Q&A with Moyagraphy

Moya teaching calligraphy in one of her many workshops -  http://www.calligraphybymoya.com.au/workshops/

Moya teaching calligraphy in one of her many workshops - http://www.calligraphybymoya.com.au/workshops/

We took to Instagram to find out what questions Moya's fans had for her. Once we picked the top few we added a couple of our own and hey presto! Our first Q&A. Thanks again to Moya for agreeing to be a part of this, and we hope you enjoy reading her answers.

Q: When did you first start learning Calligraphy?
A: I first picked up a calligraphy pen when I was about five ... and I broke it! But my mum has forgiven me since then. I studied sort of half-heartedly as a hobby ever since then, and then in about 2011 I decided to do it seriously and I started a two-year course and joined as many workshops as I could from there ... and I haven't stopped.

Q: What would be your response to somebody who considers Calligraphy a lost art?
A: Well, people have been saying calligraphy was a dying art since they invented the printing press in 1440. But here we all are, and it's still paying the bills. ;)

Q: If aliens landed in your back yard, how would you explain to them what it is that you do?
A: Oh that's an interesting question! I'd tell them that I'm an artist, I suppose - once I would have been a scribe responsible for recording history, but that's no longer the case, so now I just make words pretty.

Q: What are the key differences between ‘Modern’ and ‘Traditional’ Calligraphy?
A: That's a whole thing! When I talk about traditional calligraphy, I usually mean the formal letterforms that adhere to strict rules and guidelines and are developed from the same scripts monks and scribes have been using for hundreds of years. The term 'modern calligraphy' is often used to refer to a loose, mostly rule-free style where there is very little right and wrong. Modern calligraphy doesn't take study and muscle training to learn - but you still need to have a gift for understanding letterforms and an eye for design, and you still need to develop control over your ink! However, there are many artists trained in traditional calligraphy who have used traditional calligraphy as a springboard to create their own forms of calligraphic art - which is no less modern than the loopy rule-free scripts that most people think of when they hear 'modern calligraphy'. There's a whole world of slight terminology differences ... but I think that most of them mean "we love letters in all their forms." :)

Q: I think it’s fair to say that you’re now ‘internet famous’. When did you first realise that your videos were gaining traction?
A: Oh man! I think it was when the Golden Globes contacted me to do some work for them because they'd seen me on Instagram ... I definitely felt like I'd "made it" that weekend!

Q: You’re quite well known for creating multicoloured wax seals. Where did the idea for that originally come from, and what is the best way to achieve that perfect galaxy swirl?
A: The idea for multicoloured wax swirls is a very solemn and traditional secret known only to calligraphers, and we all take it very seriously. .... haha! No, I just like to play with things, and wax is fun to play with when you're procrastinating! The best way to achieve a galaxy swirl? I'll tell you when I figure it out. ;)

Q: If you had to pick a favourite color combination, what would it be?
A: I'm a sucker for anything involving gold and pink.

Q: Would you consider yourself a workaholic?
A: Sometimes I do. I don't think I've had a day off since I started doing calligraphy full time. But then by the same token, I also don't really feel like I've done much work ... it's hard to draw a line when you love what you do so much. Even on days when I don't have any commissions to work on, I'm still sitting in the studio with ink all over my fingers. There's always more I want to do, when it comes to calligraphy. I have so much to learn!

Q: Which of your essential tools / items of stationery could you not live without?
A: Oh man. All of it. Allllll of them. But if you were going to take away everything and leave me with one single tool, it would be a humble 2B grey lead pencil. I love sparkly gold ink and glamorous carved holders and handmade paper as much as the next calligrapher, but at the very heart of my love for this art is a love for letters, and there's still nothing that beats the flexibility of a grey lead pencil.

