Friday 31 March 2017

Modern Country Loves: China Jack Mosaics

One of my greatest loves is beautiful Modern Country Crafts: traditional rural craftiness given a delicious contemporary twist. And, in my Modern Country world, they don't come better than China Jack mosaics. Take a look at this utterly original splashback:

Do you remember China Jack were featured here on Modern Country Style almost seven years ago? I still get questions about those posts (see here and here).... 

Farrow and Ball White Tie Blue Gray

The designer and maker of my gorgeous Union Jack mosaic, Emily Lawlor (do names get any more English than that?!), has expanded her repertoire to include these stunning mosaic birds, so I thought it was about time we caught up with what's been happening since we last connected and, for those of you who are new here, to get to know the lovely Emily a little better....

Emily graduated with a First Class BA Hons from the Public Art and Design degree at Chelsea Art College in 1994.  She specialised in ceramics and mosaics at Chelsea and has worked on public art commissions in hospitals, schools and libraries in London, the South East and Manchester. Emily now works from her Cotswolds studio, creating exquisite China Jack mosaics

I had the chance to ask Emily a few questions and this is what she told me...

What has inspired you recently?
I have recently recovered from a stint in hospital and to say thank you to all the staff on the ward, I designed a card with a swallow bearing a ‘Thank you’ message in its beak. When I came out of hospital I started to think about birds carrying messages and started to work on some ideas for mosaic birds that could carry a message - say it with birds. I have a love of words so enjoyed playing with ideas for all the messages that the birds could carry. 

alfred meakin

And what are you currently working on?
Birds with Words is a unique gift idea to celebrate life events.  Each mosaic is individually crafted with vintage china and mosaic glass, delivered in a lidded presentation box with a hand stamped label bearing your chosen message. You can choose from 12 messages available including greetings such as ‘Happy Birthday to a Rare Bird’ and “I’m Sorry I Ruffled Your Feathers’.  Each bird measures approx 14 cm in length.

Birds with Words Green

What materials do you use?
The birds are backed with birchwood ply and consist of vintage china sourced from flea markets, car boot sales and auction rooms and porcelain mosaics. The mosaics create beautiful handmade artworks for the home that fuse pattern and colour – each one completely unique. 

It's hard to put into words just how breath-taking Emily's work is. The attention to detail, the quality of each tile cut, the calibre of the china used, all make each and every China Jack piece stand out from anything you've seen, whether its something from her website or something entirely bespoke....

I am the very proud owner of two China Jack pieces and they are some of my favourite things in the world. I never tire of staring at them, taking in every inch of their glory. 


Complete Modern Country heaven!

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Thursday 30 March 2017

The Complete Book Of Chalk Lettering: Book Review

Finally, my letter-loving lovelies, a slightly different take on the idea of Modern Calligraphy: Chalk Lettering. And where better to start than the last of the books I have to share with you: The Complete Book Of Chalk Lettering by Valerie McKeehan (published by Workman).

The Complete Book of Chalk Lettering

The author has her own Etsy shop, after she transformed an old picture frame into her own bespoke chalkboard and was completely hit by the creative bug. The Complete Book Of Chalk Lettering takes you through the entire experience from the basic letterforms in the first section.... eye-catching fonts, flourishes and borders in the second section called Taking Your Designs To The Next Level...

The Complete Book of Chalk Lettering: Create and Develop Your Own Style: Valerie McKeehan: 9780761186113: Books:

...and then in Putting It All Together, Valerie McKeehan shares some her favourite (and very gorgeous) projects....

The Complete Book of Chalk Lettering: Create and Develop Your Own Style: Valerie McKeehan: 9780761186113: Books:

It's definitely worth saying that, although the techniques look beautiful in chalk, there's also plenty of scope for carrying the ideas through to any kind of hand lettering ideas that you have.

There is a cool fold-out chalkboard in the back cover, complete with instructions on how to get the very most from using it, which is a lovely creative touch.

Complete Book of Chalk Lettering, The: Valerie McKeehan: 9780761186113: Books:

But this isn't book of gimmicks, no, siree: solid yet inspiring advice fills every single page - and at 172 pages, this is a delightfully chunky tome.

