Getting out of London for a ruling pen calligraphy workshop run by Rachel Yallop and Michael Clark, in the most wondrous UK setting of Cradley, near the Malvern Hills, was the perfect excuse for a little family weekend getaway this October.
Even though I would be spending the majority of the weekend at the workshop, I still got to breathe the fresh air, spend some quiet time overlooking two horses with my daughter at our accommodation, The Ash, and have some lovely evening chill-out time with the fam and a friend somewhere far away from our London lounge room.
The course was held in Cradley Village Hall, a centuries-old building with all the charm needed for a group of 12 calligraphers.
Of course, being a relative newcomer to calligraphy, I felt a little out of my depth surrounded by such fantastic talent. However, armed with Paula Comparini’s ruling pens, and charmed by Michael’s gentle yet passionate will to teach what he has learned, I kept my humour and wielded my weapon as best I could.
Ruling pen example styles
When I say I was surrounded by fantastic talent, I’m not joking. My friends for the weekend were churning out inspiring, thoughtful and thought provoking pieces, mixing media and styles deftly. I have included some examples here with the artists’ permission. As you can see, ruling pen applications are so diverse and unique as each person using it, and is a stark contrast against the regimented consistency of more formal scripts.
What happens a ruling pen calligraphy workshop?
This ain’t Vegas, so I’m here to spill the beans. Imagine tea, ink, paper. Did I mention tea? And amazing locally supplied lunches. Over the course of the two days, Michael and Rachel guided us through ruling pen calligraphy demonstrations as a starting point but predominantly gave us plenty of time to experiment as they travelled around the room, patiently listening to our concepts and giving advice.
Day 1 focused on experimenting with the pens and seeing the range strokes you could create with them just by alterning which side you used or the angle it was on. We later moved into trying to capture the essence of words like ‘angry’ and ‘gentle’, using the ruling pen to reflect its meaning.
On day 2, our task was to work with a quote of our choice, developing not just layout but a design that, again, captured its meaning. It was impressive to see how my fellow calligraphers adapted their quotes to suit their style using different colour inks, strokes and textures.
Michael brought with him from the US two of his books filled with original ruling pen calligraphy designs from his commercial work that showed exactly how they looked on paper before it went digital. It was an invaluable resource to be able to see what was involved in his process. I admired the fact that he comes from a self taught, often uncoventional background, which he is proud of, defends and supports in others.
I could tell how prepared both Rachel and Michael were for this workshop, but they made it look effortless. I understand how much work goes into to teaching other people, and I appreciate that these two talented artists take that time to teach. I certainly felt very much the baby artist of the crew, but armed with a new folding pen from Tim Leigh, new skills and empowering messages from Michael, I’m excited about continuing to develop my calligraphic and lettering style.
Order your copy of Rachel and Michael’s ruling pen book
If you missed Rachel and Michael’s workshop, you still have the opportunity to buy their latest book collaboration, Thinking Outside the Box. The cost for UK shoppers is £14 (inc. postage).