Calligraphy Renaissance : Tips from 5 Twin Cities Lettering Experts

Local calligraphers offer the inside scoop on hand-lettering.
From: Fall/Winter 2016 edition

In the digital age, hand-lettering imbues your wedding stationery with a unique warmth and a grand sense of occasion. Calligraphy is enjoying a well-deserved renaissance, so we talked to five Twin Cities experts about traditions, trends and tips to help write your story in style.

minnesota_wedding

Photography by: Kristen Dyer

What’s Old Is New Again

“As weddings have become more varied, more personal and simply more fun, invitations and calligraphy have followed suit,” says Crystal Kluge of Crystal Kluge Handlettering & Illustration. The explosion of interest in calligraphy has invigorated this traditional art form and taken it in new directions.

Kluge is noticing a more casual and free-flowing look prevailing in invitation suites. Couples are asking for loose scripts and washes of watercolor in every imaginable shade. Of course, that doesn’t rule out traditional black ink on white paper. “Like a little black dress, a pointed pen script in charcoal ink, enhanced with a few romantic flourishes, never seems to go out of style.”

Shasta Bell of Shasta Bell Calligraphy says that modern calligraphers need to feel confident with both pen and brush since many clients want to mix drawings or paintings with text. Her clients have called on her to create pen-and-ink renderings of city skylines and venues, and even painted botanical designs. She’s also seeing lots of metallic accents and attention to beautiful surfaces. “Many people are interested in handmade paper, deckle edges and hand-dyed ribbons tied neatly around their invitations,” adds Bell.

minnesota_wedding

Photography by: Kristen Dyer

Rosann Konieczny of Rosann K Calligraphy points out that wedding receptions are the perfect opportunity to showcase calligraphy, from the welcome signs and menus to the ingredient list for a signature cocktail. Though it presents special challenges to the calligrapher, one of her favorite trends is working natural and found objects into reception décor. “Stones, leaves, shells and small wood slabs all make beautiful place cards,” says Konieczny.

Athena Pelton, photographer and calligrapher, is no stranger to unique surfaces. She recently created table numbers for a couple using their collection of vintage stand mirrors (the sort your grandmother kept on her vanity). She enjoys working with couples who bring unique ideas to the table. “I love that I can help them create something that is an expression of both my style and their vision. It’s such a blast to meld them together,” says Pelton.

“Calligraphy has become so much more than just envelope addressing,” adds Clair Daley of Hooked Calligraphy. “It’s moving onto new surfaces like laser-etched wood place cards or large-scale signage. It’s also moving digital.”

In fact, one of Kluge’s clients printed temporary tattoos from one of her designs and offered them as favors at the reception. Another loved Kluge’s lettering so much, she made it permanent with a looping monogram tattooed on her foot. This isn’t your grandma’s calligraphy, but she’ll still be glad to see such nice penmanship showcased at your wedding.

minnesota_wedding

Photography by: Kristen Dyer

Calligraphy ABCs

To get started, think about how you plan to incorporate calligraphy into your wedding day. Do you want each invitation hand-lettered, or will you only need the outer envelopes addressed? Perhaps you’d rather splash at the reception with a few key pieces of signage, or unique escort cards that can double as keepsakes.

The calligraphers we spoke to all emphasized that hand-lettering is a painstaking process that cannot be rushed. “Couples should be researching a calligrapher at the same time as the invitation suite,” says Daley. “Starting a conversation early in the process allows you the time to discuss their style and offerings, and book the time in their schedule. It will set you up on the right timeline if you need digital elements sent to your stationer.” She adds that spring is an especially busy time for calligraphy artists, so it’s best to book early.

minnesota_wedding

Photography by: Kristen Dyer

Pricing varies from artist to artist, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $2 to $5 per envelope, depending on how many lines are in the address and the type of script you choose. Customized signage varies depending on the size and material, but most artists offer pricing guidelines on their websites.

“It can be difficult to appreciate how much time goes into handwriting over a hundred addresses,” says Bell. “If you are hiring a calligrapher, you probably already appreciate hand-written work, and it is important to value the time and skill it takes to produce it.”

When meeting with your calligrapher, bring plenty of examples of work you like, advises Kluge. “We’re visual people. So if you have an idea in mind, a photo or even a rough sketch can really make a difference in making sure the final product becomes what you desired.”

In the same vein, make sure you’ve looked carefully at samples on the calligrapher’s website to make sure that your styles are a match. “A little bit of research will go a long way,” says Bell. “I’m probably not the gal you’d pick to address the invitations to the President’s state dinner, but if he had a globe-trotting sister-in-law who happened to be getting married at a sycamore nursery in Northern California, I’d be game.” Respect that each calligrapher has their own unique style and choose accordingly.

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Photography by: Laura Ivanova Photography

Once you’ve chosen the right artist, it’s time to start compiling your guest list and addresses. Proofing is your job, since the letterer will write everything exactly as you type it. Make sure to double- and triple-check the spellings of tricky names, and leave plenty of time to track down addresses for everyone on your list.

If you are providing paper, calligraphers typically request for a 20 percent overage of envelopes and paper for the inevitable error or occasional change.

Finally, many calligraphers need two to four weeks for addressing envelopes and as much as two months for a suite of invitations. Planning ahead is essential since this work is painstaking and time-consuming. “Talk with your calligrapher about timeline expectations and be aware that any changes to design and style after purchase will probably affect delivery time,” adds Bell. Pelton agrees. “The more time we have to create your pieces, the better they will turn out. No one likes to work on tight deadlines or with clients who don’t respond to emails.”

Practice Makes Perfect


If you love the look of calligraphy and are the artsy sort, you might want to consider taking classes. “I wouldn’t recommend taking a class to save money, but because you really love calligraphy and want to learn,” advises Kluge. “The classes are a great way to a develop a new skill or expand your existing skills further with a hands-on group of creative people.”

Bell actually got into the art form in anticipation of her own wedding. “My husband and I had small wedding budget, and I started to seriously pursue calligraphy about six months before we were married because I couldn’t afford to hire a professional artist. So my heart has always been with DIY letterers.” Her advice is to give yourself plenty of time to learn and be patient. Bell says that about 30 percent of her students are brides-to-be, so you’ll be in good company.

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Photography by: Jake Anderson Photo

Daley offers a beginner modern calligraphy class in collaboration with LAB MPLS, a local creative workshop company, throughout the year, and is also available for one-on-one lessons.

Remember that there are no shortcuts to beautiful handwriting. “To do calligraphy well takes hours and hours of patient practice,” says Kluge. “Unless you really enjoy the act of doing lettering, it may be well worth the money to hire a professional and save yourself the time, hand and back strain, and frustration of ink and paper that doesn’t always cooperate.” 


Calligrapher Calling Cards

Athena Pelton

Athena Pelton’s loose calligraphy is perfect for a couple with an edgy, modern style. athenapelton.com

Crystal Kluge Handlettering & Illustration

Crystal Kluge’s expressive scripts bring personality to invitations and beyond. crystalkluge.com

Hooked Calligraphy

Clair Daley’s fluid freehand adds a buoyant touch to your stationery suite. hookedcalligraphy.com

Rosann K Calligrapher

Rosann Konieczny offers traditional hand lettering with a modern flourish. rosannkcalligrapher.com

Shasta Bell Calligraphy

Shasta Bell’s organic, nature inspired hand lettering has a bohemian feel. shastabell.com