Last summer, when I moved to Vermont, I brought with me my totally functional but not in any way beautiful writing desk. I had cobbled it together in Boston with some extra bits lying around and it had worked. The key feature was the inset light table that angled up towards me so I didn’t have to lean over the table, but that also folded down flush when I wanted a regular surface.
With my new job at Yestermorrow Design/Build School I got to take a woodworking class where we designed and built our own tables. I decided this was a great opportunity to make the desk into something I was proud of and that was not only useful but also beautiful. I redesigned some parts of it, emphasizing the fact that the first design is rarely the best.
After a week of learning new techniques on white oak, I completed my new desk. This was a major shift from screwing a couple of boards together to actual wood joinery and craft.
After leaving Boston in June, moving to Vermont, settling into a new house (read: fixing broken things, organizing, upgrading) Katie and I are finally at a point where we can get back into the Art/Calligraphy world.
We have a great new studio for calligraphy and sewing, as well as a much larger studio for Katie’s installation and large paper works. She has spent the month at Vermont Studio Center where her only requirement was to make art. She explored new ideas and refined old ones. She’ll be returning home on Friday hopefully with a fresh wave of creativity and momentum for the new year.
While Katie is in the studio this winter, I’ll be ramping up the calligraphy business to service Vermont weddings this spring and summer. I’ve been connecting with other local vendors and have gotten an overwhelmingly positive response. It’s great to come back to my home state and find it just the way I left it.
After a lot of searching and hemming, hawing, and general indecisiveness, I decided to buy myself a new fountain pen. Aside from calligraphy pens, I have a bit of a thing for nice fountain pens. I’ve had my eye on a Pilot (Namiki) Vanishing Point for a long time and decided to look a little bit more seriously over the past few weeks. The Vanishing Point is a pen that works like a ballpoint, in that the nib is retractable. This is about the only pen in its price range that does this, and makes things like taking notes much easier. The pen is designed upside down, so the clip is at the end you write with so if you clip it to your pocket, ink doesn’t dribble out into your shirt.
After it arrived in the mail, I decided I wanted to make a pen box for some of my nicer pens, as I’ve gathered a fairly good collection of fountain pens over the years. Instead of building a fresh box, which would require a lot more tools and know-how than I have, I decided to upcycle an old jewelry box to have a nice wooden interior. The box is a clam shell design and had lots of pink!
I tore out all of the interior bits, cut pieces of wood to fit snugly into the top and bottom, made small strips to glue on as pen separators, polyurethaned it, and put it all together. It was a pretty simple process, but I like the way it turned out. There will be a day when I make a more appropriate pen box, but for now it was a fun project and serves my needs.
When writing in copperplate and spencerian styles, the nib needs to be held at a fairly steep angle to make the letters at the right angle. In order to do this, pens are designed with a straight holder and an angled nib, called oblique. I do most of my writing with this type of pen and I have 2 different versions of it. Back when penmanship was more common, nib holders like this were fairly common, but now only a few manufacturers make them. As a very amateur woodworker I thought it would be fun to try to make myself a pen in this style and see how it came out. The style I was trying for was a replica of a Master Penman’s pen, a Magnusson. The image below is a proper Mangusson.
I don’t have a lathe, but I decided to get creative and made the pen by using my battery drill, dremel tool, chop saw, table saw, and lots of sandpaper.
I cut the grip section roughly to width, then the long thin section roughly to width, then roughed it out with the dremel sander. I left 1/2 inch at the top (where the nib would go) as a piece to go into the drill chuck, which I cut down to a 1/4″ square. From here, I just put the pen on the drill, turned, turned, turned, turned, etc until I had the shape that I wanted. It took about an hour of spinning, but it ended up turning out great!
After completing the wooden section, I carefully drilled out a hole in the center and cut a long slit down the side to insert the brass nib holder. With a piece of flat brass plate, I fashioned a nib holder and cut it to the proper angle and slid it down into the pen.
I was recently commissioned to design another tattoo for someone. She had roughly designed it to say “Until I find Serenity” but in a very abstract way. She had the basic look of the tattoo worked out, but wanted it written in a more uniform, dynamic way. I took a few stabs at it and ended up with this:
I was asked to write out a poem for a good friend of mine whose father recently passed away. The poem holds very true to the character, and was an apt choice. I chose to do the title in Spencerian and the poem in copperplate.