Q: This next question you must get asked a lot, but it’s a must. Which inks, nibs and holders do you use and which ones do you find are the best?
A: I do get asked this a lot! And it's always so hard to answer. I talk about this in classes sometimes - there are four parts to creating good calligraphy. The paper, the ink, the pen, and your hand. And your hand is the most important part, and everyone's hand is different. I love some nibs that other, better calligraphers hate. I hate some nibs that better calligraphers love. I swear by bleedproof practice paper, and some people think it's only fit for the bin. There's just no straight answer to what's the best! I think my favourite nib is the Leonardt EF Principal - it's still in production, it's widely available, and that flex can't be beaten. I use an oblique holder almost always - any oblique will work, as long as it's well made and has a brass rather than a plastic flange. Bleedproof paper for practicing, Arches hotpress for finished work (or coldpress for texture if I want!) And as for ink ... anything and everything that will work! I mostly use gouache when I'm working on paper, and I tend to avoid acrylic inks - I don't like the way they flow. But I usually have about twelve ink containers on my desk at any one time.

Q: Any tips for making the ink stay longer on the nib?
A: Practice. Practice and training your hand in the micromovements of pressure and release. Once you have control over the width of your strokes you'll have better control over how fast your ink flows, but it's not really something that there's a shortcut to - you've just got to learn by doing.

Q: What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever written with / on?
A: I painted a logo on a bike once - that was fun! I do a lot of marble coasters and agate slices for weddings, and mirrored seating charts. I wrote some names on little rocking horses for some christenings early this year - that was fun. I'm up for anything :)

Q: What’s the most fun project you’ve ever undertaken?
A: I think my favourite project this year was a pretty straightforward one - placecards for a Fashion Week dinner. I wrote names on gift boxes instead of traditional place cards. But the great part was that, because they were likely to have last-minute RSVPs, I delivered the boxes and then stayed onsite while the event was being prepared just in case they needed me. It was a gala event that took place in an underground car park - the same carpark they filmed the original Mad Max in - and they turned it into a smoky wonderland for the night. Super awesome to hang back and watch the magic happen!

Q: What do you like most about being a calligrapher?
A: Oh that's a hard one. Everything!! I love setting my own hours and working for myself. I love that this odd little hobby that I had all my life has suddenly flowered into the only thing I think about all day. But I think I most love the fact that doing this full-time means I *get* to do this full-time - I can have a pen in my hand every single day, and I can devote as much time to study as I need to get each letter just perfect. It's addictive ... and I'm very nerdy about it! :)

Q: Are your workshops mostly for beginners or do you also offer advanced classes?
A: I offer beginner and intermediate classes - mostly it depends on demand. Beginner classes are very popular because people love to learn a new skill, but not a lot of people have the time or the temperament to practice calligraphy enough to get beyond the basics. It's a busy world. So I do teach beginner classes much more often.

Q: For all your international fans, have you considered doing online workshops / tutorials?
A: I've thought about it! It seems like a very big undertaking, and there are so many courses out there already, though. Plus, I really believe that it's so important to go to a teacher physically, with this. You need to spend at least a couple of hours with someone who can look at your nib in person and tell you what's wrong with it, or who can sneak up behind you and correct your hand position physically. It's really hard to do those things over the internet.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you can give to somebody who is starting out in Calligraphy?
A: Go to a teacher. Doesn't matter if you have to drive for eight hours to get there (I've done that!) - it's just invaluable to spend time with a person in the real world who can fix problems you didn't even know you had. I thought I was a greeeeaaaaaat calligrapher until I walked into my first live class, and then I realised just how much learning I had still to do!

Q: Does it help to be right-handed or can lefties make good calligraphers too?
A: My first real calligraphy teacher was a leftie and she was - and is - AY-MAY-ZING. There are tons of fantastic leftie calligraphers out there. Some scripts are harder, but some are easier for lefties because of the angle the pen needs to be held at. But righties also need to learn new penholds for calligraphy - so we're kind of all in this together. Don't ever let being left-handed hold you back.

