Monday 8 November 2010

Short Week

We had a short week imposed on us by the lovely people at London Underground. They were striking from Tuesday evening till Wednesday evening. The last time this happened, last month, it took me almost 2 hours to do a journey that normally takes 20 minutes. And I mean 2 hours to get to the studio and then 2 hours to get back home. So I thought, as there is enough work to do on the copy for the website, think about the direction of the stationery business, working on the hieroglyphs book, (you get the picture) that it would make more sense to shut the studio on the Wednesday. This also meant leaving early on the Tuesday to avoid the rush as the strike was due to start at 7pm.

The thing about shutting for a day is you expect it to all run smoothly, like every other day and then the proverbial fan appears. London Business School called us in a panic asking for our assistance on filling in approximately 700 certificates. This is something we do every year for them, but this year there was a little bit of a mix up on the part of the print buyer. Clare called up and was so stressed I could not see how we could not not assist. She turned out to be good fun to deal with, despite the stressful situation. Unfortunately the late arrival of the certificates to the studio and the additional text that needed to be added, increased both the cost and the duration.


Sarah also came in with an envelope from Ruth at Ruth Kaye Design. Ruth is looking to get some writing on a kind of paper called ‘Skin’. So you can imagine what this feels like. I did some trials and left it overnight. The next day, the Tuesday, I came in and ran my finger over it, and it smudged. I did have some Dr PH Martins Spectralite Bronze and Copper, they both worked a charm but can only be used for formal script work. Usually it is the quick scripts that work all the time, but the problem here is the paper is coated and slick but the writing needs to be in a metallic colour.


Tuesday saw us rushing to leave but still had time for a visit from the wonderful Alyson Hurst from GFSmith. We have some plans on the table which I will talk about as they come closer to fruition. They are VERY exciting.

P1060290Sarah also reminded me that I needed to handwrite a letter to be copied and posted out to people who contacted us through Brides Magazine. I wrote the letter out and decided to put Sarah’s name on the bottom as she is the one who would have to deal with them in the end.

I thought it might be better if she didn’t have to sign all of them. And since the recipients would need to know who to ask for, writing her name out clearly was a better option.

Once they copies are made I will write the names in, still debating whether I should address the envelopes to correspond with the writing on the letter. Will decide when Sarah is back!

I work up on Wednesday and checked the email. We work off a Microsoft Exchange Server and the laptop at home is configured to the server so I can work from home. We also have Go To My PC so I can log in from anywhere in the world and check email (if the main studio PC is on!). Not sure if that is a good thing or not. I had about 10 urgent things to deal with, arrived via both email and phone calls to the mobile. It is always the way, no?

Rebecca at The Communication Store needed calligraphy on about 150 invitations and Lucy at Halpern also called to finalise a job for some last minute invitations for Tiffany’s. Needless to say, nothing could be sent to the studio as no one was in to receive it, so it all had to wait for Thursday morning delivery. Got some of what I needed to get done dealt with but no where nearly as much.

Thursday morning bright and early! Got in for 7:30 and started prepping for the day. Clare from LBS was bringing in some of the certificates for me to test the paper, a courier was on his way with all the certificates. Then things started to arrive. The invitations for Rebecca arrived (with a Versace logo on it) and Lucy’s invitations for Tiffanys came in immediately after. I had already stared to make a dent on LBS certificates. Then the box of stuff, birthday cards from Liberty arrived, and then Jess and Jo Malone called up for us to design a Pour Memoir card for them, as well as to talk about another invitation for the JM London – all to be done in our Small Capitals.


I had a wonderful surprise, Macki, who I used to work with at another event planning company called and is now at Family, dealing with a job for Annika at The Communication Store. I love reunions!

I did promise to document what happens when we start a job for stationery so here it is. The first thing we do is get the text. I then mix up some Process Black. This is a very dense black with wonderful contrast capacity. Problem is it takes very long to dry before we can put it on the scanner bed. Angelo scans it at 1200dpi, imports it into PhotoShop and does his magic putting it together. We have to find out size, weight and colour of card, if a gild or brushed edge is wanted and if envelopes are needed as well. We also need to check to see if the invitations will need names written on once they are printed, and if envelopes will need to be addressed as well. The reason for checking all of this, i.e. if calligraphy will be needed after the printing is completed, is to book it in so we know it needs to be done.


