Last Sunday, I attended a taster workshop to learn about dip pen and brush pen styles of modern calligraphy. The course was hosted by the The Modern Calligraphy Co. and is one of Kirsten Burke’s range of classes. I chose it after being inspired by Kirsten’s YouTube videos and trying out one of her books. The workshop itself is set in an idyllic location in the West Sussex countryside and, despite looking a little austere from the outside (it’s a converted Victorian sub-station), the interior is stunning; bright and airy and adorned with inspirational artwork.
The welcome was warm and friendly and was accompanied with mugs of tea, coffee and biscuits. Each of the wannabe calligraphers had a work area complete with hand lettered name tag, tools and worksheets. I was on a table with two lovely ladies, Hilary and Barbara, and we managed to do a lot of nattering in addition to our calligraphy!
Our fab instructor was Maisie and she had a relaxed, informative and entertaining style of tuition which I very much enjoyed. We were also lucky enough to have a guest instructor, Sophia, who was veryhelpful, encouraging and supportive throughout. The day started with a demo from Maisie and then we were straight onto guided exercises learning how to use a dip pen and ink. The first of these exercises were drills, so practicing downstrokes with heavy pressure and upstrokes with light pressure to get the hang of the thick and thin lines and how often to dip the pen. These exercises, whilst not appearing to be very interesting, are essential to building muscle memory to enable one to produce beautiful calligraphy.
During these exercises, we also had a go at blending different colour inks to create ombre writing – very cool!
We then moved onto letters and were taught how to use metallic paints with the dip pens instead of ink. This produced absolutely stunning results, even on my beginner attempts!
Next was a demo on brush pens showing the variety of types of pen and ways to use them and then we were back to our drills again, trying out a multitude of pens. Again, we were shown the different ways to blend the colours and were encouraged to play around.
Next stop was a scrummy lunch. And it was HUGE! There was a massive buffet style selection of cold meats, cheeses, warm quiches, breads, olives, salads, dips, fruit and cake, plus hot and cold drinks. It was a lovely day too so we were able to sit in the garden to eat our lunch and be refreshed ready for the next task.
In the booking confirmation email from Maisie, we had been asked to think of a 4-8 word phrase which we would turn into our own art work. Kirsten herself gave us a demo on how to structure the word art, and then we started off sketching. It was a really interesting exercise; working out which words to put where, what style of lettering to use, whether to use capitals or lower case, what colours etc. Once again, all the instructors were on hand to offer advice and encouragement.
The phrase I chose was a quote from my Dad, which he often utters after explaining (once only) how to do some D-I-Y job that he could do in his sleep, and either me, my sister, Mum, Mr L (or anyone else for that matter) is currently messing up and will require the explanation repeating! I thought it would make a great Father’s Day card.
Once the design was finalised, I went over to the light box to trace the design onto the card. I was using the dip pen since it was a small project so I decided to have a little practice on my scrap piece, trying out different colours for the ‘shout’.
After completing the writing, I added some tiny splatters of ink and gold paint and left it to dry, mounting it onto a black card base when I returned home.
There’s a small shop at the workshop selling the products we used so I bought myself a dip pen starter kit, an inspirational book and some of those gorgeous metallic paints.
Mr L requested a card for his Dad for Father’s Day so I had a go with my metallic marker pens and dropping inks from great heights for this card!
Lastly, for a bit of fun, I made this for Mr L from the cats!
I enjoyed the workshop immensely and am currently trying to persuade Mr L that he’d enjoy it too as it’d be great fun to do together. There are full day and half day sessions, evening sessions (with wine and canapes – how civilised!) and family friendly workshops.
If you’re interested in attending a workshop, you can find out more at
Sophia can be found at
p.s. If you’re reading this on 16th June 2019 and fancy a go, you can get the ultimate beginner’s guide to modern calligraphy free in the Mail on Sunday. Yes, you will have to be seen buying the Mail but you can always wear a disguise! 😉