Commissioning Calligraphy Part 1: What is Calligraphy?
What is Calligraphy?
Calligraphy may just seem like fancy handwriting and bouncing letters around with style, but it is much more than taking pen and ink to paper. It is a true art that has historical, paleographical and practical perspectives. And as with any form of art, it takes years to hone these skills through meticulous study and practice of the craft. I liken this to the learned skill of playing an instrument—I might be able to hum my favorite song, but if you asked me to play that song on a violin it wouldn’t be pretty.
With calligraphy, we often refer to the styles as “hands” or “scripts”—do not call them “fonts”! There are a variety of hands that were crafted in various regions at different points in time such as roman capitals, uncial (written entirely in capital letters because lowercase letters didn't exist at that point in time!), blackletter (occasionally referred to as gothic) and italic. In reality while they look like distinctively different styles, each evolved out of another. Many computerized fonts of the digital age were made to mimic these scripts, and while fonts and scripts may seem like interchangeable terms, they are most definitely not. Calligraphy is its own entity entirely.
If you've read my previous post on the subject, you know one other distinction I like to make is the difference between calligraphy and lettering. Calligraphy is similar to writing in that it is done with a series of single strokes of the pen, that together form letters, whereas lettering is like drawing in that the letters are sketched and refined in an arranged composition.
A well trained calligrapher creates more than letters and words and pen strokes. They create and convey mood and tone by wielding their knowledge of style, color and layout. Calligraphers can invoke a spirit of tradition, culture and mystique for your beautiful, once-in-a-lifetime events.
What can a calligrapher help you with?
Well, the range is huge—calligraphers are artists after all, just ones that wield a pen and ink and draw with words. Here are a few examples:
Writing the words for an invitation suite, event menus and signage
Addressing envelopes by hand (beautifully adhering to traditions of hand-written envelopes)
Writing your wedding vows to make a beautiful keepsake
Creating your wedding certificate
Creating a ketubah (special type of Jewish prenuptial agreement)
Making one-of-a-kind gifts, decorations and stationery—all sorts of unique commissions!
Crafting original certificates for any and all occasions (think: retirements, awards, graduations!)
Logos, posters and signage—how do you think things were done before the digital age?
And really, so much more
This was part one of a series on calligraphy, over the next few weeks we will cover the best questions to ask when working with calligraphers and discuss pricing practices as well. Stay tuned!
Next up: How To Choose The Right Calligrapher