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A Little Q + A with Kelle McCarter from designsgirl

New for 2010 and recently unveiled at the National Stationery Show, we are excited to introduce two new calligraphy fonts exclusive to Smock! Calligrapher Kelle McCarter of designsgirl is the talent behind our new Bescal font, a playful modern lettering style that we feature on our 2010 National Stationery Show invitations. Kelle hand lettered each of the characters in our new font, which we developed with an internationally recognized typography firm. All of our calligraphy fonts (now four in total!) are available with no additional calligraphy fee when you order stationery from Smock. Visit one of our awesome Smock dealers to see samples!

Today we are thrilled to be welcoming Kelle to our blog for a little Q + A session. Thanks, Kelle!

{Our new Bescal calligraphy font featured on our 2010 NSS invitation.}

How did you become interested in calligraphy?
I have always been enamored with beautiful writing. I remember vividly the day I became excited about learning calligraphy. I saw a logo of “Bell ‘Occhio”, a San Francisco ship, in a book. It was designed with a pointed pen illustration and whimsical lettering and it was magically captivating to me. This is when I knew I wanted to be a calligrapher.

What tools does one need to start learning calligraphy?
You need to find a good teacher (through a local calligraphy guild) or good instructional books such as The Zanerian Manual of Alphabets and Engrossing for Copperplate style lettering or for a more modern instructional guide, I like Lisa Engelbrecht’s Modern Mark Making. Then you will know what nibs inks, and papers are best for the type of calligraphy you want to learn.

What was the process like for designing a font for Smock?
I love typography and to have my calligraphy made into a font for Smock was thrilling. The key to this work, which was done over several months, was to not worry about the results and to be free with my strokes so that the personality and the movement of the style would be preserved.

What do you think makes calligraphy so special?
Everyone loves the beauty of a hand lettered envelope or invitation. For those whose budget does not allow for calligraphy services, the calligraphy font is a fine alternative…True calligraphy is where pen and ink meet paper and there is no substitute for this artistic, textural and organic element. It is one of the most special details of a wedding; just ask any bride who has heard the oohs and aahs from those receiving a hand lettered wedding invitation in the mail.

What was the first calligraphy style you learned?
I spent months with my first teacher, Laurie Doctor, learning monoline lettering, the simplest form of lettering with no thick or thin lines, to gain a foundation for developing the basic strokes of each letter. At this time, I did not even know how to put ink on my nib.

Are you right or left handed?
I am a left handed calligrapher which presents some challenges in calligraphy because most oblique pen holders and broad edged nibs are made for right handers. But an artist and fellow calligrapher recently hand carved a left-handed oblique penholder out of African Blackwood for me that I am learning to use.

What is a normal workday like for you?

Since I work from my home studio, I must establish a regimented schedule. I handle client correspondence in the morning and then work in my studio until lunchtime. Our two Golden Retrievers, Garner and Gibson, are always by my side at my desk and can often be found with splatters of ink on their noses. They are very good assistants. I break for lunch, maybe hike with our “girls” and then resume projects in the afternoon. I usually end my work before dinner. If I did not set limits on my workday, I would be in my studio around the clock. I reserve time in the evening for practice and experimentation.

Other than invitations, envelopes and place cards, what other fun things do people have hand lettered?
Wedding vows are a popular anniversary gift that I am asked to do. I love doing calligraphy for custom rubber stamps and one of my favorite projects was creating forty “I Love You” note cards for a client to place in her husband’s suitcase when he traveled. My goal is to be the first to do custom calligraphy for golf balls. The idea comes from my father who was a PGA Tour professional and he was the first to have his signature imprinted on a Titleist golf ball.

What is your favorite letter in the alphabet to calligraphy?
It is the capital “D”. There is a rhythm to this stroke that is like a waltz- one and two and three and four. It is done with only one stroke and ends with a beautiful swirl that tucks into the vertical stem of the “D”.

If you could be any fictional character, who would you be and why?
It must be Super Woman for her ability to fly, have daily adventures, right wrongs and save the world.

What do you look to for inspiration?
This is the most exciting aspect of my work and my designsgirl business. I awake and fall asleep filled with ideas of what I want to create and calligraphy styles I want to develop and I love incorporating my calligraphy into embroidery and journaling projects. The inspiration is everywhere, particularly from fashion designer sketches and illustrations, textile patterns, flowers, architecture, typography, interior design, paintings, magazine and books.

What is your favorite book of all time?

This like asking to name my favorite child; impossible. For classic literature, The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. For artistic creativity and uniqueness, Century Girl: 100 Years in the Life of Doris Eaton Travis, Last Living Star of the Ziegfeld Follies by Lauren Redniss.

How long have you been doing calligraphy professionally?
I started designsgirl officially when I married and moved to Denver four years ago. It has been a dream of a lifetime.

You are very accomplished on the golf course. How many hours do you get to spend on a course a week now that you have designsgirl?
My husband began playing golf when we married, just for my sake, but now he is an avid golfer. We practice three to four hours each week and play about once a week at the Country Club at Castle Pines, where we live.