Washington, D.C.—A wedding client asked me to paint little Lithuanian flags on her wine bottle table cards. It's amazing how a little bit of color (especially when dispatching some Finetec gold) can add the right touch to an already whimsical piece.
Annapolis, MD — Last June, Tina Byland of What's Up? publications in Annapolis contacted me to do onsite calligraphy at historic St. John's College. The campus was chosen as the site for their Fall weddings issue. Playing with the classroom theme, Tina requested a few romantic literary quotes to be lettered on the chalkboard. I hadn't touched a chalkboard since 8th grade math, but I figured with a sketch in hand, how different could chalk be from a calligraphy pen or marker.
Indeed it's very different. New chalk pieces come in cylindrical shapes and are more challenging to produce the fine lines and dramatic shades associated with script calligraphy. After doing a little research, I set out to sharpen new chalk pieces with an X-acto knife and a pencil sharpener, while watching The Flight of the Conchords. I worked out a few different sketches and felt ready to wing it.
The next day I met Tina, her adorable son Max, and her photographer Tony Lewis. We walked over to the historic McDowell Hall to see the classroom and my chalkboard. The building itself was beautiful, lots of natural wood, large windows, and brass classroom numbers on the doors. We discussed the game plan and Tina and Tony left me to do my thing.
Overall, I had a lot of fun doing the chalkboard. I saw it as being very similar to the envelopes that I do where I fill in all the negative space of the paper surface. In fact, it was the perfect training. Doing all those envelopes helped me strike the right balance between the words (which among themselves required equal visual weight) and the leftover space for flourishing. I was well aware that the flourishes should enhance, and not dominate the overall piece. After a while, I got the hang of drawing in the letters to achieve those thicks that the chalk couldn't create in one stroke. Adding highlights of color also helped to flesh out the letters and give them dimension. After doing the big guy, the little chalkboards seemed like no big deal.
Special thanks go to Tina, Tony, and especially Gregory Shook from St. John's College, who referred me to Tina. I look forward to seeing the final photos of the shoot.
Raleigh, N.C. — I finished a commission of calligraphing menus and place cards for a client's Mediterranean-inspired dinner party. She sent me beautiful photographs of the pieces in situ at the dinner table. The hand-done menus and cards were greatly enhanced by Wylde's stunning floral accents and arrangements.
Since my brother was one of the guests of the party, I made a gag menu for him. Having grown up watching a lot of movies from the 1980's, the menu contained references to Revenge of the Nerds (a salad made from jock straps dressed in liquid heat) and one of our personal favorites, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (a boa with baby eels, broth of eyeballs, and chilled monkey's brain).
Washington, D.C. — I recently finished up a small wedding suite which included 26 invitations, with accompanying RSVP cards and envelopes. The invitation design included a monogram with the motif of clarinet (the groom) and percussion mallet (the bride), illustrated and produced each time by hand.
To add a bit of specialness to the invitations, I created custom-made Pearl Ex ink to complement their wedding colors of blue and white hydrangeas. With a vase of blue hydrangeas before me, I made several attempts at mixing light violets, blues, and micropearl Pearl Ex pigments to achieve the hydrangea ink. When I held the paper up to the light and the ink gave off a nice subtle sheen of periwinkle, I knew I finally got the right balance.
I don't know what it was, but I really enjoyed the Frankenstein-ish aspect of this process. It was very gratifying experimenting with different hues to create an entirely new color. It reminded me of trying to make new Crayola colors by overlaying one crayon color on top of the other, which usually didn't turn out as well on paper as it did in the mind.
Washington, D.C. — I was just about to photograph a set of handmade wedding invitations, when along came Frances to review my work. She's the resident QC'er at Handmade Letters. It's her job to hold me to the highest standards—I think I got away easy this time.
My client graciously shared her beautiful photos of my place cards in situ at Alice's birthday dinner.
Photos courtesy of Leslie dela Vega