For the latest instalment of our Meet the Maker series, we chat to the creative Jessamin Foster from Jessamin Loves Calligraphy. What caught our eye was Jessamin's effortless flowing and bouncy calligraphy style and her wonderful shaped calligraphy creations, so we wanted to find out more about how she developed her beautiful style.
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hi, my name is Jessamin Foster and I live in Chichester in the south of England. Since I was a child I have loved drawing and colouring, so my collection of pens and stationery has been a long-standing passion. I also loved to practice my handwriting and bubble writing as a child, which I can now see as the very beginning of my lettering journey!
How did you begin your lettering journey?
I began doing calligraphy without really knowing it during my A levels to make my revision notes look a bit more appealing. I googled a photo of a calligraphy alphabet and copied the letters using a gel pen. My friends began to comment on my work and I was even asked to do place cards for a friend’s wedding, which I did entirely through faux calligraphy - I had never heard of a brush pen or nib pen at that point!
Another friend then gave me my first nib pen set for my birthday in September 2019 and I took a beginner's class at The Modern Calligraphy Co. and was hooked from there! I discovered brush pens last February and, more recently, paintbrush, watercolours and digital lettering.
What are your favourite tools to work with?
I use a variety of different tools for my lettering, but I do have a few favourites. I frequently use an oblique pen holder with a Hunt 101 nib for modern calligraphy and Copperplate using Coliro Finetec paints or Dr. PH Martin’s iridescent inks - I love metallics! I also love brush pens, such as the Pentel Brush Sign pens for smaller pieces and Tombow ABT Dual-Brush pens for larger pieces.
I recently started using the Cricut Explore Air 2 to create personalised items using Procreate to create digital calligraphy, which I have loved learning how to use.
How did you develop your beautiful bouncy calligraphy style?
My style has developed over time, as it originally was very rigid. Once I learnt to think of modern calligraphy more as an art form than handwriting, I was able to ditch the ruler and lined paper and just go where the words and letters felt right.
I love how letters can merge into each other to fit like a puzzle and this is why my lettering now appears very bouncy, as it enables me to fit the words together perfectly. In the beginning, I focused a lot on drills for bouncing letters, deliberately trying to stretch the limits of word formation, and I think that created a good foundation for my style today.
You've shared some beautiful shaped calligraphy (calligrams) on your social. What's your process for fitting lettering to a shape?
I love making calligrams - they are definitely my favourite pieces to create. To prepare, I write or type out the text I want to shape and highlight any key words. I then start by drawing an outline of the shape, usually by tracing a photo using my light box. Next, I fill the shape with the text, making key words bigger and paying close attention to ensuring all the edges are covered, as this is how the shape will be recognisable. After I have filled it once, I go through and check that the space is filled as much as possible by knitting the letters together. Once I’ve checked it all fits, I trace my first draft, omitting the outline and use this as my template to create the final piece. It’s quite a long process but I always find the results to be worth it!
What advice would you give to beginners just starting in lettering?
I would say to just try lots of different styles and tools to see what works best for you. When I first started using different equipment, I loved using the nib pen but couldn’t get on with brush pens. After coming back to them later on I enjoyed using them much more. So if something doesn’t work at the time - whether it be a style or tool - you can always leave it and come back to it another time, just don’t give up!
I’d also say that the great thing about lettering is that you can have your own unique style. Don’t get too caught up on comparing your work to others, but definitely use platforms like Instagram to find inspiration!
Can you share a few of your favourite projects with us?
As I’ve mentioned, some of my favourite pieces are calligrams. I tried to challenge myself with some more complex silhouettes, starting with Elphaba from the musical Wicked and Mary Poppins. Both were made from lyrics from the respective shows and I was very pleased with how they turned out!
I recently had a tutorial and piece published in the Modern Calligraphy and Lettering Magazine, based on a lettered photograph. I was so honoured and excited to see my own work in print and loved having the opportunity to share my passion with others.
I also reached 1000 followers on Instagram in March and made a piece to celebrate that milestone. I was particularly happy with that piece and the quote and sentiment meant a lot to me. It was great to see the contrast of how far my lettering had come since I began calligraphy and my account. I loved the blended colours on the key words and how the words fitted together just made me happy!