+ Close-up of a straight penholder as opposed to an oblique holder.

What is a Calligraphy Nib??

Not into videos? Read on ;)

This post stems from a question a friend asked me. I’ll illustrate the answers using a pointed flexible nib, the Hunt 22B, and a broad edged pen: a Mitchell 0.  Before beginning to work with a metal nib, it’s helpful to develop a lightness of touch because if you press too hard while writing, ink will pool everywhere. Check out the section How to Hold a Pen for a few tips on lightening your grip.

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Basic Calligraphy Materials

This article is for the aspiring calligrapher, someone inspired by letters but unsure about what supplies they need in order to begin. I will go over materials and information I suggest to those getting started with calligraphy. What we’re really trying to improve in practice sessions is the steadiness of the hand and the execution of form — meaning — straight lines are straight and curved and circular shapes are all the same volume. It sounds tedious, and it is, but this is the practice. Whether you’re after a clean, traditional script or something modern and carefree, the quality of your lines makes your work peaceful and satisfying to view.

Regular study and practice are the foundation of successful calligraphy, along with a little positive encouragement. Having materials that interact well will add to your success. Be patient as you work, and be sure to take breaks every 30 minutes or so.

We have 5 things to consider when sitting down to work with calligraphy:

  • Paper
  • Writing Instrument
  • Ink
  • Exemplar
  • Environment
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+ Place cards written by hand in calligraphy by Case Sensitive Designs LLC

Spot Calligraphy for Tucson Wedding

Super thankful for an awesome client.


Jill, mother of the bride, contacted me by email asking if I could do the place cards and a seating arrangement for her daughter’s upcoming wedding in calligraphy. She told me that Betts Printing recommended me. They’re a local print shop where I had my business cards letterpress printed. Jill and I spoke over the phone about the project and I met with her later that week to pick up the materials she chose for the event and the list of names.

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Tips for Guidelines and Why You Need Them

After I finished a recent large commission in Spencerian script, a few people who viewed it were struck at how straight and evenly spaced the lines of text were. One person commented that if he didn’t know better, he would think he was looking at a computer printout.

This is not by magic or talent! It took hours to rule up the page!! I thought I’d share some basics of guidelines. We’ve all seen the videos of magical lettering with seemingly no point of reference. Keep in mind that the artists that can work like that have thousands of hours of practice. And that practice was with guidelines.

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Letters From Santa

Letters From Santa
Letters From Santa

A Santa Letter is a custom letter handwritten in calligraphy from a parent to their child or children, sent under the guise of Santa. That’s who Santa is after all, isn’t it? And no one knows better than you the wishes and triumphs of the little ones you love. You see their struggles, their progress and accomplishments. You laugh with them and know all their favorites. You provide emotional support and encouragement. Everything we tell children about the way Santa watches and cares is true. The toy part, and all the rest, is for fun. We weave the story and every tradition and family is different. A Letter from Santa is a letter from you to your child expressing love, pride, encouragement, and guidance. Because let’s face it, sometimes they hear it best from someone else, even if we’ve told them a million times.
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+ Fresh flowers resting on handlettered calligraphy

Death is Nothing at All

My client, Jack, and I found each other through our local art supply store, Arizona Art Supply. I was dropping off business cards for calligraphy and he was looking for a calligrapher.

The Poem

At his late sister’s funeral, Jack read a poem by Henry Scott Holland titled, “Death is Nothing at All”. His brother-in-law loved the poem asked Jack for a copy. Jack wanted to present it to him as a gift rather than as a copy or a printout. We chatted about the poem and he emailed me a copy of the text. The poem is from the perspective of the deceased, a comforting reminder of all the ways they never truly leave us. I love gift commissions — I enjoy ferrying love and thoughtfulness from one person to another.

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How I Keep My Lines So Straight

Two of my admirers asked me this question in the same day and I thought it may be worth addressing here.

Let it be said that I admire and bow to the living calligraphy gods who can write straight and uniformly on a blank page (or window!) without a shadow of a guideline that I can see.

I am a calligraphy mortal. As such, I am versed in several tools that aide in the skillful foundation in a great piece of work.

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Learning Spencerian Script, Week 3

Falling, falling, falling for this beautiful script! I adore its simplicity and its quiet grace.

Since I learned Copperplate script first, I mentally contrast the two scripts as I work with Spencerian and a major weak spot that’s presented itself is the notion that since Spencerian was designed with speed of hand in mind, I have to write fast. I have sacrificed so much form in that endeavor and am constantly reminding myself to slow down and breathe.

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Learning Spencerian, Continued

Day 2 

Day 2 of Spencerian practice had me still slumping my hand over toward the right, wrist finding the table. As I worked, I began taking notes. I wrote down what I was trying to concentrate on with the different drills I was practicing. It’s kind of like trying to learn a new yoga pose for me. I hear directions and I try to follow them with one part of my body, but other parts of my body start to unexpectedly rebel.

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Day One of Spencerian Hand

. . . Rebooted. The first time I started learning Spencerian script, 8 months ago, I got swamped with client work and safely put my pages away in a folder for later study.

It’s almost been a year.

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Spencerian and Me

What is Spencerian Script?

I’m kind of late to the Spencerian Party in the Instagram Calligraphy Community . . . It’s been going for a couple years now. It is a minimal and classic pointed pen script, developed for quick and easy writing of documents. I am still learning about it. This script is written with a pointed flexible nib in what’s called an oblique holder, that is, a pen with a little elbow that holds the nib at a fixed angle for the scribe.

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+ "Saguaro Blooms" Limited Edition Linoleum Print

Saguaro Blooms Linoleum Cut

It’s late April and the saguaro cacti are blooming again! Simple white flowers cluster atop the arms of the cactus, resembling crowns. I love the elegance of the lines in the flowers and I wanted to include the blooms in my I Left My Heart in Tucson series. Here’s how I created this set of linoleum block prints!

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