen. Each letter is meticulously described. Variations are provided as well as common mistakes. It's an old school book on technique.

Where the previous book was about precision this book embraces imperfection. I've mentioned this before, that in the past perfect letterforms were exalted. This importance of perfection continued from the calligraphers hand, to typewriters, and to the digitally printed page. 

Modern calligraphy is a reaction to those shifts in technology. The idea of modern calligraphy now celebrates the variation in hand that creates the letterforms. 

Modern Calligraphy, the book, is an excellent resource for learning about materials and the basics of getting started. There is also lots of variation of letterforms. This might seem a little overwhelming if you're just starting. I'd suggest picking just one of each to continually practice at first.

These first two books especially guided me in finding and playing with letterforms to see my own hand start to emerge.

If you've fallen in love with calligraphy and letterform you'll want to get your hands on this issue of UPPERCASE Magazine. It's an inspirational piece vs. tutorial but you'll definitely learn a lot about different calligraphers practices and creative paths.

This is a good general reference for a broad range of calligraphy types beyond pointed pen. I will say the projects feel dated... especially the digital ones. 

This last suggestion is not a book about technique. It's actually a catalog of blackletter and fraktur typefaces (including a CD with a good selection of fonts from the book). If you've fallen for broad tip calligraphy then this could be an excellent inspirational resource for you.

Lastly, besides the word list I've used to keep track of my progress I've shared a bunch of other lists. They're helpful for warming up the pen.

Crafty book recommendation: Just Us Girls

This months book recommendation is a crafting book for moms and daughters. Just Us Girls: 48 Creative Art and Craft Projects for Mothers and Daughters to Do Together, By Cindy Ann Ganadan. Flipping through this book brings me back to my childhood and all the fun projects my mom would come up with. We always had a project going. Sometimes it was making contraptions for blowing giant bubbles or you could find us blending up newspaper and fabric bits to make our own paper.

Cindy's book unfolds a magical world I think many little girls would love to craft in. The projects in the book have a focus on using found or recycled materials. To connect even more with the outdoors the projects have been organized into the four seasons.

Growing up I also spent a lot of time foraging in our yard for things to add to craft projects just like this book demonstrates. I have a funny memory of a childhood friend and I spending the afternoon in her family's walnut orchard making mud pies and picking rose petals to make our own rose water. We really didn't know what we were doing so I think our sweet smelling perfume turned into a moldy science experiment not long after. Thankfully, Cindy has instructions for making rose water, the right way, in this book.

One of the projects in the book is to recycle a spool of thread for creating a scrolled gift tag. I made my own version as tag and topper for the above birthday gift.

My medallion with a little Zentangle embellishment.

My medallion with a little Zentangle embellishment.

I had the opportunity to make the medallion project at a book event a couple months ago. To aid with the crafting fun there are templates and tear outs of some of Cindy's whimsical illustrations in the back of the book including many options for badge faces.

Cindy Ann Ganadan and samples of her medallions.

Cindy Ann Ganadan and samples of her medallions.

If you live in the Bay Area you're in luck. Cindy and her daughter will be at The Makers Faire this weekend May 17th and 18th with books and the fun medallion craft project. Alternatively pick up her book online.

Do you have any crafty childhood memories?

Pin cushion upholstery with Spruce

Spruce Cover

Last week I attended a book tour event for Spruce; A Step-by-Step Guide to Upholstery and Design by Amanda Brown. At the event we made pin cushions which were the perfect micro project for using some tools of upholstery. 

The event was hosted at Creative Bug who has created several upholstery tutorial videos with Amanda. I hear there are more to come. Check them out here.

Amanda and I in front a fabulously painted ikat patterned wall. Photo and wall by Courtney Cerruti.

Amanda and I in front a fabulously painted ikat patterned wall. Photo and wall by Courtney Cerruti.

It became very addicting to make these little pin cushions. A lot was learned from making the first one who's lessons were immediately implemented on the next. 

First attempt to last attempt pictured left to right.

First attempt to last attempt pictured left to right.

While making the pin cushions I realized what we were making were tuffets. Little miss muffet sat on her tuffet... So too humor myself, below are little miss muffet stand ins sitting on tuffets.

I've had some experience with upholstery projects and one of the more challenging elements has been working with the staple gun. My parents have helped me with the projects and have always been the muscle behind my non-electric, non-air-powered staple gun. At the upholstery event Amanda had pneumatic staple guns for us to play with. My mind was blown and now I want one badly. Armed with the right tools and this book I know my future projects will have skies the limit results.

The first upholstery project my parents and I tackled was an upholstered headboard (shown below). After reading through the Spruce book there is so much information that could have made that project go more smoothly. I have fond memories building this with my parents but with the right tools and knowledge for implementation it probably wouldn't have taken all three of us to tuft the buttons.

