Calligraphy Portfolio Challenge

Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4

Week 1: Sourcing supplies


"The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide you’re not going to stay where you are." -- J.P. Morgan

Sometimes the hardest part of anything is getting started, right? If you can envision yourself taking on amazing clients and creating beautiful works of art, but you just can't see the steps you need to take to get there, this challenge will help.

We're not focusing on developing your calligraphy skills per se (although you will improve just from the practice), but rather on the exact steps you need to take to finally make your calligraphy portfolio a reality.

Some of the steps may seem incredibly simple... but simple doesn't always mean easy. ;-) The key to success, and to seeing results from this challenge, is to follow the steps each week. Instead of waiting months and months to photograph projects as you work on them, we'll be creating a ton of samples and photographing them all at once, so you have an "instant portfolio" to share at the end of our four weeks.

Sound good? Let's get started!

This week's tasks are all about preparation and setting yourself up for success.

Step 1: What are your portfolio goals?

There are lots of options here, and you don't have to start with all of them. You want your portfolio to reflect the kind of work you actually want to do. Want to focus on paper goods? You'll need to have examples of envelopes, invitations, place cards, menus, etc. Want to work on day-of signage? Create examples of wood signs, chalkboard signs, mirrored signs, etc. Maybe you don't want to be in the wedding industry at all, but instead want to be known for art prints, products, logos, or other commissioned work.

Step 2: Get the supplies appropriate for your goals.


Now comes the fun part! Your task this week is to order or find what you need (blank envelopes, card stock, signs to write on, etc.) as soon as possible. In some cases it could take a week or so for these items to arrive on your doorstep, and we want you to be ready for Week 2, where we start actually creating your portfolio pieces!

You probably already have some calligraphy supplies (nibs, inks, pen holders, etc.), but in case you don't and you're at a loss on what to get, this cheat sheet from the Modern Calligraphy Summit 1.0 instructors will be a big help.

Below are some recommended resources for various supplies you might need, with a focus on writing surfaces. If you've already got any of these lying around your house, just start gathering them up into one place.

Paper and More offers an envelope sample pack (shown in the photo above) with a variety of 18 colors, sizes, and paper types, including vellum and cotton. This is a great place to start if you're in a hurry and just want a good mix of items to play with (and maybe get two sets, to practice with). If you'd like more of a specific color envelope, you can buy as many individual samples of their envelopes as you want. They also have sample packs of card stock (also shown in the photo above), which are great if you want to write vows or sample invitations.

Cards and Pockets is another great place to buy envelopes, either as a single-color pack or as individual samples (and their samples ship free!) They also have pre-cut-and-scored cards for place cards and escort cards, and of course all kinds of card stock. Just note that Cards and Pockets doesn't carry cotton envelopes or paper.

Discount home goods stores are an unexpected place to find fun items to write on. In the Modern Calligraphy Summit 2.0, Lauren Saylor of @afabulousfete reveals that her go-to source is HomeGoods for wood cheese boards to letter on. (I love that tip, and now every time I shop there, I wander the aisles thinking "I could write on that!") You can also try TJMaxx, Ross, or the equivalent in your area.

Thrift stores are always full of picture frames, which can be turned into pretty chalk boards with a bit of spray paint. (Framed mirrors would work, too - the photo above shows one that I painted with black chalk paint.)

Home improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowes are inexpensive sources for tile, which is all the rage right now for place cards. You can get chalkboard paint, wood boards, and acrylic boards here, too.

Local art supply stores are great for things like paint, canvas, and brushes, especially if you're into painting.

For the digital lettering artists (art print makers, product designers, etc.), your first two steps of this challenge are basically reversed. Instead of sourcing supplies and then writing on them, you'll be lettering your designs and then ordering samples. These options may not work for bulk orders if you want to maintain inventory and fulfill orders yourself, but places like Zazzle and Society6 are great for uploading your designs and ordering your own product to use in a photo shoot.

Step 3. Don't forget these supplies...

And speaking of photo shoots, you'll need a few things to be ready for Week 3, where we'll photograph your work.

White foam core or poster paper is the go-to backdrop for many people - but it doesn't have to be white. If it fits with your brand and aesthetic, a different color might work better for you. Just make sure to get at least one large piece of white poster paper or foam core (like this or this) to use as a reflector for photographs (you'll see what I mean in a couple of weeks). It's best to source these from your local art supply or office supply store.

Other backdrops you already have may work, too. Have pretty marble or granite countertops in your house? A gorgeous wood table or desk? A really nice large cutting board you've never used? These are all great backdrops to try. Some tablecloths, fabrics, or clean rugs may work, too!

Let's wrap up...

So you can see that sourcing supplies is a bit of work, and a bit of an investment, but after this week you'll have a lot of great material to work, a variety of projects to showcase, and you'll be able to take a lot of great photographs all at once.

I hope this gets your wheels turning about the pieces you want to create for your portfolio! I've given you enough work to do this week, but if you want to share what you're up to on Instagram, please tag me at @moderncalligraphysummit -- I'd love to hear how it's going!

And, stay tuned for next week, which is all about lettering. You'll get writing prompts, sample guest lists, and more to start turning your blank supplies into something beautiful! See you then!


P.S. I took the photo above with my iPhone and, in Week 3, I'll show you the "behind-the-scenes" of how I took it so you can finally vanquish your photography fears. ;-)


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