Archives for category: handwriting
ruling pen and black ink

ruling pen and black ink

Before and after samples from a student on the handwriting improvement course

Before and after samples of handwriting 

This title is part of a recent commission I undertook for a jazz composer who will be performing in London during the Jazz Festival. The composer wanted something designed and executed by hand to reflect the style and message of his music. Something he felt a typeface couldn’t easily achieve.

Similarly , I have recently been teaching a group of employees of a well known retailer to be able to adapt their own handwriting  to create a more stylish and sophisticated look. Why ? Because management were of the opinion that a printed note to a customer does not reflect the ethos of their company which prides itself on attention to detail and customer care. In their opinion a well crafted handwritten letter would express just that.

When I teach handwriting improvement courses for adults, I often receive the same message from participants. Many wish to relearn and develop their handwriting skills to be able to send letters and notes that more accurately reflect their personalities and express a more meaningful and heartfelt message. Some wish to improve to indicate a higher standard of professionalism at work whilst others wish to recapture the enjoyment of the writing process and be able to communicate this to others with confidence.

Before and after samples from a participant in the 6 week Idler Academy  handwriting improvement course

Before and after samples from a participant on the 6 week Idler Academy handwriting improvement course

Whatever their reasons, it is clear that writing by hand can provide a very different  visual message to an effortlessly typed note on the computer. A recent report on scientific findings , published in New York Times also emphasises the proven benefits of writing by hand, including creative thinking.

To quote the article:“It is not just what we write that matters but how “ . Whether it is handwriting , formal presentation calligraphy and lettering or more informal personal calligraphy,  I totally agree !



Following a really positive weekend, teaching first years on the SSI Advanced Training Scheme, I began to reflect on the impact of space and light on our working practice. We were at a conference centre in a beautiful rural setting with uninterrupted views of the Cotswold countryside.Did it contribute to the widening of horizons in our creative thinking ? It certainly felt like it .

Moving Forward . Gravity lettering layers on rollered background.

Moving Forward- created at V&A; non contact lettering using dripped acrylic paint and gestures using the body on canvas

In my personal work my horizons were expanded by being in a huge studio at the V&A. It enabled me to pursue new areas of research, try out techniques and materials , work on a larger scale and push the boundaries of conventional calligraphy. However, the shrinking of output and scale of work  when I finished my Residency , due mainly to space issues, prompted me to set up a second work space in my home .

View of one area of my V&A studio

My original loft studio , looking out onto gardens and allotments, is now my  contemplative space for drawing, planning, research and my calligraphy and gilding.

loft studio

View of part of my loft studio

My bright new workshop, on the other hand , is ideal for anything large or messy. Perfect for my acid etching and  canvasses and acrylics. It is a great space for teaching too . I am now running regular adult handwriting improvement classes and calligraphy sessions in the studio.

Having two dedicated work spaces has provided me with a wonderful freedom to expand my creative practice

Second studio

The new studio during a workshop


In the past 7 days  I have run a one day workshop, 2 half day workshops and 4 different evening sessions teaching  handwriting or calligraphy with adults and taught regular handwriting lessons with children.  Not every week is as full but much of my time this year has been taken up with a variety of  interesting and sometimes challenging teaching commitments . V&A workshop , work in progress by Win

The first, which I have spoken about in a previous post, was my V&A workshop. We studied the work of writing masters first hand from the National Art Library archives  and used specific models from the Spanish calligrapher Francisco Lucas’s  rotunda style lettering (Redondilla). This was used as a basis for developing a script to use within a collaged design. 

My next participants were school children. My challenge was to inspire pupils from the ages of 7-11 to improve their writing. With only short sessions in each class I created ways (including standing action games) to focus attention on aspects of writing such as the scale and proportion of letters. The oldest children, however, were given a treat of trying out copperplate lettering with dip pens and ink. Messy but fun.


My next three workshops were simpler to prepare as they have been tried and tested before.  One was for an enthusiastic group at Idler Academy on Italic scripts.  The other two were  for regional calligraphy groups  on two of my favourite teaching topics: developing an original script and using words as patterns. The results were most impressive! The  images below are by members of North London Lettering Association.Summer by Sue M

Two recent workshops were  particularly  challenging.  The first took place at Idler Academy. I had three hours in total to introduce beginners to calligraphy. Using dip pens and ink they were able to write an uncial script  with confidence by the end of the session. I repeated this with another group in the afternoon and they too did really well .

The second three hour workshop was organised by How To AcademyI  taught a group of adults about the process of how to develop more stylish handwriting . I chose an italic form as my model and gave them strategies and techniques  to be able to practice and progress

NLLA workshop

Textures in black and whiteIt is great to be back to my blog after a Summer break .

It has been a productive time for me, not only in my studio ( where I have completed 2 commissions and enjoyed inscribing gifts for friends ) but I have also delivered lectures and workshops to some very different audiences.

Idler Academy was the venue for a taster session improving handwriting . I taught a lively group who were keen to begin the process of reinventing and smartening up their handwriting . So, they had a  practical purpose for taking a closer look at letters.

The next group I visited, at Tigerprint studio , were interested in finding out more about calligraphy to enrich their design work. Following an illustrated lecture on my personal and commission work they watched me demonstrate  different calligraphy pens and scripts . As professional card and product designers,  they use a great deal of handwritten text in their work . I enjoyed being given a tour of the studio. It was such a creative environment.

My final group were calligraphy enthusiasts (from beginners to professionals ) who were from Belgium , France and Holland . They shared a love of letters and words and were keen to learn new techniques . I spent 4 days near Aalst, in Belgium, running a residential workshop on techniques for using paper as a three dimensional surface to complement calligraphy.

Monoline textures We also explored textural patterns and how to combine text and form successfully. Here are some examples of different textures created  by the students. There will be more on paper sculpture DSC05230in the next blog. monoline lettering textures in shades of blue

Last week I spent two busy days at a Junior School in Stoke on Trent. My workshops with groups of 7 -10 year olds were part of the launch of their new handwriting scheme.

Exploring large scale letter patterns

Exploring large scale letter patterns

Calligraphy workshop

Calligraphy workshop

I aimed to give them an opportunity to learn about letter shapes, cursive patterns and the “mechanics”of writing in a creative way and help them view writing as enjoyable and rewarding. Whether they were writing with toothbrushes, feathers, twigs and paint, using a dip pen and ink or making up secret messages with Greek letters, I hoped to give them the message that taking care and time to develop their writing skills is important. It was great to teach so many well behaved and enthusiastic chidren.

cursive patterns

cursive patterns