So this is what the initial thing looks like. I use Character High White Wove to write on as it is clean and crisp and does not create any unnecessary scanning problems. If I want something that is more artistic I would use my favourite Colourplan but it does have a tooth to it and make for more problematic scanning.

Once the ink is dry it is scanned and digitised. Working on an A5 template in PhotoShop, the text is then placed where we think it should go and we print if off to check the justification, centring and scale. Looking at it on the screen is no good, you need to see it for real. All of this I leave up to Angelo. Since his calligraphy practise is going so well, he has a much better understanding of letter spacing and placement. Far better than any graphic designer trying to use hand lettering for the same thing, except maybe Rachel at Mount Street!

The image then has to be sent to Mount Street with the necessary information for the printing and envelopes and then we play the waiting game – it usually takes about 4 working days to get an invitations litho (flat) printed. This is being done in black on oyster card, nice and simple! Will take a photo of the final product when it arrives next week as well as a mock up envelope, if we have to do one.

P1060306Once the Jo Malone text was completed and moved off the desk I had to do something known to gym bunnies as ‘SuperSetting’ which is where you work 2 or 3 different muscle groups at the same time. In this instance it was to do both the Tiffany invitations (on the left) and Versace invitations (on the right), in tandem. I started with the Versace ones but ran out of invites so while the bike was on its way with more I did the Tiffany ones. Once dry they were proof ready by Sarah and 2 mistakes were found on the Tiffany ones which needed correcting and then left to dry. With both jobs completed I went back to the LBS certificates.

Last week I promised to take some photos of envelopes done in decorative copperplate, these are only partial ones as they have friends addresses on them. I would never use this kind of over the top envelope work for clients as the cost would be too high. I would think somewhere in the region of £5.50 (10 words) plus something like a £5.00 supplement for the decoration and hatching. Hope you enjoy them.


The day ended with us saying Bon Voyage to Sarah as she heads off to her home in Sicily for a week, to clean up all that volcanic ash. It is always a slough when Sarah goes off as we all need to double up on work but makes us realise how important all the members of studio are. I always tell them there is no way I would be able to run this business without them. In fact, some people are happy when Sarah answers the phone and not me! Temperamental Artisans! Huh! Speaking of which, we had a call from Javier at By Appointment Only Design to do some placement envelopes and escort cards. To which was added Placecards and then table numbers, all this after the original order of stationery arrived so more had to be sent. Javier’s work will be done this week (8th of Nov) as the stationery for the last minute additions (placecards and table numbers) have yet to arrive.  

Friday saw Keiko and Angelo working away on separate things. Keiko on LBS certificates and Angelo on his caps, moving back to Italic with ‘The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over The Lazy Dog’ – every letter of the alphabet is in that sentence!

Friday was also the celebration of Divali, so took a card to the wonderful guys at Roti Joupa. They are from Trinidad as well and the food they make is great.

I stayed back late on Friday to continue with the tidying up of the studio.

Will post a special weekend blog as I know some visitors (other calligrpahers) are keen to see how the studio is coming along.

Thanks for reading. Now back to the LBS Certificates.

Saturday 6 November 2010

Quiet Week?

Once again I am sitting here, on a Saturday wondering what happened last week. Sarah and I decided that it might be best to sit down at the end of the day, or even half way through the day, and then at the end, and write up what has happened. I could not think of a better way to waste time! That said, the photo archive does assist in figuring out what happened. It is unfortunate we can’t tell you everything that goes on due to confidentiality issues but slowly it will come out.

This was a sad week and mummy was heading back to Trinidad on Tuesday the 26th, after staying with Alistair and myself for almost 3 months. Both Ali and I were sad, as was everyone else in the  studio, they all grew to love mummy. What is there not to like!

