When I learn something new from a calligraphy teacher, I am reminded of how magical calligraphy can appear to be. As someone who practices and teaches calligraphy, I can get caught up in the aspects of difficulty and perserverance that accompany the writing. But there’s nothing like watching someone who has honed their skills at something deftly demonstrate for you.
To be in a classroom setting is similarly enjoyable to me — to be in a room with people who have differently nuanced knowledge around calligraphic hands, tools, and materials can offer lessons in and of itself. Of course, I know that this is not unique to calligraphy.
Last weekend, I took a workshop called, “Writing with a Bent Nib” with artist and calligrapher Randall Hasson. I’ve seen bent nibs over the years and guessed at how to work with them, but I thought that it would just be a waste to try them out because I wouldn’t know what kind of letters to make and I also didn’t want to damage the nib by working with it incorrectly. I did buy the Speedball Textbook a couple years ago for more modern hands and found, of course, hands written with a bent nib. I never made time to get to working with them, and then along came this workshop.
A “bent nib” means that the nib has a shaped piece at the very tip of it, called the “foot” that sits flat on the page as you work with it. The foot is what creates the unique serifs and strokes in the letters. We were working with 3 shapes: a square foot with the Speedball A nib, a circular foot with the Speedball B nib, and an oval foot using the Speedball D nib. Within each shape, we worked with a few different sizes of nibs and a couple different hands.
Randall put together a great presentation sharing his knowledge of the development of bent nibs and how they were used for writing show cards for shop windows as a sales tactic. After working with the nibs, I can see how they could be used to write quickly as intended by a skilled lettering artist.
Randall also shared with us possibilities of developing our own script style to use with these nibs and how to manipulate them to be used for other hands we are familiar with — he even gave an example of how to use a bent nib to write in a brush script style.
Lately I’ve been feeling pushed toward creating with less structure, or maybe to rely on the strength of what I know and push the boundary further — to have faith in what I know how to create and faith in all the unknown possibility that comes with anything that we love to do. This year I am participating in a group called Scribbled Lives, organized by Carol Dubosch . It’s a group of lettering artists that respond to a weekly prompt. I like it because it lets me practice just making something and finishing it. Taking the bent nib workshop granted me access to letters that I love to view and also the permission to let them be a little imperfect — a fear that regularly trips me up.
I intend to extend this effort to other areas of the things I want to do including teaching yoga and calligraphy, painting more signs, designing stationery, and creating self-initiated calligraphic pieces to show.