Welcome to the very first post in my Meet the Calligrapher series! This is one of my favorite parts of this new blog, and I can’t wait for you to hear all the great stuff your fellow calligraphers have been sharing with me about themselves.
To start this series off, I answered my own questions, which felt a little weird, but I hope you enjoy it nonetheless. As you already know, my name is Heather McKelvey, and I’m currently from Birmingham, Alabama, having grown up in several southern states in the US. You can follow me at several instagram accounts: @kallialitheia, @heatherkatedesigns, and @pearls.and.a.ballcap, and I have way too many websites. This one is my favorite. Without further ado, let’s launch into the interview with yours truly.
What type of calligraphy/lettering do you do?
I love letters in any form. I mainly do pointed pen calligraphy, both Copperplate and modern styles, but I also do brush calligraphy (especially when taking notes in school) and lettering on non-paper surfaces. Believe it or not, I actually knit script letters into dishrags, embroider them onto fabric, and I’ve created a font. I’m telling you—BRING ME ALL THE LETTERS.
How long have you been doing calligraphy?
I began learning calligraphy in September 2015.
How did you get started? What brought you to calligraphy?
I saw a random video on Facebook where I could actually see the pointed pen nib at work. I figured if there was a pen that could make both thick and thin lines without having to turn it funny like a broad-edge nib I might be able to learn how to use it. I went that day and bought the (wrong) supplies. Fortunately, one of my friends who is a calligrapher saw my mistake and directed me to the supplies I should use.
How did you learn calligraphy?
My first calligraphy education was through the video tutorials that Erica McPhee provides through The Flourish Forum. I found her resources to be immensely helpful, and I appreciated her worksheets to practice on.
Then I began to follow Lindsey Bugbee at The Postman’s Knock. I still love her emails and resources. I purchased several of her font worksheet packs and used them to learn calligraphy in a more modern way.
I also checked out books from the library, like Molly Super Thorpe’s Modern Calligraphy, but it was kind of a downer having to take them back. I soon learned that calligraphy books are ones you want to purchase and hang on to forever. I have since added a small handful to my collection.
Are you kidding me? My natural handwriting is complete chicken scratch. In fact, handwriting is the only class I ever made a B in growing up. My family used to joke with me that I had doctor’s handwriting. Well, because of calligraphy, THIS doctor will have beautiful handwriting.
How would you classify your calligraphy?
My “gap-year” full-time business. For medical students, the gap year is the year between college graduation and the start of medical school. Not everyone has this, but I am fortunate to have a year between my premed post-baccalaureate work and the start of med school. I am working Kallialitheia full-time until next summer.
What is your favorite type of calligraphy work to do?
Practice. Seriously. I just love drawing the same thing over and over until it’s as close to perfect as possible. Aside from that, I like making practice worksheets for other calligraphers to use. It’s the perfect blend of calligraphy and graphic design that meets my need for variety.
What calligraphy or lettering organizations are you a member of?
The Birmingham Calligraphy Guild
Besides the basics, what is one supply/tool you can’t live without?
My Artograph Lightpad.
Honestly, I can’t live without several things: my comfy cush I sit on, the parafilm that keeps my ink from evaporating, and my magnetic stirrer for when I’m working with metallic inks. Completely hooked on these things.
Does calligraphy have any special meaning or purpose to you? Describe this.
Yes! I find calligraphy to be a unique opportunity to slow down. There is no use in getting in a hurry when you’re doing calligraphy, because it has detrimental results in your outcome. I use calligraphy as a means to rest my soul. Doing repetitive strokes allows my mind to clear and just focus on the one task at hand; and writing out specific words or passages of scripture provides an avenue for me to focus on the goodness of the Lord and on principles found in His word. I love to put on worship music when I do calligraphy and write phrases from the songs. I find that this helps to quiet my heart and allow me to just be still.
What is your favorite script/style to write?
I mainly prefer my relaxed version of Copperplate. I have a really difficult time deciding how I want to do my capitals, though, so they sometimes end up being sort of a mix between fonts.
It depends on what mood I’m in and what look I want. Lately I’m having some relationship issues with my favorite nibs. Gillott’s 303 has always been my favorite in terms of flexibility and difference between thicks and thins, but it’s not always dependably a good nib. If I’m shaky at all or doing flourishing, I usually gravitate toward the Zebra G, but if I’m wanting the more polished look, I opt for a Hunt 101 or a Leonardt Principal.
Moon palace sumi. It’s just so easy. But walnut! And PearlEx! and Watercolor! Oh my!
Favorite Practice Paper
Canson Pro Layout Marker Paper
What are you learning now?
What is your favorite quote or scripture?
I think I have two. Psalm 37:4: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” And Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Have you ever had any calligraphy disasters you would be willing to share?
Fortunately, I have never totally ruined any client work, but I did have one thing I will never forget. One time I kept noticing this really bad smell any time I was at my calligraphy desk. Over a few days it just kept getting worse and worse. I thought a small animal had crawled behind my desk and died—that’s how bad it smelled. I had looked behind the desk and all around and couldn’t find anything, and I finally decided something had gotten in the wall somehow and got trapped and died.
I even got my husband on board to help me figure out what to do about the situation. Before he had time to explore too much, one day I opened a little supply box I kept on my desk, and the smell nearly knocked me down. There was a ROTTEN POTATO in the box.
Calligraphers often use a potato to clean their nibs, because the acid in the potato eats away the factory coating on them and also does a nice job of getting off any ink build-up. I had always appreciated the usefulness of the potato, but I learned my lesson to keep it within plain sight from now on.
I do my calligraphy in my office, which is the front room of my house. I guess it’s supposed to be like a formal living room? Formal shmormal. I have a really long and really low desk my husband helped me build that was originally built to be a sewing desk for me. He’s 6’4” and calls it a preschool desk.
It’s long enough to house my computer (and hence my web design business) on one side and my calligraphy workstation on the other side. I also have a really amazing writing desk I found in my mother-in-law’s garage that sits on top of a desk like a podium. My husband built me a stand for it so I can stand up and work when my back hurts from sitting.
It has all these little cubbies to store calligraphy supplies and plentiful room for paper and other tools. It’s the best calligraphy thing ever.
I also have a piano, guitar and amp and a couch in my office, because it triples as the music studio as well. We get maximum use out of this room!
Oh–always music. Usually jazz or instrumental worship music or even straight-up classical. Eight O’ Clock Colombian Peaks Coffee, scrub pants and a t-shirt, flip-flops, messy bun, and sometimes a candle burning or essential oils diffusing.
Top 5 Movies
- You’ve Got Mail
- Steel Magnolias
- The Sandlot
- Home Alone
- National Treasure
Studying (medicine and Spanish), playing the piano, knitting, crochet, and any random craft or skill I come across. (The most recent would be handmaking paper and embroidery.) I have an insatiable appetite for new crafts.
Do you have a personal story or advice you would like to share?
If you have a dream in your heart to do something, don’t give up on it. The time is now.
And that wraps up our first calligrapher interview! If I weren’t interviewing myself, I’d be thanking the calligrapher for the interview right here. Lol. I have a growing list of calligraphers to showcase in the coming weeks, so check back every Friday for a new introduction!