Angela Reed from Creative Calligraphy. Photo by Corrina Atkinson Photography
If you want to learn the basics of calligraphy or master a new script, there's nothing quite like taking part in an expert-led workshop. For the latest instalment in our Meet the Maker series, we caught up with South Shields-based expert, Angela Reed, to learn more about her story, how she started her company, Creative Calligraphy, and what you can expect from Angela's workshops.
Could you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Angela Reed and I live in South Shields with my husband and two children. I’ve always loved writing, drawing and playing around with pens, but my love of calligraphy comes from my art teacher at secondary school, who introduced me to it when I was about 12. It combined my two favourite subjects at the time – art and English – and I was hooked!
Angela teaching calligraphy. Photo by Corrina Atkinson Photography
How did you begin your calligraphy journey?
My calligraphy journey started with a lunchtime calligraphy club at school, and I remember my first commission was writing my mam’s friend’s wedding invitations. I got a huge Take That poster in return!
I didn’t practice as much in my late teens and early 20s, while I studied for exams and started work, but when my friends started getting married, my skills were called upon once again for things like invitations, envelopes and place cards. This is when the idea of setting up a calligraphy business came about, although it was a good few years before anything came of it.
All the tools laid out for a workshop. Photo by Gavin Forster Wedding Photography
Can you tell us a little bit about how you started your company, Creative Calligraphy, and how you got into teaching calligraphy?
I launched Creative Calligraphy in May 2014, four months after taking voluntary redundancy from my previous role as a local newspaper reporter. The idea had been simmering away at the back of my mind and this gave me the kick I needed to explore it further.
I was given fantastic start-up advice and support from TEDCO and North East BIC and was able to access the New Enterprise Allowance scheme. I thought it would be mostly commission-based – calligraphy for weddings, special occasions, gifts, etc – and I certainly had no intention of teaching it! Then I was approached by the Cultural Spring to run some workshops in South Shields in 2015, which gave me the confidence to branch out elsewhere.
Angela demonstrates calligraphy to students. Photo by Corrina Atkinson Photography
What can someone expect from one of your workshops?
I like to think my workshops are quite friendly, relaxed affairs and a gentle introduction to ‘the art of beautiful writing’. I teach several traditional calligraphy styles, such as Foundational Hand, Italic, Uncial, Gothic and Copperplate, so if they enjoy one, they can try another. I try to offer a mix of workshops across my regular venues.
The ticket price includes a starter kit, so everyone has the tools and materials they need to take home and continue practising. The worksheets are pretty self-explanatory, so there’ll be a mix of group and individual demonstrations and self-led exercises. The aim is that by the end of session (usually about three hours) they’ll have a good grounding in that particular style of calligraphy. I have a dedicated Facebook group for people who have attended my workshops, so they can share their work, tips and advice and encourage each other.
Students learning in one of Angela's workshops. Photo by Corrina Atkinson Photography
As well as my one-off workshops, I also have two weekly classes in South Shields, who meet on a termly basis of about eight weeks. Most of the participants originally came together via the Cultural Spring classes, so they’ve been together for a few years now. We spend a term looking at a particular calligraphy script and working towards a final piece or group project.
What are your favourite tools to work with and what are your favourite styles of calligraphy?
When I started the business, I joined a calligraphy class run by Susan Moor, who is chairperson of the Northumbrian Scribes, in South Shields, and learned several scripts that were totally new to me. One of these was Copperplate, and I fell in love straight away. So, I would have to say that my favourite style is Copperplate.
Angela puts her Copperplate skills to use. Photo by Gavin Forster Wedding Photography
My go-to tools for Copperplate are my handmade ergonomic acrylic holder from English Pen Crafts, a Nikko G nib, Higgins Eternal or Walker’s Copperplate Ink and a blank Rhodia pad. I really enjoy writing with a pointed nib and it’s something I’ve developed more recently via The European Pointed Pen Collective.
Can you share a few of your favourite projects with us?
The journalist in me loves the story behind every single commission I’ve had the pleasure of working on, and I’m fortunate to have worked with organisations such as the Cultural Spring and Shipley Art Gallery to run workshops and share my love of calligraphy.
Angela's piece for the Pages of the Sea. Photo by Darran Moore Photography
In 2018, I took part in the Pages of the Sea event to mark the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, writing lines from the commemorative poem in the sand on the beach at Redcar. I’ve also had a hand in several successful marriage proposals! One involved six handwritten notes being sent via post to a woman in Newcastle – with no mention of who they were from – ahead of her boyfriend (now husband) visiting from the USA to ask for her hand in marriage.
Where can people follow you for more inspiration?
I have a website - www.creative-calligraphy.co.uk - and I try to upload to the blog there at least once a month. There's lots of advice and information on there if you look through the blog archive!