The studio still looked like a bombsite as we waited patiently for the expandable foam to seal most of the cracks that let air in the studio, cold air I might add – it is October! The Twinwall (polycarbonate sheeting for insulation) is on order. Sarah is in her coat as it is so cold upstairs.

P1060292Last week ended with a job to do for Karen at Olympic print which ran over unto Monday. I was surprised to see that the cards were so small but there was another problem and that was the issue of the text being thermographed. This creates a raised surface which catches the nib as you are writing and causes it to skip, splashing ink on the invitation! So do be carful of what you do where calligraphers need to write. No envelopes were needed.

The week started off with a call from Simon and Christina at the Berkeley, needing a certificate for a fantastic idea they are launching. They wanted a STUNNING presentation certificate, and I had the perfect idea in keeping in true Berkeley/Claridges/Connaught style. The basis was a ‘Certificate of Marriage’ we did for Mark Niemierko but with twist. I decided that since an image of the Connaught Bar Logo was needed on the top, encapsulating it would be useful and unlike the ‘Marriage Certificate’ I wanted a sunk plate border here. I extended the embossed border to include the ribbon as well and not to allow the ribbon to leave the sunk area, well, raised in this instance.


We also had some sketches to do for two clients, who can’t be name. Needless to say, one wanted to see a sketch when I had the time and the other needed it in the afternoon of that day. It always surprises me that people think you can solve their problems with design, in a few minutes, as though you are just sitting there waiting on them to call, when they have been grappling with it for days, and in some cases weeks. Calligraphy design is not magic guys! It is hard bloody work! Not to mention, the ink needs to dry before we can scan it! Sigh! So no images unfortunately but if they both come to fruition I will put them up. They were charged for the work. The today for today was also charged the rush rate! Same day is double the fee.

While all of this was going on two things came to conclusion.

I had a lovely chat with Charlotte and Nathalie at Dior as their job was coming to an end. As promised, here is the envelope in our slanted quick script, in white ink on GFSmith Colourplan Ebony. The white is a a monoline pen sent to us by Masayo of the Sakura Pen company. The pen shocked us! It is delicate to write with, great ink flow and brilliant coverage over the black. I can only thank Masayo. They also sent some gold and silver pens for us to test and, like the white, we simply could not anticipate how well they would work.

We used the silver on a job for Antonia at SpecificMedia, another lovely client. She really took the time to talk with us to understand some of the issues with her job. We were asked to use a formal script on the invitations in silver, but as the silver print was thermographed (this is where glue and powders are used to print in), I could not match the plasticity and shine with calligraphy paint (gouache) as gouache is flat and not shiny. We used an upright quick script for the envelopes, this script is based on our formal italic and is almost half the price of the formal hand making it great for addressing the envelopes (higher word count) and the formal script on the invitations. Colour of the week seemed to be black. No image due to confidentiality!

Jessica Carder, who we work with a lot, in her capacity in Communications at Jo Malone, is getting married. I must say, I am probably only a little less excited than Jess! I was so happy to be able to produce something stunning for her and this week the Dark Grey envelopes finally arrived. Her invitations were in our Loose Modern Script supported by our Small Caps. All the stationery was printed at Mount Street Printers. Rachel at Mount Street and I debated on processes.

Jess loves our white on dark grey and was set on that, but I am quite keen to counterchange our colour matching (dark ink on light paper vs. light ink on dark paper), but there is also a hierarchy of stationery one has to conscious of. We decided on to die stamp in white ink on dark grey colourplan (GFSmith), 700gsm card with a sunk plate border. I have tried really hard to capture the raised lettering as well as the sunk plate. I have had to smudge some the RSVP info though will repost once the event has passed.

Little hodgepodge, sorry about that, the black is for Dior and the grey if for Jess.

P1060272P1060321 - smudge

P1060323 - smudgeJess Main InviteP1060324

These are Jess’ envelopes and the Dior job getting packed up by Sarah.


One of our other jobs came. Will try to document when we have to do stationery ourselves a little better. I did the text for this job last week and it arrived this week. beautiful menus in our ‘Upright Copperplate’ with names to be written at the top and table names to be done. All done for Kate Cella wedding.


