Friday, March 25, 2016

If You're Going to Write a Letter, Why Not Make It Special?

As noted in a previous post, master penman Michael Sull encourages us to make our writing special (a near quote), in particular, when writing letters -- actual letters.  I have attempted to compile a list of how the average person (with some exceptions) might do that.  I make no claims of originality.  In fact, I have provided links and references for many of the ideas below.  [Addendum:  As further evidence of my non-originality, I am confident that I am repeating some of Mr. Sull's suggestions.]

Brian Goulet, co-founder of the Goulet Pen Company, refers to the interdependence of pen, ink, and paper.  That is a useful organizational scheme.  To it, I add writing itself and a couple of extras.


1.  If writing with a fountain pen (assumed, of course), use a special nib, for example, stub, italic, or flex (see Steven Brown).    

2.  If you’re feeling especially exotic, use a dip pen with a steel nib.  The nib can be non-flexible or flexible.  If flexible, you might also try an oblique pen holder (see Joseph Vitolo’s videos and the IAMPETH website).

1.1 mm nibs from the Goulet Pen Co. (Ashland, VA, USA) and the Edison Pen Co. (Milan, OH, USA)


3.  Black ink can look good, but try one of the hundreds of other colors that are available.  In addition, try an ink that shades or a specialty ink, such as the Diamine shimmertastic colors.

Noodler's Baystate Blue (Massachusetts, USA)


4.  Use some fancy stationery, which doesn’t have to be all that fancy, just nicer than loose leaf notebook paper or printer paper.  Make sure it is fountain pen friendly.

5.  Use something unexpected as stationery, such as the back of scrapbook paper (based on a trick from an old artist friend).

Neenah's Southworth paper (Neenah, WI, USA)


6.  Brush up on your cursive handwriting, assuming you learned it in the first place (see an interview with Michael Sull; Sull & Sull, 2010/2011, American Cursive Handwriting).

7.  If you’re especially invested, work on something like calligraphy, Spencerian script, or copperplate.  These will require special training and special pens (see item #2), but you can also just goof around (see the IAMPETH website; Rebecka Hathaway; Carter Sams).

Sull and Sull's cursive handwriting system (Gardner, KS, USA)


8.   Include sketches in your letters.  Van Gogh did it, right?  Your letters then become borderline journal entries/sketchbook work (on journals/sketchbooks, see Price, 1999, How to Make a Journal of Your Life).

9.  Use wax and a seal to close or at least to mark your envelopes (see Brian Goulet).  

J. Herbin's handle and seal (Paris, France) and Atelier Gargoyle's sealing wax (Half Moon Bay, CA, USA) 

Other ideas?

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Up Close and Personal (aka the yin and yang of loupes)

Fountain pen enthusiasts like Staples office supply stores for their Sustainable Earth writing pads and their Black n' Red notebooks.  The former are regarded as fountain pen friendly (I agree) and the latter seem that way, too, in my limited experience.  Recently, I discovered another reason to like Staples:  Its illuminated loupe.

Loupes (magnifying glasses) are useful for checking out fountain pens, for example, to make sure the tines are aligned.  I bought my first loupe at a science and hobby store.  It doesn't have a light and I'm not sure about the magnification, but it looks identical to a low-tier loupe that Steven Brown discusses.  In contrast, the Insten loupe, available at Staples, magnifies 40 times (so it says), it has an LED light, and it costs only $7.69!  Amazing!   If you're looking for a loupe, I think this is an excellent start.