How to Work with a Calligrapher

If you have never worked with a calligrapher before, you may have a lot of questions about what they can do, how they work and what to expect when you hire one.

Characteristics of (most) professional calligraphers include:

  • They work out of home studios, which generally contain voluminous amounts of books, magazines, and newsletters related to the art of fine lettering, penmanship, illumination, gilding, drawing, bookbinding, painting, collage, printing, and pretty much anything having to do with paper.
  • They collect beautiful papers, pens, writing instruments, inks, and paints, and will write with just about any tool or medium they can find.
  • They belong to local guilds as well as national organizations such as IAMPETH (International Association of Master Penman, Engrossers, and Teachers of Handwriting). They also belong to Facebook groups where they find inspiration and advice from calligraphers around the world.
  • They attend annual conferences to train with nationally- and internationally-renowned teachers and network with other calligraphers. They never stop taking classes and workshops to improve their art.

How do calligraphers charge for their work?

Calligrapher may charge by:

  • The line
  • Per envelope or place card
  • The writing style (called “hands”)
  • The number of hours to complete a job

Some charge additional fees for:

  • Lined envelopes
  • Poor paper quality or having to work on letterpress paper which is tedious to write on
  • Ink colors other than black, or metallic inks
  • International addresses
  • Centering addresses on envelopes
  • Unusual layouts
  • Embellishments such as flourishing, watercolor illustrations, and drawings
  • Having to work from handwritten lists or poorly-prepared lists

Below are some hints and tips to help you and your calligrapher be on the same page:

  • Book your calligrapher as early as possible. The better ones usually book up several months in advance. You can find them through your local calligraphy guild, or ask for referrals from local stationers, wedding consultants, or reception sites. Most calligraphers have web sites where you can review their samples and pricing online, and request a quote.
  • Please remember that calligraphy is an art form, and generally labor intensive. Sometimes there may be issues with the sizing or texture of the paper, or matching the ink color just right.
  • You don’t have to limit yourself to local calligraphers. You can find many talented ones in other cities or states. Most calligraphers who have web sites are used to working with long distance brides. Just schedule in an extra few weeks for mailing back and forth, if possible, so you aren’t having to pay for overnight shipping.
  • Request a photo of a sample from the calligrapher so that you both can be sure of the ink color, calligraphy style and layout.
  • Ask your calligrapher to let you know ASAP if they encounter any issues with the paper you’ve chosen, which might slow down the process or cost extra to deal with.
  • Try to schedule your envelope addressing due date to allow a week or two for stuffing and stamping. If there are errors on the envelopes you will then have time to have them corrected so that the envelopes can go out on time.
  • Ask your calligrapher what format your address list should be in. If you have inner envelopes, be sure to include the inner envelope information with the addresses so the calligrapher doesn’t have to spend time discerning this information from your addresses. Try not to provide a handwritten list, but if you must make sure it is written neatly in both upper- and lowercase letters and numbered. All abbreviations should be spelled out.
  • If you are able to deliver your envelopes to the calligrapher earlier than scheduled, don’t assume that the calligrapher will be starting your job immediately! They may have other clients that are scheduled ahead of you that they need to finish first.
  • Agree on what date they will start and finish your job. But calling or emailing your calligrapher every other day to ask how it’s going is not particularly conducive to getting the job done faster!
  • When you receive your addressed envelopes or place cards from the calligrapher, leave behind extra envelopes or cards in case of errors.
  • Proofread everything as soon as possible to ensure that all is correct. Make note of all errors or changes, and present this list to your calligrapher all at one time, if possible.
  • If you have double envelopes (outer and inner) to address, some calligraphers address all the outers then all the inners separately. Others address the outer and inner together at one time. If you have a lot of envelopes and want to schedule pick up times before the final due date, ask your calligrapher if this is okay ahead of time.
  • Don’t forget to send yourself an invitation! It will make a great keepsake, and will let you know when your guests will be receiving their invitations in the mail.



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