What makes writing nice

Writing beautifully: calligraphy and lettering are making a comeback

It seems effortless and elegant how Natascha Safarik directs the pen across the paper. A few loops, arcs and lines later, the calligrapher added playful RONDO lettering in the classic "Copperplate" font.

Now it's my turn. After a few introductions and warm-up exercises, I try to imitate the expert. The slight scratching of the pen on the paper scares me off at first, but it's not a problem, Safarik assures.

The nib, which is placed at an angle on the holder, makes it difficult for me to write in a straight line. Then I should also make sure that the line width is wide for downward movements and fine for upward movements. This is achieved through different pressures. At the same time, I am advised to pay attention to parallel lines.

For a complete beginner, all of this is cognitively challenging. You can see that in the result: My letters are shaky and unclean, line width variations and proportions don't look very harmonious, and the RONDO lettering sticks diagonally to the edge of the sheet. So if you really want to write beautifully, you have to practice.

And more and more people are doing that. What began a few years ago with the trend towards hand lettering - drawing letters, see glossary - has now grown into a veritable calligraphy boom.

Instagram has 14 million entries for #hand lettering and ten million for #calligraphy. In times of increasing digitalization, analog activities are gaining importance again. Young and old enjoy the balance of writing texts by hand instead of quickly tapping the keys.

Natascha Safarik also confirms that calligraphy is growing in popularity. Under the pseudonym "Ink Fox", she offers document lettering for corporate customers and event calligraphy workshops and online seminars on the subject. She has also written two books on calligraphy. The sales of their publications are increasing and their services are well booked.

Continuing trends

The trade has also adapted to the increased demand. Johanna Strutzenberger, head of the arts and crafts department at the Thalia branch in Linz-Landstrasse, gives the topic plenty of space: it can now fill two meters of the shelf wall with the ever-expanding range of calligraphy books.

In addition, she regularly curates relevant goods on presentation tables in her department. Calligraphy and hand lettering were both in demand. Brushpens (see glossary), pastel colors for watercolor paper and metallic tones for black paper are particularly trendy at the moment, explains Strutzenberger.

The customers of the Viennese stationery store Miller are mainly interested in classic writing implements such as high-quality fountain pens and ballpoint pens.

But the company, which was founded in 1866, is also responding to the current zeitgeist: "We have been observing a trend towards vintage and retro design for some time. Classic calligraphy has also become increasingly important in our range over the years. Young people speak especially our inks in a wide variety of colors or even with glitter and shimmer, as well as classic fountain pens and ballpoint pens in colorful and modern designs, "says Georg Mosler, who is the fifth generation to run the family business.

Paper and pen

Even if calligraphy has been cultivated in many cultural circles for centuries, and handwriting has meanwhile disappeared from the curriculum as a school subject, the artistic approach to handwriting has by no means set in dust. Young people are also increasingly turning to pen and paper.

Georg Mosler, for example, talks about his 14-year-old daughter, a typical teenage girl who communicates with her peers via smartphone and social media, but at the same time cultivates an intensive pen friendship and places great emphasis on high-quality paper, stylish design and a noble typeface lays.

In his business, too, Mosler notices that it is primarily a younger and female clientele who are enthusiastic about handwriting. At the Libro paper and writing supplies chain, it is also mainly young women who inquire about the goods in question. Johanna Strutzenberger from Thalia is also observing an increase in the number of young customers.

Enjoyment of writing

Octopus Natascha Safarik speaks of two groups of people who take their calligraphy courses. On the one hand, there are creative people between the ages of 20 and 25, and on the other, older people who still want to learn something new. There is no gender parity in either of the two groups: there is one man for every 14 women, says Safarik.

The great interest of young people in calligraphy may come as a surprise, given the numerous prophecies of doom that children can no longer write by hand these days. Paul Kimberger, Federal Chairman of the Compulsory School Teachers Union, cannot confirm this thesis.

Rather, he perceives a bandwidth of three years difference in the development of the first graders: "Some are well prepared for school, some not at all - not only cognitively but also motorically. That the children learn handwriting in school is just as important like physical education. "

If they were confronted with the topic in a positive way from the beginning of school, they would develop joy in writing. "I don't know any child who is not proud of beautiful handwriting," says Kimberger.

