Christmas is almost here and I thought I would compile a gift guide for the calligrapher in your life. These are all fun gifts which are designed to please pointed pen enthusiasts of all skill levels.
(This blog post may or may not be an elaborate hint for my significant other for Christmas!)
1. A fancy oblique holder
What is a calligrapher without nib, ink and holder? While nib and ink can be very personal to the user and difficult to get right, an extra holder is always welcome for any calligrapher and easily adjusted to fit their grip. While some may have a preference depending on the size of their hands, usually a holder is one size fits all. Brian from UniqueObliques make gorgeous vintage style holders, Christopher from YokePenCompany makes unique modern style holders, both sellers can make them custom. If your budget is a little lower, you can get a range of ready-made pens here.
2. Nib and paper samplers
While nibs and paper are indeed quite personal to a calligrapher, it doesn’t hurt to get them a bunch more just in case they haven’t tried all of them yet. It is quite welcome to have a variety of nibs lying around for practice, as some nibs can be pricey and one may not want to go out of their way to order and try them. I wouldn’t have known some of my favorite nibs if friends did not send me their extras to try. The key is to buy from a retailer who are in the know, like these copperplate samplers or these samplers. These retailers cater specifically to calligraphers so you can be sure they are all recommended by other calligraphers and not just for show.
You can’t go wrong with a pretty inkwell! It is always nice to have something lovely to dip your pen in, and a beautiful porcelain inkwell is just so much nicer to use compared to a boring plastic jar with labels all over it. It really does not matter what kind you buy as long as the mouth of the inkwell is at least one inch in diameter, to admit the holder. You can look for lovely inkwells to match the personality of your recipient, as they make all kinds, many of them collectibles. Personally I absolutely love my McCaffery’s metal inkwell, though the Dinky Dips are very popular with calligraphers.
4. Desk Accessories
In the same vein, you can also consider desk accessories such as penholders, desk blotters, sealing wax and stamp, letter openers, anything that you think a fancy person would want on their desk. Many of these things aren’t necessary… but it is just nice to have a lovely rocker blotter on a desk in case you need something to dry quicker, or a sturdy pen stand that won’t topple over or my favorite: wax seals and stamps! Your average calligrapher may also be an avid letter writer and it is always a nice touch to seal a letter with old timey sealing wax and personalized stamp. Of course, you can get a really fancy stamp with your recipient’s personal coat of arms or something, or you can just get one with a stock design. The important part, I feel, is the actual sealing wax. There are different types, modern ones can be really convenient but glue gun seals? Cmon! I’m a little old fashioned so I like my sealing wax to be traditional and high quality, or else the seal breaks in transit (I’ve received letters which are covered in dust particles of what remains of the seal) or worse, the color dulls into something like plastic or glue gun remains.
5. Books and Magazines
Sure, many books and journals about calligraphy are old and in the public domain and available for free on the Internet, but how many people are gonna sit there and squint at all the little letters or print out agazillion pages of a book? Copybooks are cheap and very useful for a budding penman, and of course study is as important as practice when it comes to calligraphy. This book is a must for a beginner Spencerian script enthusiast, and this one is practically a Bible for ornamental penmanship. For more casual reading, these are great for ooh and aahing, and for inspiration, any instructional or portfolio books are great gifts for artists.
6. Fountain Pens
Using a fountain pen is not quite the same experience for a calligrapher, but it sure beats using a Bic ballpoint pen to jot down a grocery list. It would be nice to have a decent pen for whenever they can’t whip out a dip nib and bottle of ink (ie: most times). There is of course the expensive side of fountain pens like Mont Blancs and Nakayas if you’re like a rich person, but it is also possible to find beautiful and utilitarian fountain pens for every day use. Out of my collection, I enjoy Lamy for its sturdiness and reliability and the Namiki Falcon for its delicacy and soft nib. If your recipient is a beginner in fountain pens, you may want to consider a packaged set.
7. Other fun stuff
While it is nice to receive useful and practical things, I always feel that gifts should be fun above all. Otherwise it’s just like giving a housewife a mop or vacuum. The following are more light hearted gift ideas, any of which would be welcome in a calligrapher’s studio. Script cushions, art prints, apparel, calendars or even jewelry.
Happy shopping! And remember it’s the thought that counts.
(And Ken, thanks for reading but I really will just be happy with a giftcard to Sephora or Pier1Imports)