How to Get Started in Calligraphy

The latest guest post from professional Calligrapher Angela Reed offers helpful tips on how to get started in Calligraphy. This is a question that often comes up from customers so we asked Angela to provide some specialist guidance on the subject.


Calligraphy is a fairly inexpensive hobby to get into. All you really need is a pen and a piece of paper to get you started!

The type of pen you need depends on the type of calligraphy you want to start learning. Most calligraphers start with the foundational, or Roman round hand, script. It’s certainly what I introduce people to first in my workshops. A broad edged pen is what you would need for that and many other traditional calligraphy scripts. You can then decide if you would prefer to use a cartridge pen, or dip pen and ink.

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The Lamy Joy from The Pen Shop is a lovely, quality pen and comes in a range of nib widths. I would suggest the 1.5mm to get you started. You can also buy the gift set featuring all three nibs, which would be a sound investment.

The Coles Calligraphy range would be for you if you are comfortable with pen and ink. A variety of nibs can be fitted to a straight or oblique holder. Some will need a reservoir to hold ink, while others, such as pointed nibs, do not require one.

Pointed nibs are used for copperplate and modern calligraphy styles, where pressure, rather than pen angle, creates the thick and thin strokes.

Loose sheets of good quality cartridge paper are good for practising on, but you may want to use a notebook of some kind so you can keep track of your progress. Just make sure the paper is not too thin, as the ink will bleed.

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A pencil, ruler and eraser are also essential parts of a calligrapher’s kit, for marking out guidelines. Lettering height is dictated by the style of calligraphy and width of the nib you are using.

There are many calligraphy books available and you may be able to find some in your local library. The best seller on Amazon at the time of writing this was The Calligrapher’s Bible: 100 Complete Alphabets and How to Draw Them, by David Harris. I have just invested in a copy of Modern Calligraphy by Molly Suber Thorpe after it was recommended to me by another calligrapher.

There are also countless tutorials and downloadable worksheets available online. Scribblers is a great starting point.

But I think the best thing you can do is find a workshop near you for personalised tuition and peer mentoring.

The Calligraphy Lettering and Arts Society has an interactive map of tutors and groups at www.clas.co.uk.

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We have been collaborating very closely with Angela over the past few months, you may recall her Question and Answer session where we took the opportunity to learn more about Angela and her passion for Calligraphy. In another guest post, Angela explored the different Calligraphy Pens and Sets we offer. In her next blog Angela will be looking at different Calligraphy styles – keep an eye on our blog for the latest update.

If you want to learn more about Angela and the services she can provide then head over to her website at Creative Calligraphy and socially you can connect with Angela on Twitter or Facebook. If you are inspired by Angela’s story and you too want to get started with Calligraphy then we have a curated selection of pens to help you.

St Pancras International: Learn the art of Calligraphy

St Pancras International is inviting visitors to learn the century old skill of calligraphy this weekend under the guidance of our experts. Covering the basic principles of calligraphy through demonstrations, the art of beautiful penmanship will be explored over an exciting and hands-on an hour an half session.

Our handwriting experts, including calligrapher James Fazz Farrell, will also be on hand to offer practical advice on how to improve your handwriting and how to transfer impressive mark making, that can take a life time to master, into everyday use through simple and easy to follow techniques.

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Calligraphy by James Fazz Farrell

The one-off tutorial, on Saturday 3rd September, will mark the launch of the station’s Back to School activity programme where commuters will be encouraged to learn a new skill or even take up a new hobby. The session will take place at The Betjeman Arms on the Grand Terrance of the station from 11:00 to 12:30 (BST).

Book tickets, but be quick, places are limited and will cost £2.60 per person to attend.

Two pounds from each ticket sale for the Back to School activity programme will go to YHA, the charity that creates opportunities for young people across the country to grow through adventure and discovery. Through exploring the countryside and historic cities, the charity opens the door for young people to develop a greater knowledge and love for England and Wales.

Book Tickets >

Yard-O-Led Demonstration: Edinburgh

The Pen Shop, with leading pen manufacturer Yard-O-Led, will hold a demonstration of chasing (engraving) on silver pens on Friday, 19th August 2016 from 10.30am – 4.00pm at the Pen Shop Edinburgh branch at 21 Multrees Walk, Edinburgh.

The Pen Shop Limited is the only chain of writing instrument specialists in Europe and has a long association with the Yard-O-Led brand; both companies were originally founded in the 1880s.

