Friday, 23 September 2011

The ZIG Interview: Calligrapher Jane Farr

Love calligraphy or want to get started?  We've caught up with Calligrapher extraordinaire, Jane Farr, to ask her all about the tricks of the trade....

Jane demonstrating Calligraphy at Macy's

Hi Jane, tell us a little bit about yourself....

I was born and raised in Indiana and am a graduate of Purdue University. I live in the Indianapolis area with my wonderful husband of 26 years.  We have a daughter and a son, both who attend Purdue University.  I am a professional calligrapher working out of my home studio. I do all types of calligraphy - broad edge, pointed pen, brush, etc., although most of my work is done for weddings. Initially, calligraphy was just a hobby. My family and I owned and operated a business that sold traffic signal equipment. In 2002, after twenty years in business, we sold the company. I've been practicing calligraphy more seriously since then.

At what age did you become interested in lettering?
I remember passing notes with my friends in middle school. There was a period when we all tried to get rather inventive with our handwriting and especially creative with our signatures. Although it would be twenty years before I truly became interested in calligraphy, I think that is my first recollection of enjoying lettering.

Calligraphy with ZIG Journal & Title

How did you get into Calligraphy, did you study it professionally?
I came to calligraphy via rubberstamping.  In the  mid 90's, I was really into making greeting cards with rubberstamps. I couldn't always find a rubberstamp that said what I wanted to say, and my handwriting was horrible.  In the fall of 1997, I saw my local parks department was offering a beginning calligraphy course, I registered. I loved it, and I was hooked. Unfortunately, my everyday handwriting is still pretty terrible.

ZIG Calligraphy Metallics - amazing on black card!

You do lots of different styles of calligraphy, which would be the best for a beginner to start out with?
Aside from monoline alphabets, I think a beginner would best benefit from first learning the Foundational alphabet. One of the basic shapes of Foundational is a circle, which is easy to understand and visualize.  Foundational is a minuscule, or lower case, alphabet.

Jane creates beautiful flourishes with different ZIG Memory System pens

What’s been your favourite project so far?
Creating custom wedding certificates are my favorite commissions.  Learning about the bride and groom and finding a way to incorporate their unique qualities into a document that will be treasured for a lifetime are very gratifying to me.  

Whats your creation and design process?
It depends. If it is a commission and the client has very specific criteria, then I start with those elements first.  If I am creating a noncommissioned piece, then I usually start by choosing the text.  I think of a style, or styles, of lettering that expresses the content, and I begin sketching rough layout ideas. I put my layouts aside for a few hours or a day. I will then go back with a fresh eye and choose one, or I sometimes combine part of one with part of another. I then create a rough draft, working out nib size, spacing, and any problem areas. Sometimes it takes several rough drafts before I am ready to do the final piece. For large pieces, I will often make two or three final drafts.  I then choose the best version.  Knowing I will have several drafts from which to choose helps me relax mentally.  I am less tense as I work, and my lettering flows better.  The bonus is I get to keep the other drafts for future reference.

Lettering with ZIG Vellum Writer

What inspires you?
The written word - mostly scripture, but also thought provoking quotes and poetry. I am also inspired by calligraphers from around the world. Even though I cannot always translate or fully understand the text, I can appreciate the skill and quality of the lettering.

What do you enjoy most about being a calligrapher?
I enjoy the process of learning new things and trying to master them.  There's always more to learn!

ZIG Calligraphy Metallics

What’s your favourite Kuretake ZIG pen,  and why?
Do I have to choose?!! Truly, it's like asking a chef to choose their favorite knife. It depends on what I'm trying to accomplish.

For traditional broad edged lettering: ZIG Calligraphy
For brush lettering: ZIG Clean Color Real Brush
For tackling a big stack of envelopes for birthday cards: ZIG Journal & Title
For working on dark envelopes: ZIG Calligraphy Metallic Colours
For adding sparkle to off-hand flourishing: ZIG Wink of Stella
For intricate design work, Zentangles or Leaf Script: ZIG Millennium

I rely on ZIG pens, because I know I can trust them to give me good color and consistent form.  

How do ZIG pens come into your work?
I use ZIG Calligraphy pens quite a bit for the volunteer work I do for the Ronald McDonald House and area churches.  I have even used ZIG pens for envelope jobs. They are also great for demonstrating calligraphy at community events, such as making free bookmarks for people with their names on them. ZIG Calligraphy pens are excellent for teaching beginners. They are also wonderful for practice. ZIG pens are very portable, and I can practice in a waiting room or during a long car trip. 

Lettering with ZIG Clean Color Real Brush

I love looking at your wedding blog, it must be wonderful to be a part of so many happy couples special day.
I love working with brides, grooms, and their families.  I often work with the brides and/or their mothers for the invitations, but many times it is the father-of-the-bride that will come to pick up the calligraphy pieces for the reception. Time is short and they are often given the last minute courier duties. I find the father-of-the-brides endearing, and I enjoy hearing their perspective on all the wedding festivities.

What are the current trends in Calligraphy, do they change frequently?
Currently, pointed pen and script alphabets seem more popular than broad edge alphabets and not just for wedding clients. Trends do change, especially color combinations for wedding work. Lately, I have had many inquiries for white ink on tan or kraft envelopes and also gray ink on yellow envelopes. Last year it was olive green, and before that was chocolate. Plum also had its day.  However, black ink is still far and away my most requested color. Black is classic elegance.

Calligraphy with ZIG Journal & Title

Are you currently working on anything you can tell us about?
I am currently working on three different projects. One is a poem for an anniversary gift, the second is a passage of scripture for a birthday gift, and the last is a cafe chair for a charity silent auction.  Lettering on a chair is a first for me!

I’m learning to write Calligraphy and sometimes I’m concentrating so hard on the shape of the letters I spell a word completely wrong! Do these little mistakes ever happen to you? How do you cope if you make an error half way through a large piece of work?
I'm so happy to know you're studying and practicing calligraphy! Aaah. It sounds as though Titivillus, the patron demon of scribes, has paid you a visit.  Actually, it is quite common for calligraphers to make spelling errors for the very reason you mention.  Correcting mistakes is part of the process, and it is important to learn how to do it.  That is another reason why finding good one-on-one instruction is so important. Some mistakes cannot be corrected, and you must do the piece over again.  In those instances, it is a blessing to have prepared more than one final draft.

Question from our Twitter follower @Laudascrap...
Do you have any advice for left handed calligraphers?
Yes! Gaynor Goffe is a calligrapher from the UK, and she is well respected the world over.  She is one of many amazing, left-handed calligraphers.  You can find her notes on this very subject here:

Which other Calligraphers work do you admire?
Too many to mention them all, but I greatly admire Sheila Waters, John Stevens, and Luca Barcelona for always keeping their work first and foremost about well constructed letters.

Anything else you’d like to add?
I would encourage your readers interested in calligraphy to find a guild or society near them.  The lettering arts community is one of the most giving and sharing communities you will find. Don't deny yourself the joy of creating beautiful letters!

A huge thank you to Jane for talking to us!  You can follow Jane's Calligraphy blog here, and her Wedding Calligraphy blog here!

For more info about ZIG Calligraphy pens take a look at our Tips & Techniques blog post or visit our website

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