If hand-lettering is your thang, The Complete Book Of Chalk Lettering should find its place in your home...and heart. 

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Thursday 23 March 2017

Modern Calligraphy: Bouncy Lettering!

So, now you've got the books (have you? If not, I'd HIGHLY recommend buying Nib and Ink right this second), have you got cracking with Modern Calligraphy? Don't be discouraged at your starter efforts, it does take a little while for things to come together. 

At this stage, there are no shortcuts, no wave of my magic wand that I can give you. It really is just a matter of practice, practice, practice, and of finding lots of good examples (I found paper examples more useful than online) to copy once you've got the letter formations under your belt. But I honestly found the practising such a joyful process. Seeing myself get better at a brand new skill was, not to sound too much of a cliche, so life-enhancing and joy-giving.

So, once you're wanting to give a little more oomph to your beautiful new Modern Calligraphy, here is one simple tip to considerably up your game....

Have you ever noticed that much of the professional-looking Modern Calligraphy swoops sometimes gracefully, sometimes jauntily, up and down. I tried out different ways of doing this for ages, never quite happy with the results and it was so hard to track down the name of what I was actually trying to learn so that I could google how to do it!! Finally I found it....Take a look at this example from Every Tuesday:

done in love

I love that quote....
See how those letters flow?
Anyway, here I am, hopefully sparing you the heartache of searching it yourself....

It's called Bounce Lettering! 

I found two awesome sites that break down exactly how to make this skill your own....

The first is Lyssarts Handlettering, which advises:

think about the whole space,
offset tall and short lettering,
make your letters closer together.

To see the whole article (which explains it so much better than I ever could!), click here!


The second is from Kiley In Kentucky. This site looks at three separate ways to zhuzh up your Modern Calligraphy but its the bounce lettering tutorial that's the BEST I've seen....

These two tutorials have s helped me so much in my pursuit of the perfect Modern Calligraphy...and I hope they help you too!

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Monday 13 March 2017

Nib and Ink: AWESOME Book Review!

Let's take a look at one of my favourite Modern Calligraphy books: Nib and Ink (published by Peguin RandomHouse). I cannot even explain how much I love this book! I totally credit the author Chiara Perano with teaching me the basics of Modern Calligraphy and then some! If you want to learn Modern Calligraphy for yourselves, to stop playing along bit by bit, drooling on Pinterest, and actually learn how to do it for real from an expert, then Nib And Ink is the one to get.

This is the Modern Calligraphy book that I devoured from beginning to end. And I have filled in every bit of blank space!! Really!! Each page has oodles of my writing!

Nib And Ink is split into four outstanding sections...Chiara Perano starts off at the very beginning, taking you through the materials needed, and then starting you off on how to make the marks on the page....

Then, we move onto Letters....

...where we learn how to form each and every letter, the Capitals and the littlies, one by one, slowly and thoroughly. Please don't skip this part. It's only by forming those letters over and over again that your hands will gain the muscle memory they need, and your body will understand the new movements required to form Modern Calligraphy letters properly.

 {Now, a side note: if you go to Amazon and read the reviews, you might be put off but DON'T BE!! The reviewers complain that this book is taken up with a lot of empty pages but this could not be further from the truth. Those parts have a very real and essential function

Yes, there is plenty of room for practice alongside the expert guidance but, honestly, I've found its the practice that is absolutely the best way to learn: to have the example of beautifully formed letters right there and to have a legitimate excuse to scrawl next to it on, gasp, the actual page, rather than having to get a notebook each time you're struck with inspiration!! I've written all over my copy from beginning to end and I LOVE it!! It serves as a written record of my very steep learning curve.}

Next, joy of joys, Chiara Perano lets us move onto Words!! We learn how to link those letters together in strings. This is where the magic really starts. You'll find yourself amazed at that awesome moment when everything comes together and you find yourself producing what could almost pass as Modern Calligraphy itself!!