Yard-O-Led branded pens are the only brand to be exclusively handmade in the UK, being based at the Imperial Yard factory in the jewellery quarter of Birmingham, where skilled crafts people work silver to hold ‘a yard of lead’ refills included in the original pencil design.

Image of Jessica Mobley, and Workshop Manager Alexander Roden

Image of Jessica Mobley, and Workshop Manager Alexander Roden

The most recent Yard-O-Led ball pen and pencil designs to be launched are the Elizabeth XC range, issued in a limited edition of 90 units each ball pen and pencil to mark the 90th Birthday of her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. These are available to buy at selected branches of The Pen Shop at a retail price of £475.00 each.

Jessica Mobley who will take part in the demonstration, has worked at the Imperial Yard factory since May 2016. Before this, she studied at Edinburgh College of Art from 2009-13 to gain a BA (Hons) Jewellery and Silversmithing and she also worked in the Edinburgh Assay Office until July 2015.

For further store information see our website >

Angela Reed explores our Calligraphy Pens and Sets

We have been collaborating very closely with Angela over the past few months, you may recall her Question and Answer session where we took the opportunity to learn more about Angela and her passion for Calligraphy. In this guest post, Angela explores the different Calligraphy Pens and Sets, regardless of your Calligraphy expertise.

Having been invited to write a series of blogs for The Pen Shop, I thought it would make sense to start by examining their range of calligraphy pens.

Whether you are a beginner or a more experienced calligrapher, The Pen Shop caters for all aptitudes, styles and budgets.

I was keen to try the Lamy Joy and Safari fountain pens, as they appear quite frequently on my Twitter feed, although I’ve never used them before.

Both are beautifully packaged, particularly the Joy gift set, and I was very pleased with the bright yellow barrel colour of the Safari.

The Pen Shop Calligraphy products

The Pen Shop Calligraphy products

It certainly brightened up the dull morning that I decided to get my practice pad out!
Made in Germany, Lamy is regarded as a pioneer in the manufacture of top-quality writing instruments, offering a functional, imaginative and modern design.

It prides itself on achieving high levels of comfort and the Joy is described by The Pen Shop as “the ideal writing instrument” whose ergonomic design sits comfortably in the hand.

Meanwhile, the Safari is one of the company’s best-sellers – and a personal favourite of a friend of mine!

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Lamy Safari Yellow

I have been using the Safari for anything and everything since receiving it.

I write quite quickly, having achieved a shorthand speed of 120wpm while training to be a journalist, but the pen kept up with me beautifully.

The ink flow is perfect – and I found it the same for the Joy.

The Joy set comes with three nibs – 1.1mm, 1.5mm and 1.9mm – and can be used as a calligraphy pen or just to add an extra dimension to your handwriting.

Lamy Joy

Lamy Joy

I gave them a good workout at the calligraphy workshops I have been running in South Shields for the Cultural Spring and the larger nib is great for demonstrating with.

If Lamy is, perhaps, a touch too modern, or you prefer a traditional dip pen to write with, the Coles Calligraphy range stocked by The Pen Shop is for you.

Coles Calligraphy offers beautiful Italian handcrafted quills and calligraphy sets.
I was particularly taken with the wooden pen set with eight nibs – some of them rather unusually shaped – and two bottles of ink.

The nibs were easy to place in the holder, which was light and comfortable to use.

My summer project is to give modern calligraphy a try and the pointed nibs in this set will certainly give me some motivation!

If you want to learn more about Angela and the services she can provide then head over to her website at Creative Calligraphy and socially you can connect with Angela on Twitter or Facebook. If you are inspired by Angela’s story and you too want to get started with Calligraphy then we have a curated selection of pens to help you.

Creative Calligraphy Q&A

There is something mesmerising, peaceful and fulfilling when witnessing a Calligrapher at work. These are certainly the feelings we experienced when we first came across Angela Reed. Based in the North East, Angela owns Creative Calligraphy which is a bespoke service offering beautiful writing for all occasions.

We are collaborating very closely with Angela over the next few months on all things Calligraphy related. Before we lose ourselves in her calligraphy strokes let’s first take the opportunity to learn more about Angela and her passion for Calligraphy.

Who or what inspired you into Calligraphy?

I was introduced to calligraphy by my art teacher at secondary school when I was about 12. A very talented calligrapher himself, he started a lunchtime calligraphy club and I joined. Art and English were my favourite subjects at school, and I loved that calligraphy seemed to combine both drawing and writing.

