This is part II* of the interview with artist, calligrapher and font designer Debi Sementelli where she reveals some of her ‘secrets’ and resources. I linked the resources Debi mentions so you can find them easily. Enjoy!
*You can read part I of her inspiration for her new font family Dom Loves Mary here.
Q&A WITH DEBI SEMENTELLI
How long have you been lettering?
I’ve been lettering, on and off, for over 30 years. I started when I was 2:)
How did you get started?
I took a calligraphy class in art school (at the Cleveland Institute of Art) and found that I had a talent for it. I also found that I could earn some money doing calligraphy jobs to help pay for school so that made it even more attractive!
Besides practicing, are there any tips you would give to a novice lettering student?
Well practice truly is the key. But I would suggest joining a local calligraphy guild. They sponsor a lot of workshops by extremely talented lettering artists and often have some members who do workshops as well. I’ll be doing one for our Dallas guild in January. It also gives you a chance to connect and share with other people who are also into lettering. And you may find a more experienced calligrapher who is willing to mentor you, which is always helpful.
Have you ever taught classes or would consider doing that one day?
I do teach a 3 hour “Intro to Calligraphy” workshop at the Paper Source in Dallas a few times a year depending on my schedule. It’s a very basic beginner class. I have to only use their products so we work with chiseled markers and brush markers. But I prefer that because I think it’s better to get the strokes and letter forms down before you start working with ink and nibs. I don’t plan on doing any other teaching since my regular project workload and font designing and keeping my own skills up by going to workshops take up all of my time.
Do you have some favorite nibs, inks, papers? I know this is so subjective but us novice letterers love discovering new tools!
Well, I prefer to work with gouache over ink, with the exception of Sumi Ink. I’m always trying out new papers and nibs and I love to work with brushes as well. It really depends on the project as to which I’ll use. I just attended a workshop with Carl Rohrs who is a well known and incredibly talented lettering artist. He had us working with Pentel Color Brushes. He said it’s what he uses for the work that is going to digitized. So I’ve been playing with that recently. My go to nib is a Brause 66 EF. I also like the Nikko G, Hiro 40 (also known as Blue Pumpkin). It’s the one I pull out when I’m working on Crane Lettra envelopes, which are most calligrapher’s nightmare. I have a calligrapher in my guild who has turned me on to some vintage nibs, Esterbrook 956 is one of them. He finds them on E-bay. When I see him at the meetings I beg him to sell me more. He’s my nib pimp:) In a recent order from John Neal Bookseller, I bought a pad of Clairefontaine paper it’s like butter! If I am doing an original piece for someone’s home, I make sure to use an archival paper. Arches hot press is one that I use a lot.
Is there anything I left out that you think a lettering student should know?
I always ask the students that come to my workshop, “What do you want to do with your lettering?” Do you want to just have it as a fun hobby, making gift tags, cards and place cards for friends? Then have fun and don’t worry if it looks perfect. Most people don’t even write in cursive anymore. So if you create something with hand lettering, your friends and family will be thrilled. If you want to be a professional calligrapher, you have to understand the time and dedication it takes to better your skills. You also have to charge accordingly for the skill level you are at. But whatever you want to do with it, just start. Have fun and enjoy. It’s really a very zen like practice. When I am lettering for many hours I get into a great place where I feel so happy and relaxed. Whatever your state of mind, it shows up in your lettering. So enjoy the process.
If you are like me and have a love of lettering + fonts than be on the look-out for the Dom Loves Mary font. To read more of the real and Dom & Mary love story visit Debi’s blog for more of the story and photos, truly delightful! If you have any questions for Debi just leave them in the comments!