Meticulous Ink can be found in the city of Bath near Bristol (UK). The business is run by hand lettering artist and typesetter Athena Cauley-Yu, and Charlie Cumming, an illustrator and printer. Between the two of them they produce beautiful hand designed stationary and incredible letterpress prints.
Athena from Meticulous Ink recently instructed a workshop hosted by the lovely Saunders sisters at 19 Artisan Interiors Emporium. As the travelling distance wasn’t ridiculously far (many lettering workshops within the UK require a trip to London!) I was able to book myself in and attend the workshop.
As you read on you’ll be able to hear about my experience, and the type of things you can expect to gain from a hand lettering workshop.
The last time I attended an artistic workshop in person was when I was at University, a good couple of years ago now. So I wasn’t sure what to expect from Athena’s workshop, just that it was focusing on modern calligraphy, and the tools required would be included.
The environment at 19 where the workshop took place was brilliant for learning and creating. At the back of the shop behind the checkout area, Becky and Victoria had a very good sized table set up to work at. The area was well lit with natural light and each setting at the table provided enough space and arm movement to letter with. I think light and space are both very important when it comes to lettering. If you don’t have good light lettering can be a challenge, and if you don’t have enough space to turn yourself, your paper, or bend your arm, you probably won’t get anywhere very fast. Being at the back of the shop behind the checkout, meant that myself and the other workshop participants could focus on the content being delivered. We weren’t distracted by shoppers or noise, so it was very easy to hear Athena’s instruction. If you’re considering a workshop at a busy venue, I would take noise and foot traffic into consideration if you want to be able to fully focus.
Athena began by introducing herself and her Meticulous Ink business, then talked about her hand lettering skills. We were each prompted to pick a calligraphy nib holder pen and had choice of colour. It was nice to be able to choose the colour of the holder, as it made the workshop and experience feel that bit more personal. I’m not always too good at choosing things on the spot and ended up picking a red nib holder. If I’d thought about it properly though, I should have probably picked orange to match in nicely with Lettering Tutorials colour theme haha.
Once set up with our calligraphy holder, custom made Meticulous Iron Gall Ink and Brause 361 calligraphy nib, Athena demonstrated some practice exercises. She first showed what angle the calligraphy holder and nib should be held at so that thick and thin lines could be created, followed by what angle our practice paper should be positioned at. Both pen angle and paper angle varied from person to person in the workshop group, depending a lot on how each person wrote normally. Along with the above mentioned tools Athena also provided sheets of letterpress practice paper. Each sheet had an x – height, ascender height and descender height printed on them, and slanted vertical lines too for lettering at an angle with. If you’re not sure what x-height, ascenders and descenders are, I recommend having a look at ‘Hand Lettering Guides For Beginners’, where I explain what the different guide terms mean and where they’re used. If you’re not already a Newsletter subscriber I also provide some free printable practice guides when you first join, which highlight some of the different guide terms too. You can join my Newsletter just below.
After the introduction Athena demonstrated a practice exercise of lettering a flowing ‘n’ shape. Staying thin on the up stroke and then applying more pressure into the downstroke, creating a row of little ‘n’ shaped hills. This was a good exercise to get a feel for the nib and pen angle, and also provided a consistent way of demonstrating thick and thin strokes.
This then led into the next exercise, writing each letter of the alphabet in lowercase and uppercase. Both in the same modern calligraphic style as on a worksheet Athena had provided us, again printed on lovely quality paper. Athena demonstrated each case of each letter, showing all strokes and angles involved, and then left us enough time to practice each letter in between demonstrations.
Before the workshop I’d previously watched a few tutorials on calligraphy and done a little practice myself, and I thought I had the pen angle more or less right from what I’d previously seen. It wasn’t until I started trying to letter the alphabet that Athena picked up on my angle not being quite right. I’m sure had I practiced a bit more from home before the workshop, I would have eventually made the same observation. However having someone that can give you a little one on one attention in person, can sometimes highlight issues a bit quicker for you as I experienced in this workshop!
The overall aim of the workshop was to letter our names on provided name place cards, in the same modern calligraphic style from the worksheet.
The workshop was a really great experience and I definitely gained a lot. It provided an opportunity to ask questions as and when they came up, and see techniques in more detail. For example custom made jars of Meticulous Iron Gall Ink looked dark blue, but when the ink was applied to the paper it turned black. Athena explained that it was caused by the ink oxidising with the air. Little details like that may not be so apparent on a video, and those little things are all part of the calligraphy experience. There was also an opportunity to buy practice pads made of the same guide paper we used within the workshop. If I’d not experienced the the guide paper, and just bought some online I’d have had no idea what the quality would have been like, and how ink would look on the paper. Ink can look different on different types of paper.
If you’d like to see more of the lovely letterpress goods that Athena and her business partner Charlie create, I recommend having a look at their shop on Etsy. They create some truly beautiful things. I’m also sure if you email Athena she may be able to sell you the lovely calligraphy practice pads that they offer too if you like what you’ve seen in this article.
Have you had any experiences with workshops? Would you like to go to one? Please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.