When I set up Creative Calligraphy I joined a class run by Susan Moor, who is chairman of the Northumbrian Scribes. She has introduced me to several new styles and helped me develop a more artistic approach to calligraphy. I continue to be inspired by her and the Northumbrian Scribes, as well as many of the calligraphers I have connected with via social media. Having as go at modern calligraphy is my next challenge.

Calligrapher at work

What pens do you have in your collection?

I still have the first Manuscript Pen Company pen I bought, along with a couple of their sets that were bought for me as gifts when I set up Creative Calligraphy. I also have some Pilot Parallel pens and a Pentel brush pen that I will one day get around to trying out!

I have a collection of stainless steel William Mitchell nibs that were given to me for my dip pens. One of my nib holders is very special, having been handmade by Driftwood Pens from driftwood found on the beach at South Shields, where I live. It’s very lightweight and lovely to use.

I also have a glass calligraphy pen brought back from Bruges by my cousin. I invested in some Staedtler fineliners when learning akim script and I love my oblique nib holder and pointed nib for copperplate script.

Favourite paper / ink?

I’m constantly being introduced to different papers and inks by fellow calligraphers. I tend to use plain white cartridge paper for calligraphy practice, or write directly onto stationery that I’ve been provided with, but I do like Bockingford Hot Press paper for special commissions. Ink-wise, my go-to black is Higgins Eternal and I’m currently in love with my FineTec pearl metallic palette.

What ink disasters have you experienced?

Fortunately not many! But there is a stain on my dining room table caused by me knocking over a bottle of black Higgins Eternal ink. I blotted quite a lot of it out and in some parts, it blended into the grain of the wood, but it still has a candle holder strategically placed over it. Rather my furniture than the stationery I was working on at the time!

What advice or tips would you give to a novice?

Go to a class, find YouTube tutorials, read books – just pick up a pen and practice! If you’re used to typing rather than writing things down, get some general handwriting practice in with a ballpoint, or even better, a fountain pen, before progressing on to a calligraphy pen with a flat-edged nib. You can even practice with a pencil at first if you feel like you need to build a bit of confidence up first. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. Even the most experienced calligraphers still practice their lettering on a regular basis.

How did you get started setting up your business?

I had the idea for Creative Calligraphy bouncing around in my head long before I actually put it into practice. I had a spate of requests to add names to wedding invitations and place cards for friends and family and wondered if it was something I could turn into a business, but it wasn’t until I took voluntary redundancy in January 2014 that I started looking at it seriously.

I heard about the New Enterprise Allowance through the North East Business and Innovation Centre in Sunderland and was successful in my application for start-up support in the form of financial help and mentoring for my first six months of trading.

Creative Calligraphy was officially launched on May 27, 2014.

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What services do you provide?

I offer beautiful writing for all occasions, with weddings accounting for much of my work. People have also come to me to have poems, readings and other pieces of writing penned in calligraphy. I also run workshops, most recently for the Cultural Spring, a community arts engagement project funded by the Arts Council in Sunderland and South Tyneside.

Why do you think people want Calligraphy services?

Who doesn’t like getting something that’s been handwritten? Calligraphy comes from the Greek for ‘beautiful writing’ and it is the beauty, as well as the personal touch, that captures people’s attention and makes a lasting impression. It shows care and consideration.

Are you experiencing an increase in demand for your Calligraphy services?

I have been in business now for two years now and demand continues to grow, particularly in the run-up to wedding season, but also for commissions. I love the variety of my work and how calligraphy can be applied to so many things.

Do you offer any courses?

At the moment I am leading calligraphy workshops on behalf of the Cultural Spring, a project funded by the Arts Council to widen participation in the arts in 10 local authority wards in Sunderland and South Tyneside. I have also done taster sessions at venues including Bede’s World in Jarrow and Newcastle Does Vintage at Hoult’s Yard, as well as schools.

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We hope you agree this was an exciting insight into Angela and I’m sure you are eager to learn more about Calligraphy in our forthcoming Getting Started guides. In the meantime you can head over to her website at Creative Calligraphy and socially you can connect with Angela on Twitter or Facebook. If you are inspired by Angela’s story and you too want to get started with Calligraphy then we have a curated selection of pens to help you.

New Store: St Pancras International

We are delighted to announce we are opening our 20th shop in St Pancras International railway station on Monday 9th May.

