I’ve always loved Shakespeare. I was that weird kid at school that couldn’t wait for English class, so I could hear the magical sonnets and witty word play, and I would watch Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson sparring in Much Ado About Nothing at the weekend’s for fun.
I studied English at University and strategically chose my modules to include as many Shakespeare classes as possible. To this day I really wish I hadn’t listened to my tutor who said I shouldn’t focus my dissertation on Shakespeare as I’d find it too enjoyable and easy and therefore get a poor mark. Ha I ended up doing it on The Canterbury Tales which I still haven’t read and as such got my worst mark of my whole degree! BUT that’s a story for another day!
April 23rd is Shakespeare Day – we love you Will! To celebrate Viking Direct kindly invited me to a celebratory evening filled with sonnet writing, calligraphy learning and lute listening. I BLOODY LOVED IT!
The event was held at the Bull and Gate pub in Kentish Town, which used to be a proper dump iconic music venue back in the day. It’s had a right old facelift and has a beautiful function room and private upstairs are, complete with wood panelling, shelves full of books and comfy leather arm chairs. i.e – PERFECT FOR A SHAKESPEARE DAY EVENT!
After settling in with some prosecco, a delicious feast, and a good catch up with some friends, we were split into groups ready to get our Shakespeare on! I started off with some sonnet writing, which was so much fun!
Sonnets are famously known for their distinctive iambic pentameter rhythm, rhyming and being 14 lines long. However – we discovered this isn’t actually always true of all sonnets. Shakespeare wrote many sonnets, and also flowed iambic pentameter verse throughout his plays, making them so melodic and pleasing to listen to.
We group wrote a good few sonnets – taking the old school party game of “write a line and pass it on” – and I have to say we ended up with some brilliant sonnets! Well, you’d hope a bunch of bloggers could write, right?!
We then headed over to learn some calligraphy – which I have ALWAYS wanted to try!
It’s actually pretty tricky to get your writing to look even remotely pretty the first time you give calligraphy a go. That being said, after just half an hour of trying, I found I had improved A LOT. Keep practising and it will become easier (and prettier!)
Don’t jump straight in with trying to write joined up. Get a handle on how the quill forms each of the letters individually and then add in the connections. Eventually you’ll be able to flow the quill from letter to letter with beautiful joined up cursive from the off.
It’s really easy to overload your quill, which will make it harder to get clearly distinguished lines and depth to your letters. It’s a fine line – as too much and you’ll have a fat mess, use too little and you’ll have scratchy jagged letters. Again – just practice, and see what works and what doesn’t with the size of your writing, and amount of pressure you apply.
At first I was just copying the amazing template we were given to show how calligraphy letters should look to make sure I had the “fat” bits in the right place (ohhhh if only it was that easy with my body!!)
However, I soon learnt that this comes naturally, if you apply pressure as you draw downward strokes with the quill. This makes the quill separate, and the gaps in the quill nib move apart so more ink flows through, resulting in the thicker lines.
My first attempts looked more like comic sans than sophisticated scripture, and that’s because I was using big, rounded letters. For classic calligraphy, you want to keep your letters fairly small and narrow, focused on an up-and-down motion, rather than wide side-to-side strokes.
It was so much fun to learn about calligraphy skills, and I also found it super relaxing! I definitely improved quite a lot even in the 30 minutes that we were practising and I’m really excited to keep developing my skills – especially as the babes at Viking gave me a beautiful writing set to use at home. Move over colouring book – there’s a new mindfulness activity in town!
Thanks so much to Viking for inviting me to such a lovely evening to celebrate my main man William Shakespeare! Expect my blog posts to be written in calligraphy then photographed and uploaded from now on….
Have you tried calligraphy? Do you have any other tips to help me improve?
I live in Brixton in London. I eat out far too much, am always planning my next trip and have a borderline unhealthy obsession with Harry Potter.