Keepsake Wedding Calligraphy

The Concept

This couple, was inspired by the wedding calligraphy I did on agate slices as bridesmaid favors in gold ink. They wanted an elegant keepsake piece for their bridal table. We settled on gold letters in a white frame in Copperplate script they’d seen in my Instagram posts.

Starting Out

If you follow my work, you know my first step is always a sketch in pencil, or rather several sketches! This wedding calligraphy was no different. I started by writing “Fields” out in pencil onto one of the guide sheets from my teacher, Paul Antonio. I left plenty of room around the name. I knew I couldn’t get away with just writing “Fields” because my ambitious side would never let me. I knew I had to add decorative lines, or flourishing, around the name to contain it and add interest. This is a wedding, after all!

Flourishing

I got stuck because all of my flourishes looked like badly drawn spaghetti. I needed practice and a good example. My flourishing repertoire is limited at best because I haven’t taken the time to study the dynamics of it closely. Or as closely as I would like to study it. I grabbed my copy of George Bickam’s Penmanship Made Easy. I used a pencil to practice the forms of the lines. This is how I saw my teacher study a historical manuscript once; by practicing it. I erased and redrew many times before I had lines I was happy with. The next day, I noticed the wedding calligraphy looked scattered and inconsistent. I aligned the lines and ovals with the slant of the script, making sure the flourishes intersected correctly.

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Writing on Glass

Next was to practice writing with a nib on glass. I thought it might be similar to writing on the agate pieces because the surfaces are both so slick. I have a small spare piece of glass that I use for various different things. I put the piece of glass right over the pencil sketch I made. I started with an old nib and FW ink right outta the bottle. Rookie!! Ink pooled everywhere once I finally got the nib to write. Rinsed off the glass with water, dried, repeated. Got discouraged and contemplated engraving the glass for a day or so (something I have never tried). I decided I wasn’t going to be deterred that easily! I tried again with a new nib and diluted the ink a bit, which worked well.

Practice run of gold ink on glass for bridal table calligraphy piece.

Tricks

Centering the Design

Now the fun part. I bought an 8″x10″ floating frame for the final presentation. I thought this piece would look elegant and classic suspended in the glass. To center the final image, I drew the dimensions of the glass and centering lines on graph paper (one of my favorite tools). Then, I cut out my design and folded it in half longways and shortways, slightly creasing it. This marked the center of each of the sides. I lined these marks up with the marks on the graph paper to position the design properly on the glass.

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Transferring the Design

To transfer the wedding calligraphy design to the glass, first I taped it down. I taped the glass I was using for the final piece down as well so it wouldn’t move. I grabbed a tissue and my writing materials. The tissue was to place under the heel of my writing hand for two reasons. First, it helps the hand glide along the surface, which I super needed because the long lines of the flourishes. Secondly, it minimizes the amount of oils and smudges from my hands on the glass. I didn’t want to polish the glass in between the calligraphy because I would inevitably erase part of the lines.

I slowly and steadily traced over the letters adding extra flourishes around the edges to fill some of the space. I quit while I was ahead and untaped my masterpiece to look at it from far away.

Plot Twist!

The wedding calligraphy was waaaaaay too small for the size of the frame I was working with. I had to enlarge the initial sketch and redraw the flourishes.  By now, I had so much practice with placing and drawing them that it took me no time at all. The second sketch was probably twice as large as the first.

Pencil sketch of calligraphy for bridal table.

When I traced the design onto the glass, I left the broad strokes of the letters blank. Some lines got a little wobbly as I worked. I used an X-Acto knife to scrape away unwanted bumps and lines. I went over the lines of the letters again with a small brush and filled in the broad strokes. I also put a couple more coats of ink over the body of the letters to make them more opaque.

"Fields" in calligraphy

Finishing Touches

I had plenty of smudges and fingerprints to clean off of the glass after all. Once I was through with that, I placed the glass into the frame. It looked nice and was legible until I held it up to my jars of of pencils. It was hard to read. I had to put something behind the letters so they would stand out.

I wanted to keep the backdrop simple and bright. So I cut a piece of vellum to size to place behind the letters. This way, the wedding calligraphy would be legible, but light could shine through and illuminate the calligraphy. I finished the piece by adding the hanging hardware and snapping a few photos of it surrounded by flowers.

Thanks for checking out how this piece came together. If you have any questions, please comment below, and if you’d like one of these for yourself, send me an email!

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