And, finally, Projects! Woohoooo
This is where you can actually start putting your new skills to good use and bombard all your friends and family with cards and letters!
{They'll love it!}

To all my Modern Calligraphy-loving cuties, if this is something you're serious about getting better at, do yourself a BIG favour and buy Nib and Ink right now!

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Thursday 9 March 2017

Creative Lettering And Beyond: Book Review've decided that you want to learn more about lettering?
Next question: where do you start? There are so many routes to take, so many of areas of expertise to follow, so many skills to learn. It can be pretty overwhelming, am I right? What we all need is a book that touches briefly but thoroughly on a whole host of those different options and, whaddaya know, I have just the thing!!...May I introduce Creative Lettering and Beyond by Gabri J. Kirkendall (published by Walter Foster Publishing, £12.99).

This book will help you see the wood for the trees. Creative Lettering And Beyond teaches four quite distinct writing skills: Modern Calligraphy, Illustrated Lettering, Chalk Lettering and Lettering Crafts. It's got rave reviews on Amazon and I can totally see why: it's BEAUTIFULLY presented, full of great ideas and good advice.

Throughout each chapter, four different authors take you firmly by the hand and then lead you gently, knowledgeably, through the maze of new skills.

Lets' start with Modern Calligraphy.....this was already a definite in my mind and Creative Lettering and Beyond confirmed without doubt that this was a skill I most definitely wanted to learn. The author Laura Lavender (and who wouldn't want to be called Laura Lavender?!) does well at emphasising that, whilst Modern Calligraphy is based on traditional calligraphic fonts, the aim is to find your own unique style. She calls her own style Modern Vintage, which is a little different from the look you might have come to expect from seeing other Modern Calligraphy. Laura Lavender has given it her own special twist.

The Illustrated Lettering chapter takes those incredible images of inspiring quotes in beautiful scripts that you must have seen on Pinterest and breaks them down into simple, achievable chunks. 

creative lettering and beyond - how to illustrate lettering:

Each of the chapters actually gives a slightly different take on 'traditional' Modern Calligraphy, so don't stop reading at chapter one!

The Chalk Lettering chapter will get you reaching for tools to create your own blackboard before you reach the end of the first page. So many possibilities!! And the best bit? You'll feel as though the gorgeous examples are in your reach!

Image result for creative lettering and beyond

And, lastly, Lettering Crafts, brings it all together, giving lots more examples of each craft to make every part of your life beautiful!

Reading Creative Lettering And Beyond left me sure of precisely the skills that I wanted to begin learning, whilst also being able to put aside other areas that appealed to me less. After finishing, I was ready to get going......

So guess where we'll be heading here on Modern Country Style....?

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Wednesday 1 March 2017

Absolute Beginner's Guide To Modern Calligraphy: YouTube Resources

Let's kick of this li'l series on The Absolute Beginner's Guide To Modern Calligraphy by looking at some of my most-used teaching resources. There are lots of books and videos floating out there at the moment, so I've scoured through LOTS on of the information out there on your behalf and picked out for the very best, that I've found invaluable along the way to help me learn.

There's also a couple of YouTube videos that I want to show you. Please bear in mind that some of the best YouTube videos are sometimes overlooked because they're not professionally look past the background noise and the lack of gimmicks or finesse and focus on the content! 

This first video was the one that made me start to think that Modern Calligraphy was something I could get the hang of, and certainly taught me that you could learn to fake it till you make it (for the record, not nearly as satisfying as the real thing but a lot less effort)! It really gets going from about the four minute mark.... 

The second video is the one that really gave me the kick to start for myself. It made me think, not only this is something I can actually do, but also that Modern Calligraphy would be a hobby that I'd LOVE!

Take a look....

So, now we've established that Modern Calligraphy is a totally achievable skill, let me give a little caution. This is not a skill that you can just magic up with a couple of glances at Pinterest. IT does take time, and learning from people who've trod the path before you is the best, and most enjoyable way to learn, as they beckon you happily forward.

With that in mind, I'll be shortly sharing some of my favourite books and tools that I hope will completely inspire you to get cracking with Modern Calligraphy!....

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