Q: Are there any particular fonts that can be used as a reference when practicing?
A: I'm going to go with a no on this one. A ductus with guides on stroke order and height is always going to be more useful. There are a heap of free 1800s penmanship textbooks available at the IAMPETH website - download some of those instead and you'll learn so much more! A font also can't teach you about spacing, which is even more important than the letters themselves. Go to the original sources and you'll be better off every time.

Q: What about Calligraphy starter kits. Do they help, and are there any which you could recommend?
A: This is tricky. There are so many starter kits on the market, and 99% of them are terrible. Marketers have realised that calligraphy is popular and they're cashing in without any understanding of what's important. On the other hand, a kit can be a good way to start because it's hard to know what you need without doing the research... The only kits I can genuinely recommend come from Paper Ink Arts or John Neal Booksellers, who are the two main calligraphy supply stores in the US and who both know their stuff when it comes to calligraphy. Any of the copperplate starter kits they sell will be good value. But otherwise, try to steer clear of kits that don't come from trustworthy stores or people!

Q: Who are your top 5 favourite calligraphers?
A: Tough to narrow it down! There are so many! Here's five who I've studied with personally in the flesh who have had a good influence on me:

- Gemma Black
- Jake Weidmann
- Elmo van Slingerland
- Denis Brown
- Luca Barcellona

Looking over that list now I realise Jake is the only one on it who specialises in pointed pen (which is my favourite). But from all of them I've learned invaluable things!

Q: Which are your top 5 visited websites / blogs?
A: Hmmmm. I actually don't follow many blogs or websites - I used to, but I wasn't getting much calligraphy done when I was spending the whole day on the internet! I hang out at The Flourish Forum sometimes, because the conversation there is always educational. I lurk on Reddit's calligraphy sub a lot - I just don't speak up much. Obviously I spend a lot of time on Instagram ... I only follow inspirational calligraphers there, so it's my main touchstone for a hit of calligraphic inspiration on the bus or while I'm having a coffee. But other than that I try to spend my time with pen in hand, not smartphone. ;)

Q: Are there any local stationery stores that you enjoy visiting?
A: I would be remiss if I didn't shout out to the two Melbourne calligraphy supply stores who've saved my bacon on several occasions - Not Just A Card and Calligraphy Supplies Australia. For most of my life, the only way to get any calligraphy supplies was to order from America and wait three weeks, so it's still such a thrill that I can have things at my door the next day now! In Melbourne there are also a few fantastic stationery stores - not calligraphy stores but worth a visit anyway - like Kami Paper, Zetta Florence, and Melbourne Etching Supplies in Fitzroy, or Il Papiro Firenze and Melbourne Artists Supplies in the city. There's just something magical about a good paper store. So much possibility!

Q: Any good books you would recommend?
A: So many! If you could only pick up one book about calligraphy, Sheila Waters' "Foundations" is the one. It doesn't cover pointed pen work, but the basics of good lettering apply regardless. It's probably my most opened book. My current favourite pointed pen book is "An Elegant Hand" by William Henning - full of great samples of American penmanship. As an Aussie I'd love to find something less American to pore over one day, though ;)

Q: I noticed you started a 365 day project at the beginning of last year. Did you ever get around to finishing it?
A: Shhhh! You weren't supposed to see that! Haha. I sure did not. I underestimated how busy my little calligraphy business would get, and how much time I wouldn't have!

Q: What are your plans for the rest of 2017?
A: Write. Write, write, write, and write some more. You only become good at writing by doing the writing. I'd like to carve out some more time away from commissions to spend in more serious study, but it's hard! I'm also working with a group of local pointed pen calligraphers to put together a conference - CalliCon 2017 - to be held in Melbourne on October 14 and 15. There will be some workshops held and some panel discussions on calligraphy in 2017 and what it's like to be a calligrapher, and we have some great sponsors lined up and some great goodie bags! But mostly, we're all excited to host a whole weekend for calligraphers and letter-lovers to spend in a cool warehouse workspace in Melbourne talking about our favourite things.

For more information regarding Moya's upcoming workshops & events, visit www.calligraphybymoya.com.au or follow her on Instagram @moyagraphy