Modern Calligraphy For Your Wedding | An Interview with Rachel Jacobson

Wedding Calligraphy - Portland calligraphy workshop by Rachel Jacobson. Photographs by Portland Brand Photographer Briana Morrison

I took a modern calligraphy class from Rachel back in 2016 when she was regularly hosting workshops at a little space called Work/Shop in NW Portland. Her Portland calligraphy workshop was fun and informative but most of all I was impressed at how effortless Rachel makes calligraphy seem. While my own letters look like child’s play, Rachel shows you what a little dedication and practice can do.

Read on to learn how you can use calligraphy throughout your wedding as a DIY project or by hiring a professional calligrapher.

Portland calligraphy workshop with Rachel Jacobson. Photographs by Briana Morrison

When most of us think of using calligraphy for a wedding we immediately think of addressing envelopes and making place cards. What are some other ways that you’ve seen calligraphy worked into a wedding day?

Most couples immediately think of envelope calligraphy when it comes to adding calligraphy elements to their wedding. Envelope calligraphy is a beautiful way to add warmth and that personal touch to invitations, but it’s only the beginning. Place cards and escort cards are one of my favorite wedding day elements to calligraph because people absolutely love having their own name written out, and guests can bring their name card home. Welcome signs, menus (letterpressed on paper or screen printed on linen), vow books, guest books, and table runners with meaningful lyrics and poetry are some other wedding day pieces I’ve enjoyed creating.

What’s your biggest piece of advice for someone looking to add calligraphy into their wedding brand?

Find a style you like and start reaching out to calligraphers early on in the process. There are so many different types of calligraphy, whether you’re looking for something more traditional or modern and each calligrapher usually has a style of specialty. Like most things, it helps if you pay attention to what you like and why. What calligraphy stands out to you? Calligraphy hands are quite varied and being able to distinguish your preferences will be helpful.

Portland calligraphy workshop with Rachel Jacobson. Photographs by Briana Morrison

I’ve taken a Portland calligraphy workshop from you and it was so much fun, not to mention beautiful! Can you tell us a little about the workshops you teach, how often you host them, and how people can sign up?

Thank you! I loved having you at the workshop and I really feel honored to teach local-to-Portland classes every month to help people find a creative outlet and learn modern calligraphy. I wholeheartedly believe that we all need to carve out space for creativity and I also believe that writing by hand should not be a dying art—there are so many benefits to putting pen to paper in our increasingly digital world. And it’s quite relaxing! But there’s a steep learning curve and it can be quite challenging in the beginning.

I found myself frustrated in my early days of learning modern calligraphy. Though I had been classically trained, I had an affinity for the free-flowing style of contemporary calligraphy. I wasn’t sure which tools and materials to use and trips to the art store were both overwhelming and, often, futile—I’d come home to find that the ink I had purchased bled on the paper or materials I had. Paper and ink can be finicky, and it can be challenging to find local stores that carry modern calligraphy supplies.

I tell my students that the workshops I teach are the very thing that I wish I’d had when I was beginning. I provide a curated starter kit with all of my favorite supplies so that students can hit the ground running. Classes are so much fun—and calligraphy can be very therapeutic! Usually we’ll have wine or drinks in some charming Portland shops so it’s the pairing of things I really enjoy. Intentionally, so. It’s very much about the experience and helping students create a calligraphy practice they’ll enjoy returning to. Classes are listed on my website and I send out updates and calligraphy tips to those that sign up for my newsletter. 

A modern calligraphy still life by Portland Wedding photographer, Briana Morrison

Do you ever teach private workshops? I think a calligraphy workshop would make a really fun bridal shower activity.

Yes, I’ve taught a lot of private workshops which I love. It’s fun to try something new with friends. I also teach corporate workshops for companies and teams. It’s a fun team building activity and it’s bonding for groups to learn something new together!

Aside from taking one of your workshops, what resources can you recommend for someone wanting to DIY their wedding calligraphy?

There are calligraphy books that can be helpful for learning calligraphy. Copperplate Lettering From A to Z comes to mind as well as Modern Calligraphy: Everything You Need to Know to Get Started in Script Calligraphy.

The Nikko G nib is great for beginners and I think creating your own place cards might be more feasible than addressing envelopes—there’s a little less writing involved.

If you’d like to incorporate calligraphy but it’s out of your budget, I recommend selecting one wedding element you’d like to create and giving yourself a few months (at least) to learn and practice. It doesn’t have to be perfect and as I mentioned before, it’s really special for guests to have their name written out. 

Portland calligraphy workshop with Rachel Jacobson. Photographs by Briana Morrison

What are the pros and cons of DIY-ing your wedding calligraphy vs. hiring a pro?

DIY-ing saves money but it also takes time in what can be a very full season for couples. It is helpful to be realistic about time constraints and what DIY projects will be beneficial for the wedding budget and enjoyable for the couple. There’s no need to do things a certain way—I always tell couples that this is their day. I’ve heard calligraphy called a “luxury” item because it’s hand created. It does take time and the pricing reflects that, but hiring a professional allows couples to outsource and potentially only be involved in the “fun” part, selecting the color palette, paper, style, and details. 

Portland calligraphy workshop with Rachel Jacobson. Photographs by Briana Morrison

What tips do you have for couples looking to hire a calligrapher for their wedding?

As I mentioned earlier, pay attention to the style of calligraphy that appeals to you. Pinterest can be a double-edged sword for a number of reasons, but it can be a wonderful place to find inspiration and begin to identify what it is that you like about a specific style.

Calligraphers are artists, and like any other art form, they’ll likely request some creative freedom. A portfolio is a great way to gain a sense of the calligrapher’s style. Before booking, I recommend setting up a phone call with a potential calligrapher to chat through the process and details so you can get a sense of what to expect with the timeline and pricing. Like any professional that you’ll hire, it’s important to find someone that you feel “gets” your aesthetic and vision and that you’ll enjoy working with. 

Modern calligraphy workshop details photographed by Portland Wedding photographer, Briana Morrison

Rachel Jacobson first fell in love with calligraphy when she chanced upon a calligraphy course taught by renowned calligrapher Robert Palladino during her senior year of college. It was love at first sight and she continued training in formal calligraphy hands before branching out to modern calligraphy in a style she’s now known for. In 2014 she launched a calligraphy and design studio specializing in calligraphy and hand lettering and she enjoys sharing the art of modern calligraphy in classes and workshops.

You can learn more about Rachel’s Portland calligraphy workshop & other offerings on her website, Rachel Jacobson Studio.

Portland calligraphy workshop with Rachel Jacobson. Photographs by Briana Morrison

If you enjoyed this article and are looking for more ways to add a personal touch to your wedding day, check out my interview with Karlee Patton, the Bad Portrait artist.

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