• The Cautious Calligrapher: 6 Things You Can Do to Protect Your Work and Your Workspace

    A little bit of caution can go a long way in preventing accidents at your calligraphy workspace. From storing ink in screw-top containers to applying a fixative to your work, we’ll examine different ways to keep your work and your workspace in pristine condition!

    Lindsey Writing | The Postman's Knock
    The best way to prevent accidents: work at a clutter-free table!

    When it comes to being cautious with my work, I’ve learned a lot of things the hard way! From smudges to ink spills to water-damaged mail, a lot of disasters have befallen this girl. While I can’t claim consistent savviness in preventing facepalm-worthy situations, I try my best! In today’s article, I’m (hopefully) going to help you avoid some of the mistakes that I’ve made in the past. Keep these tips in mind next time you sit down to write!

    1. Keep Ink in Screw-Top Containers

    Calligraphy ink can be a huge blessing to your work … and the biggest terror ever to your carpet. I’ve never had any devastating spills, but plenty of close calls. I do know readers that have had to get entire rooms re-carpeted because of India ink spills, though! Here’s the thing: lids that lift on and off, like those on vintage ink wells, are convenient and cool-looking. The moment a child grabs a container like that (or said container spills to the floor), though, it’s game over.

    Black Calligraphy Inks Comparison Part II: Bombay, Speedball, and Winsor & Newton | The Postman's Knock
    I use cheap plastic containers like these to store my inks. You can find the larger ones here and the small one here.

    While screw-top containers aren’t infallible — certainly some ink can seep under the rim due to jostling — they’re more reliable than lids that easily lift on and off. Screw-top containers are also good if you have kids around! The other day, for example, my 2-year-old nephew got in my office and came out proudly holding a jar of walnut ink. I, of course, took it away from him; but since the jar had a screwed-on lid, nothing happened in the minute or so that he had his prize! Just think of what might have happened with an easily removable lid.

    2. Keep Supplies Out of Elbow Range

    As you write, it’s easy to be mindful of what your hands are doing. Beware, though, for beside you lurks an outlier: your elbow! While the elbow is indispensable in granting you the mobility to create beautiful things, it’s also your quickest route to clumsiness. I’ve knocked over inks, beverages, and glue sticks while writing! Bumping into such items can either be mildly annoying or downright messy.

    A Virtual Workspace Tour | The Postman's Knock
    Try to keep a nice, clean workspace. Easier said than done, I know!

    The solution? Keep the area around the elbow of your dominant arm clutter-free. Get rid of everything in your elbow’s potential path, even items that have zero mess potential! No matter what you bump into with your elbow, it may affect your writing by changing your hand’s course.

    3. Keep Your “Calligraphy Water” in a Mug

    I know that cute little glass jars are the rage for keeping calligraphy water in, but I’m too clumsy to use them! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve violated rule #2 of this article and put my calligraphy water near my elbow. I used to keep my calligraphy water in a disposable plastic cup, which ended in disaster when I knocked it over!

    "Art Water" | The Postman's Knock
    Try using a mug that means something to you for “calligraphy water”! You can buy a neat mug at a thrift store, souvenir shop, or coffee house. Mine is from the Arts Center in Lawrence, Kansas, where I spent four fun years at university!

    Once I switched to keeping calligraphy water in a mug, life got a lot easier. I have inadvertently nudged this little guy several times throughout the years, but the mug is so sturdy that the water just sloshes a bit! That’s why I recommend using a mug for art/calligraphy water: it’s difficult to knock over!

    4. Wait for Ink to Completely Dry Before You Erase Pencil Guidelines

    Okay, this one is a no-brainer … and yet it causes the downfall of projects again and again. Here’s the thing: once you finish making something, you want to enjoy the result ASAP! That usually means having to erase pencil guidelines. Unfortunately, just because ink is dry to the touch doesn’t mean it’s completely dry! You’ll find that out in a big way as soon as your eraser passes over it.

    Seven Tips for Writing White Calligraphy | The Postman's Knock
    Here’s an example of Janet Style calligraphy that was compromised by an eraser. While the piece wasn’t ruined, the smear does take away from the majestic effect I was going for!

    You just have to get to know your inks to understand drying times. Sumi and India inks usually dry within five minutes or so, then you’re fine to go over them with an eraser. White inks need at least a couple of hours! Of course, waiting time also depends on the amount of ink you used: more ink needs more time to dry. In the end, you’ll just have to experiment; and, if in doubt, wait overnight before erasing pencil guidelines!

    5. Apply a Fixative to Your Work

    I have to admit that I don’t have a lot of problems with things being damaged by moisture here in super-dry Colorado. Almost no matter where you’re located, though, there’s a potential for rain; and in very humid areas, dried ink easily rehydrates and smears. For easy protection of your work, apply a fixative to it!

    How to Waterproof Paper | The Postman's Knock
    Microglaze is so water-resistant that it causes water to bead up on your paper. Wipe the water off, and you’ll never know it was there in the first place!

    My fixative of choice is Microglaze because it’s very waterproof and easy to apply. However, for large batches of envelopes, I would use a spray fixative because it’s quick. You can decide which is best for you in this article!

    6. Use Archival Materials

    “Archival” is one of those words that sounds important, but a lot of people don’t really know what it means. Basically, if something is archival, it will last quite a long time. Archival papers, for example, usually don’t have acids, which can react with most inks over time to cause discoloration or even make holes!

    Watercolor Cactus + Quote Artwork Tutorial | The Postman's Knock
    I used acid-free watercolor paper and archival Greenleaf & Blueberry watercolors to make this cactus quote artwork. It should last for a very long time!

    If you want your creations to last, use high-quality, archival materials to make them. You can find pens, inks, and paints that are all archival! If you don’t opt for archival materials, you’ll start to notice that your paper and your colors change for the worse after a few years! Of course, if you are making a temporary, just-for-fun type project, that’s no big deal! But if you’re crafting a gift for someone or a piece of calligraphy or artwork that you want your grandchildren to enjoy, consider going archival.

    I think the very best defense against accidents is an easygoing attitude. You can take all sorts of precautions, but some things are simply out of your control! That’s part of the human experience: things not going as planned. Just try your best, and if something does happen, remember that every problem has a solution! With your creativity and a cool head, you’ll figure it out. 🙂

    Thanks very much for reading TPK, and I’ll be in touch in a couple of days with a fun tutorial!


    Lindsey's Signature | The Postman's Knock