This couple, Brittany and Jase, was inspired by the calligraphy I did on agate slices as bridesmaid favors a couple months ago in gold ink. They wanted an elegant piece that could be displayed both on the bridal table at their wedding and later in their home as a keepsake. We settled on gold letters and a white frame with Copperplate as a script (they cited my Instagram posts as reference) and I set to work.
If you follow my work, you know that my first step is always a sketch in pencil, or rather several sketches and even more erasures. This project was no different. I started by writing the name out in pencil directly onto one of the guide sheets I’ve printed from my teacher, Paul Antonio. I left plenty of room around the name. I knew I couldn’t get away with just writing “Fields” and calling it done because my ambitious side would never let me. I knew I had to add decorative lines, or flourishing, around the name to contain it and add interest. This is a wedding, after all!
But then I was stuck because all of my flourishes looked like badly drawn spaghetti and I knew I needed practice and a good example. My flourishing repertoire is limited at best because I haven’t taken the time to study the dynamics of it closely. Or as closely as I would like to study it. I grabbed my copy of George Bickam’s Penmanship Made Easy and started studying and using a pencil to try to mimic the forms of the lines. As methodical as they are, flourishes carry a life and energy all on their own outside the writing instrument. This is how I saw my teacher study a historical manuscript once; by practicing it. I erased and redrew many times before I had lines I was happy with. I looked at it the next day and the piece looked scattered and inconsistent, so I spent some time aligning the lines and ovals with the slant of the script and making sure the flourishes intersected correctly.
Writing on Glass
Next was practice with writing with a nib on glass. I thought it might be similar to writing on the agate pieces with a nib because the surfaces are both so slick. I have a spare piece of glass that I use for various different things, which I believe measures 4″×6″. I put the piece of glass right over the pencil sketch I made and started with an old nib and FW ink right outta the bottle. Rookie!! Ink pooled everywhere once I got the nib to write. Rinsed off the glass with water, dried, repeated. Got discouraged and contemplated engraving the glass for a day or so. Decided I wasn’t going to be deterred that easily and tried again with a new nib and diluted the ink a bit, which worked well.
Now the fun part. The frame I bought for the finished piece was a floating frame, size 8″×10″. I thought this piece would look elegant and classic suspended in the glass. To center the final image for transfer, I grabbed a piece of graph paper (one of my favorite tools) and drew lines on it to show the perimeter of the glass. I measured the center of each side and drew reference lines. I then cut out my design and semi folded it longways and shortways to find the center of each of the sides and line them up with what I had on the graph paper.
Once I had those reference points on my design, I brought the design to my graph paper, lined up my reference lines, and taped it down. I taped the glass I was using for the final piece to the graph paper so it wouldn’t move and grabbed a tissue and my writing materials. The tissue was to place under the heel of my writing hand for two reasons. First, it helps the hand glide along the surface of the support, which I super needed because the flourishes had a lot of long lines. Secondly, I was trying to minimize the amount of oils and smudges from my hands on the glass. I didn’t want to polish the glass between the flourishes and letters because I would inevitably erase part of one of the lines.
I slowly and steadily traced over the letters and curls around the name, adding extra flourishes, might I add poorly, around the edges to fill some of the space. I quit while I was ahead and untaped my masterpiece to look at it from far away.
The text was waaaaaay too small for the size of the frame I was working with, which meant I had to enlarge the initial sketch and redraw the flourishes. By this time, I had so much practice with placing and drawing them that it took me no time at all. The second sketch was probably twice as large as the first.
This time, when I traced the design onto the glass, I left the broad strokes of the letters blank so I could fill them in with a small brush later. Some lines got a little wobbly as I worked, so I used an X-Acto knife to scrape away unwanted bumps and lines. I went over the lines of the letters a second time with a small brush to deepen them and cleaned the lines up again. I also put a couple more coats of ink over the body of the letters to make them more opaque.
I did have plenty of smudges and fingerprints to clean off of the glass and once I was through with that, I placed the glass into the frame. It looked nice and was legible until I picked it up from the table and held it against my jars full of pencils. I knew I had to put something behind the letters so they would stand out. I didn’t want to weigh down the feel of the piece with a deep or solid piece of paper behind it, and I wanted to keep the concept clean and simple without a lot of color. So I cut a piece of vellum to size to place behind the letters. This way, the calligraphy would be legible, but light could shine through and the letters would still be floating. I finished the piece by adding the hanging hardware and snapping a few photos of it surrounded by flowers.
Thanks for checking out how this piece came together. If you have any questions, please comment below, and if you’d like one of these for yourself, send me an email!