I'll admit a decorating secret (the shameful kind). The bench above I made without any assistance and I finished off the underside with straight pins. It will be the first thing I staple whenever I get my hands on a pneumatic staple gun.

Amanda states in her opening she learned about upholstery through trial and error and the desire to have a unique home that didn't come from a box store. If you share that desire get this book. If upholstery sounds challenging this book will make it feel do-able. And of course start out with a simple project. Perhaps not a headboard like myself. I have a big project brewing in the back of my mind so I don't think this is the last I'll be sharing about upholstery.

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A note of full disclosure. I received a reviewers copy of this book. Words and opinions are my own.

Baking my first loaf of bread with The River Cottage Bread Handbook

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You're in the right place. I have not turned into a food blogger. Baking bread is very much a handmade activity so I'm sharing my experience baking my first loaf of bread. I only wish I had gotten a photo of my sticky fingers. 

The River Cottage Bread Handbook by Daniel Stevens was published in 2010 and I've owned it for almost a year. It's true I'm just now getting to baking bread from it's pages but the first weekend I owned the book I was fully engrossed and read it cover to cover as much as one can read a recipe book cover to cover. The book is a nice size and kind of feels like you're reading a loaf of bread. There is actually 70 pages of content before you even get to a recipe. 

Grinding hard red wheat berries in my Vitamix to make fresh flour.

Grinding hard red wheat berries in my Vitamix to make fresh flour.

The book is dense with information revealing the wonders of gluten, details of various ingredients, the differences between mass-produced bread vs. handmade bread (spoiler alert, the later is easier to digest), photos of step-by-step bread making, and tools including a section for making your own brick oven. You can get real deep with your bread making. So, you can see, conceptually I've known how to bake bread for a while. I didn't want to ruin the mystic that I could bake a nice loaf by actually, you know, baking a loaf of bread.

Keeping the book close at hand/Kneaded ball of dough.

Keeping the book close at hand/Kneaded ball of dough.

A week ago a friend gave me a sour dough starter that he harvested from the neighborhood air of Bernal Heights, San Francisco. Since I now have a pet yeast called Thing Dos, taken from it's originator named Mother Sues it was time for me to learn to bake bread. 

I decided to hold off on baking sourdough until my Thing Dos starter is a bit more mature. Perhaps when it's old enough to read R.L. Stine I'll bake sourdough. 

Bread dough after it's first rise. It didn't quite double in size OR I was too impatient to get to the baking of my first loaf of bread.

Bread dough after it's first rise. It didn't quite double in size OR I was too impatient to get to the baking of my first loaf of bread.

The basic bread recipe in the handbook includes the option to add some starter so I did include it along with dry active yeast. An important note about this book is that while The River Cottage is of British origin there is a U.S. printing of the book which has standard U.S. measurements and temperatures in Fahrenheit.

Bread after proofing and right before going into the oven.

Bread after proofing and right before going into the oven.

I'll be experimenting more with bread making. I'll be trying out the variations that can be made using the basic bread recipe, different flours, add-ins like nuts. Most importantly I'll be more patient. This first loaf I only allowed to rise once (twice including the proofing stage). I'd like to see the results of multiple rises. Rainy spring days will be perfect for this activity if California doesn't skip over them to full blown summer drought.

Looks like bread. Tastes like bread. Not the best bread I've tasted but not the worst. Definitely the bet bread I've ever made.

Looks like bread. Tastes like bread. Not the best bread I've tasted but not the worst. Definitely the bet bread I've ever made.

The book definitely instills the confidence that anyone can make bread. I may go slowly into this bread adventure but I know the handbook will be a guiding resource to successful bread making. 

From my crafting bookshelf: Paper to Petal

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Paper to Petal is a gorgeous book. I can easily lose time looking at all the details in each spread. More than being beautiful it is a recipe book for crafting paper flowers. Rebecca Thuss and Patrick Farrell have meticulously laid out instructions complete with every last material needed for each flower they've shown in the book. This is why I say it's a recipe book. With all cook books that come into my life I look at the recipes for inspiration and then use the ingredients I have on hand. Using this book was no different.

The magenta flowers are based off the books Five-Petal Sweeties and the bigger blooms were my own exploration based on techniques from the book.

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Paper flowers are of course a perfect thing to adorn gifts like the one below. That special wrapping was for a baby shower gift. The flowers used techniques from the Rainbow Ruffle book instructions, just with a bit less ruffle. 

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PaperToPetal_1481.jpg
I used watercolor pencils to accent some of the crepe paper before making the flowers. The leaves are made from tissue most likely saved from a shoe box .

I used watercolor pencils to accent some of the crepe paper before making the flowers. The leaves are made from tissue most likely saved from a shoe box .

There are some other pertinent details about the book. It is Martha approved complete with a lovely forward by Stewart. The back of the book contains petal templates that you can trace or photo copy as well as an extensive list of resources. It is a book I know I'll use for many years.