Set within one of the most famous Victorian buildings in London, the flagship shop is intended to provide a convenient way for shoppers and commuters to browse products and collect orders reserved online.

The shop, which is open from 7.30am to 9pm Monday to Saturday and 9am to 7pm on Sundays, will stock a full range of luxury brands including Montblanc, Chopard, Caran d’Ache and Graf von Faber-Castell and premium brands Parker, Waterman, Cross, Lamy and our own brand, Kingsley.

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Situated alongside Fortnum & Mason and Jo Malone, customers can reserve products online and pick them up on their way home from work the same day. We also hope to appeal to tourists and holiday-makers using the Eurostar.

The shop opens almost a year to the day The Pen Shop underwent a management buyout after our three directors purchased the group and its retail outlets in May 2015 from the Allan family for an undisclosed amount.

The MBO, which transferred ownership from the Allan family shareholders to the newly-formed Fountain Group, moved the business to a new stage in the development of its successful omni-channel shop operation and wholesale business.

The Pen Shop managing director, Colin McClymont, says: “It has been an exciting year for The Pen Shop and the opening of the new St Pancras shop firmly marks the beginning of the next stage in The Pen Shop’s history.

“Our customers show us that they want different ways to shop that are most convenient for them and this has turned bustling transport terminals into real retail destinations. The Pen Shop St Pancras is our latest shop that will combine a convenient shopping location with our online reserve and collect service to meet our customers’ evolving needs and serve the station’s travellers.”

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The shop’s opening coincides with the launch of Marvel’s latest film Captain America: Civil War and Cross’ new range of Marvel Cross Century and Cross Tech pens. To celebrate, Marvel’s famous superheroes Captain America and Iron Man will be available for photographs all around St Pancras on Monday 9th May.

#PenAmnesty 2016 National Stationery Week

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We love writing, so we know that a good pen is a pleasure to use. It feels comfortable, writes well and looks great.

We want to share our passion for pens with you. That’s why we’re offering a pen amnesty for one week only during National Stationery Week 2016.

Trade in any pen and we’ll help you to upgrade to something better with a 10% discount.

10% Discount at the Pen Shop

All you have to do is take your old, chewed up and battered pen into any of our stores to receive your discount.

If you’d like a discount to use online, simply tag us in a picture on Twitter or Facebook and we will send you a discount code. If you aren’t social then you can email us a picture at marketing@penshop.co.uk and we’ll get your discount code straight to you.

Our #PenAmnesty will run for the whole of National Stationery Week which is 25th April – 1st May.

To find out more about the history and our involvement in National Stationery Week to see our previous blog post.

National Stationery Week 2016

National Stationery Week was launched in 2013 and is a celebration of the written word and all things stationery. The aim is to get more people putting pen to paper and writing by hand more often. This year National Stationery Week is running from 25 April – 1 May and we want to involve as many people as possible.

The truth is, technology has merely distracted us from the joy and importance of writing, it hasn’t replaced it. There is still something special about stationery and receiving a handwritten letter or card. According to YouGov research commissioned by National Stationery Week, 92% of adults think that writing by hand is important and 97% think it is important for children to be taught to write.

For 2016 at The Pen Shop we will be running an exclusive #PenAmnesty both online and in all our stores. Details for this exciting new venture will be launched first thing on Monday morning!

Last year in 2015 we ran an art competition with a theme of “Talking is for now, writing is forever” and asked for pen and paper interpretations of it. The diversity of ideas was astounding and it was amazing to see the creativity and thought given to each entry.

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For a bit of fun we also ran a poetry competition on Twitter. We asked our Twitter followers to help us write a poem by coming up with a next line each day. Expectations were high, but undoubtedly exceeded; we never knew that the resulting poem would be so good! It was especially nice that so many of the entries were handwritten.

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For National Stationery Week 2014 we had an amazing response to our Doodle Competition. The competition was to unleash your inner doodler to show how George managed to capture the dragon. We were absolutely blown away by the amazing variety of doodles and ideas.

George Doodle

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To celebrate the launch National Stationery Week in 2013 we invited people of all ages to indulge their creative streak by writing a short story. You can still view our winning entries by clicking the links below.