More elegant handwriting

Calligrapher Natascha Safarik receives many inquiries about improving handwriting, but only a few take a corresponding course. Most prefer to invest the 170 euros in one of Safarik's full-day calligraphy workshops. There are some tricks with which you can easily embellish your own handwriting. "Show me! What do we work with here?" Safarik asks, grabs my notepad and analyzes my handwriting. "Oh well," is their verdict.

But of course you can still work on it. For example, she would make the connecting lines between the letters taper more so that there is more space between them. This would make the font look more elegant. The same applies to more pronounced ascenders and descenders. I should write the loops more evenly and the initial letters larger so that they can be distinguished from the lowercase letters.

Did the intensive study of calligraphy improve your own handwriting? No, says Safarik, that is not the case because there are different automatic movement mechanisms. The speed of writing plays an important role: "Only when I write slowly does it become calligraphy. Above a certain speed, I automatically write in my personal handwriting."

According to Natascha Safarik, it is difficult to say how long it takes to get good calligraphy skills. It depends on how much time and energy you invest. In principle, however, anyone can learn calligraphy. Practice makes perfect, and so the participants in the octopus workshops are allowed to take a pen, pen and ink home with them so that they can continue writing.

Pimp my pen

Anyone who would like to continue dealing with the topic after immersing themselves in the world of calligraphy will soon find themselves in a seemingly endless range of writing implements. "To start with, a simple penholder with a steel nib is enough. In addition, a nice quality ink and high-quality paper," recommends Georg Mosler of the Miller stationery store for beginners.

The width of the nib should be chosen according to personal preferences and the size of the handwriting. Frank Derlien, head of nib production at Montblanc, confirms this: "If a customer writes very small, I would suggest medium, fine or extra-fine, otherwise the writing can no longer be read". The Hamburg company offers its customers nibs in eight different widths, all made of 14 or 18 carat gold.

These are more durable than steel springs because the material is not attacked by the ink. This is how Montblanc springs last for generations. "This is not a mere assertion, I can confirm that from a technician's point of view. What I personally find so great, especially for beginners, is that you can write without getting tired with a high-quality fountain pen," says Derlien.

Personalized

The nibs can be personalized to make writing even easier. Bespoke Nib is the name of the offer that can be used in 30 Montblanc boutiques, including in Vienna: The customer writes a short text and the speed, rotation, forces and swivel angle are measured. The data and customer requests are sent to Hamburg, and an individualized spring is manufactured on the basis of this.

For advanced lovers of writing culture, there are hardly any upper limits in nib tuning. Derlien and his team also fulfill extravagant customer requests. For example, the expert has already developed a feather brush made of fine gold hairs, a superfine nib that writes like a needle, or has equipped a nib with precious stones without the running ink taking away the sparkle of the stones.

Personally, the beginner's utensils from Inkfox Natascha Safarik are enough for me for now. Until I can afford expensive custom-made products, I would have to save a long time anyway. In the meantime I can hone my calligraphy technique, practice lines, arcs and loops. Maybe one day it will work with a nice RONDO lettering. (Michael Steingruber, RONDO, September 6, 2020)

Continue reading:

How handwriting makes us smarter

GLOSSARY

calligraphy
The art of beautiful writing. The letters are written neatly and beautifully in one go. If this does not happen with pen and ink, but with a brush pen (see below), it is called brush lettering.

Hand lettering
Drawing letters. You don't write the letters in one go, but keep tinkering until you are satisfied. It's more of a painting than writing.

Flourishing / flourishes
Embellishments and extensions of the letters.

feathers
Ball point nib
has a spherical attachment at the tip, known from the classic fountain pen.
Pointed pen Pointed spring, the legs of which open when pressed. This allows the line thickness to be varied. Suitable for fonts like copperplate.
Tension spring spring with a wide edge. Line width variations result from the different directions when writing. Suitable for fonts like Fraktur.
Redisfeder has a circular attachment at the top. Suitable for monolinear fonts.
Brushpen pens with a brush-like tip, the technique is similar to that of the pointed nib.

Penholder
Just for left-handers or straight fonts e.g. B. Block letters.
Oblique (slanted) for right-handers or slanted fonts, e.g. B. Copperplate.

paper
Paper with a smooth, closed surface is best, e.g. B. marker paper, as well as satined watercolor paper.