Because I was using a ruling pen for the table names, we thought it would be interesting to post them being made. Have not posted a vid on here so this is test for me as well. If not you can find them at 

Here are Kate’s Table-Name Cards.


We had a call from the team at Liberty wanting some birthday cards done, for the year! There are close to 3000 of them. It is funny how these things happen. Valeria came to see us, she brought the cards, great to write on, thankfully! We were even willing to post them off but the additional bit need to be sent would take too much time for us unfortunately. Not to mention would have increased the cost of the job. Spoke with Veronika and Preets as well and in the end came up with a best price. I do want to take some time here explaining about large jobs. The turn around for that week was also quite tight, today for tomorrow. I have just re-read that, we did not do 3000 of them for the next day! We are doing about 300 a month.

If we have the same text to handwrite, there are no real economies of scale, we don’t write faster, it is not like printing. It is a shame, but that is the way it is so reducing the price based on volume can only ever be a slight reduction.


Very itchy eyes! I did try not the mix up the Bleedproof White with the eye-drops.

This week also saw me teaching Keiko some copperplate script and assisting Angelo with his studies in Roman Caps. Angelo has been with me for about 16months now and is progressing beautifully. We had some issues with his caps and I really had to think long and hard as to how to help him along. I decided to get him started on Roman Capitals – specifically pen written ones based on Imperial Caps. As all calligraphers know, not an easy thing. He has really enjoyed it but more importantly I has really helped. He is now moving back to the italic armed with the knowledge of Imperial Capital proportioning.

I promised Keiko to develop her copperplate and so this is the beginning of it.


I have some extensive copperplate study sheets and looking at Keiko work on these made me think I need to consolidate them, there are 10 years of copperplate instruction there, making me think it is time to pull my finger out and get that book done! Just not enough time in the day.

Thursday started with the arrival of the Twinwall! Thank goodness. This meant spending Friday pulling apart the upstairs and turning it upside down. I generally try to do any changes on a Friday so there is no disruption to Sarah, as she is not in on Fridays, but it is back to normal in time for her to start work on Monday! Needless to say, she was looking forward to a warm studio, so was I. Heating is not cheap! I cannot tell you how much I appreciated Angelo’s assistance here. Talk about experiencing the true side of being an apprentice.

The Twinwall was HUGE! 3.5 x 1m. Getting it upstairs was a chore.


The curtains have been here for about 4 years and kept the studio warm, but it also kept the place dark. Needless to say they all came down, again. I had to put them back up as it was starting to get too cold between the foam drying and the twinwall arriving. Angelo started cleaning the glass


Once cleaned we prepared to start cutting the sheets to fit into the panes of glass.

Thursday also saw the arrival of out new fandangle A3 Cannon IX4000 printer!


There he is awaiting connecting and installing. Angelo simply could not wait to play with this.

P1060233Alistair came by, in his usual wonderful way, as he always keeps an eye out for things that would be useful in the studio. He saw 4 large CD racks and promptly brought them over. 3 are in place already.

The week ended with a trip to the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology. The curator, Dr Stephen Quirke, is a very good friend of mine and was having a book launch. The museum has been moved around and it is a fantastic space. The artefacts are accessible. If you get a chance please go!

Sarah, her wonderful husband, Michael and myself went along. Nice to have a day out. Something I have been planning for the team. The ‘Book of the Dead’ exhibition is opening soon at the British Museum so an outing will be planned! Who doesn’t love Egyptian Hieroglyphs! I also saw some work I have at the Petrie museum which I completely forgot about – this is a terrible image if it though. It is 2.5m tall. Below is Stephen and Jan Picton (introducing him, not that he needed introduction!)


I walked home in the pouring rain.

P1060254I came in on the weekend, both Saturday and Sunday, and did much tidying up, sweeping and mopping. The studio is almost there! Almost how I want it, well until we add something new to them mix. I made up a little table for our stationery department this desk will only be used for stationery we produce, shelves to store samples and will NOT be a desk to just rest things on, right"! The desk is on the right and now turned to fit the space. Will take some images of the studio as it is now and put it in the next blog.