Winners Age 8 – 12 Category >

Winners Age 13-18 Category >

Winners Age 18+ Category >

Sign up to our newsletter to be the first to know about our 2016 #PenAmnesty

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Brand History: Montblanc

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Thinking about leading creators of luxury writing instruments, the brand Montblanc immediately comes to mind. At The Pen Shop, we are proud to promote our status as a Montblanc Authorised retailer and are stockists of a wide selection of Montblanc writing instruments and refills, notebooks and other accessories.

As a global leader in luxury accessories, Montblanc have been operating for nearly a century, having diversified into other areas of the luxury goods market over those years. The unique White Star logo on the tip of each piece and accessory, ensures the Montblanc name is strongly identifiable.

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The name Montblanc was registered in 1910, and was said to have been based on an analogy between the great writing instrument and the highest peak in the Alps, the Mont Blanc. The shape of the logo itself represents the snow-covered peak of Mont Blanc.

Montblanc expanded quickly, and by the end of the 1920’s, the company was already operating in over 60 countries. Their attention to some striking advertising campaigns at that time, ensured they caught worldwide attention.

The consideration given to the detail in Montblanc products is evident in all of the products they produce. But especially in the early production of their iconic Meisterstück fountain pen in 1929, they inscribed ‘4810’ in the nib. Representing the height of the Mont Blanc mountain, this is a traditional detail that continues to this day. Meisterstück remain one of the most popular lines that we sell today at The Pen Shop, with the range covering fountain, rollerball and ballpoint pens as well as mechanical pencils, all available in a range of colours, sizes and finishes.

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Following the success of the Meisterstück, Montblanc went on to develop other exciting new ranges with more more designs. From the ‘60 Line’ range in 1955, up to the current New Editions of today, Montblanc remain at the forefront of design and technology in the world of writing.

1986 was the year that Montblanc would create their famous phrase “Montblanc – The Art of Writing’, as well as being a time for the company to engage in many art and cultural collaborations, strengthening their support of the world of the arts. Developing a range of Limited Edition writing pieces, Montblanc continue to celebrate the great renowned artists and writers of previous generations.

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Montblanc expanded its empire into the Asian market in 1990, the beginning of their openings of Montblanc stand-alone Boutiques. The success continued with more boutiques opening in Paris and London, a number today which now stands at over 350 boutiques in over 70 countries.

The Boutiques stock a range of Montblanc pieces including the writing instruments the brand are most known for, as well as watches, leather goods, accessories, jewellery, eyewear and fragrance. In the various Pen Shop concessions and stand-alone stores around the UK, we stock some of the most popular Montblanc Collections and products; a perfect gift for loved ones or yourself, to be cherished for years and generations to come.

Contactless Card – Safety Wallets

There has been a lot of mention in the press lately about contactless card fraud. Contactless cards are now wildly popular, and used in one in seven sales. The contactless cards can be used for purchases under £30 and do not require automatic authorisation from banks. It is sadly too easy for thieves to steal card details using widely available Point of Sale (POS) devices. There has recently been a widely shared Facebook post of this happening on the London Underground. All the thieves have to do is key in a price less than £30 on the POS device and then touch the device on the pocket that contains the victims wallet/card and the payment goes through.

Until people check their bank statements they may not notice these small transactions at first however the thieves will continue to use the card at will until stopped. It is then up to the victim to report the theft and try and claim a refund. A member of our team at The Pen Shop head office sadly had their card details stolen this way and a significant amount of money was taken from their account. Fortunately they did eventually receive the money back but it involved a great deal of hassle and stress.

This has raised serious issues about card protection but a number of brands including our own Pen Shop brand Kingsley have already taken steps to try and combat this problem. Our Kingsley and Secrid RFID blocker wallets protect your money and cards from electromagnetic radiation, illegal RFID-scanning and other outside influences.

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The Cardprotector is the core of the Secrid product line. The aluminium Cardprotector protects your six most important cards, both against bending and breaking and against your RFID cards being scanned if you don’t want them to be (such as the transportation pass, ID card, the latest credit cards and business cards).

What does RFID Blocker technology do?

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) is a technology that can be embedded into a range of items including bank cards and passports to allow the wireless transmission of information (such as contactless pay points).

Information can be extracted from RFID equipped items without your knowledge with hand-held devices (known as skimmers).

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RFID blocker technology impairs the extraction of data from any RFID item enclosed within the product. Protection is provided by a special material enclosed within the leather and does not effect the normal use of RFID item.

With the growing popularity of contactless cards then crime against them will also continue to rise. To combat this we would advise people to invest in wallets with RFID blocker technology to make sure their cards are safe.