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Letter Writing: Revive an Antique Art

Home > Perth > Misc | Books and Writing
by Ellen O'Connor (subscribe)
Writer, actor, director, seamstress, nerdface.
Published February 9th 2012
Recently my beloved secured a wonderful, new job.

Unfortunately, this job required him to move to over East and I have, somewhat unwillingly, entered the ranks of long distance relationship-ers. The silver lining to this cloud, however is two-fold. Firstly, it's a wonderful excuse to travel eastwards for the occasional weekend. And secondly, it means that we have began to indulge in the antique art of letter writing. Having acquired a lovely, be-feathered dip pen each from T. Sharpe & Co. I had to learn to write with it.

Obviously you can write your letters with a regular, modern pen but using a dip or fountain pen adds a new, or rather old, aesthetic to what has become a mundane task. They are (after a bit of practice) graceful and elegant and mean that you have to take more care with the words that you put on the page. Not to mention all the fun stationary accessories you can get to go with them.

Things I would highly recommend adding to your letter writing tool-kit include nice paper. Older style pens work best on a higher grade paper, generally something thicker than what you would normally use. Another great addition are things like cool envelopes, ribbons, and, my favourite: wax seals. You can buy seals with motifs or initials and some places even offer a custom service to have your own seal made with a monogram or logo. The one pictured in this article is my own, a great big ornate letter 'E' which set me back about $60 which I consider money well spent.

It is also a good idea to read up on how to write with a fountain/dip pen. It is very different to writing with a modern one and some dedication and practice is required. Most booksellers will have some calligraphy how to's in the art and craft section but the best range (for such a specific topic) is probably online. You can also get 'copybooks' which are notepads that have calligraphic letters printed onto them for you to trace over and learn.

Want to revive the old art yourself? Here are a few things to do to get started.

1. Buy a pen. Specialty stationers and luxury pen shops will stock dip pens and fountain pens, and many art and craft stores have them too. Try: Pens de Luxe who have stores all around Australia, Riot Art & Craft, Jackson's Art Supplies for ideas. Dip pens can start from $25 and go all the way to, well, whatever you would like to spend really.

2. Get inked. Black is classic but there are also lots of great funky colours to choose from, I indulged and bought a turquoise the other day and it's just beautiful. You can get artist's ink from your local art and craft store or splash out for something nice from specialty suppliers such as Winsor & Newton or at Pen & Ink who have an extensive range all in the one location.

3. Accessorise. The options are endless. Ink wells, blotting paper, blotters, pen holders, cases, pretty paper and prettier envelopes.

4. Get some seals. Check out Wax Seals Shop, Wax Seals Australia and Papermarc. Just a few options, there's a lot out there to choose from.

5. Learn some pretty fonts. Buying a book on how to write with a dip pen is a good idea, as it can shortcut all the trial and error for you, you can also buy copybooks or practice pads which have scripts printed on them for you to copy over and learn. Check out the great online selection too at websites like Amazon and Book Depository.

6. Send a letter. Nothing says you care more than a beautiful, handwritten letter. Even sending letters to people you see on a regular basis can be a nice gesture because they are something that be kept and treasured for many years to come.
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Why? To revive something old and do something new.
When: Any time.
Where: At home, or whichever location is to your liking.
Cost: Min $25
Your Comment
Hi Ellen,

I have had a similar article in the works, not quite the same, but with letter writing in mind. I really enjoyed reading your article. Well done.

by Simone Lee (score: 2|536) 3501 days ago
I am a Pen pal, and hand write letters to various parts of the world, we call ourselves "long letter pals" and consider anything less than four pages not a "real letter" although of course I also have pals that write shorter letters, this is one hobby that for me will never die it's right up there with journalling, it's interactive, you can pick it up and take it with you, meet interesting friends and swap stamps. the down side only would be that international stamps seem to go up every few months and so that it becoming quite costly. but i love it.
by kimlh (score: 0|2) 3509 days ago
Where did you get your seal from?
I would like to get a full alphabet set
by halle (score: 0|2) 3370 days ago
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