Tools - Focus On Penholders
I am sure I am not the only one to have a pot (or pots) full to the brim of penholders on my desk - I mean does anyone just have one?! Surely not. As a calligrapher and stationer I am pre-programmed to love stationery - and pens are just one of those things so yes I hoard them….but I do also have favourites which I reach for more often than others.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of specific penholders there are two main kinds used for Modern Calligraphy. These are the straight holder and the oblique holder. I am a strict straight holder user. I have never been able to get my head around using an oblique and find a straight much easier and more comfortable. What is the difference between the two I hear you ask? Well, a straight holder is the same shape as a normal pen whereas an oblique has a little bit sticking out the side, called a flange, which you put the nib in. This then holds the nib at an angle helping you to write at the optimum slant for traditional forms of calligraphy like Copperplate. What you prefer to use is completely personal everyone is different and some people use both straight and obliques depending on the style they are creating. My advice for a beginner would be to try both out. The easiest way to do this is to try a Moblique holder which we will look at in more detail below.
Wooden Straight Holder
Starting with the most basic offering of penholders are these wooden straight holders. They aren't my favourite as after a while if you get them wet then the coloured lacquer starts peeling off BUT they are a great place to start and come in various colours which is always fab. The insert is what is called a ferrel which means that they fit pretty much all nibs. Wood is always a nice material for a penholder as it doesn't make your hand sweaty if writing when it's warm. Shop the wooden straight holders here.
Speedball Plastic Holder
These are probably the most popular straight holders and you will find them in most beginners calligraphy kits and almost everyone I know uses them for workshops. They are basic but absolute workhorses and I have about 5 in the pots on my desk. They also double up as a great mixer for inks if you use the other end (you can thank me later for that tip!). Ergonomically designed these holders are comfortable to hold and use and help you get the positioning of your hand correct. Check out the speedball holder here.
Moblique Two In One Holder
These have been a steady favourite of mine since they first came out a couple of years ago. They have a very similar curved shape to the Speedball straight holder and come in the most gorgeous colours. They can be used as a straight or oblique holder (the flange just slips out) which makes them a fab choice when trying out both types of holder and figuring which you like best as you only have to buy one pen and nothing is wasted. To top it all off they unscrew and have a little hollow in them where you can keep your nibs…meaning you can also mix and match the colours. Absolutely fab and at £9 and £10 don't break the bank. Check out the moblique holders here.
Plastic Oblique Holder
This basic plastic holder has a metal flange making it easy to size to different nibs. It has a nice curved design which as the styles above can make it easier to use. With a low price point it is a great option for beginners whilst being sturdy and built to last.
These pens are FANCY. Also expensive…definitely not the penholder to start with but a great one to move up to when you are committed to the hobby (they make a great gift!) I have a beautiful seagrass and bronze pen which is stunning. They are perfectly designed and delightful to use however due to the price I tend to not reach for it for everyday work (I probably should though!) To have a look at Tom's stunning pens click here.
Ash Bush is an American calligrapher and her partner creates stunning pens and then she decorates them and they are BEAUTIFUL. She also is the only place I have found that sells carrot penholders - these are shorter and fatter than your standard holders, they take a bit of getting used to but I find them really comfortable to use and when I am doing a very long job I will use a carrot holder as I find that my hand doesn't cramp up as easily. To have a look at these glorious pens click here.
So there you go. A little run down of the penholders that I own and reach for. All the above are ones that I own and have used myself so they are personal recommendations. Those that we sell are linked as are Tom’s Studio and Ash Bush’s stores so you can have a browse (beware it might be an expensive browse!!) As with most tools it's all about experimenting with a few and figuring out which you like best.
Enjoy and keep writing!
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Also in The Calligraphy Store Blog
The calligraphy store blog will be launching at the end of January. Filled with posts about supplies and projects along with inspirational interviews with our favourite calligraphers we hope it will be an excellent resource for all calligraphers whether beginners of experts.