Lettering Artist | Alice Gabb


Super excited to share Alice Gabb with you today! Alice has such a unique hand that you can identify anywhere. It’s that wabi sabi hand that I wish for–perfectly imperfect. Alice is an uber talented artist and we hope you love reading her interview as much as we did!

Where are you located?

I work from a little studio in Dalston in East London, that I share with two other creatives, and a tiny Italian Greyhound.

How did you get started in lettering?

I studied Graphic Design and Illustration at university, and my projects always seemed to feature hand rendered type. I wasn’t interested in typography in a digital sense at all, I just wanted to draw it!  When I graduated I was accepted to have a stall at the beautiful Broadway Market every Saturday. I sold stationery that I had designed and screenprinted during the week. I started to get a lot of wedding invite commissions, and was hand drawing or painting all of my lettering, until I learned (years later) that the typefaces I was creating with a pencil or brush was called ‘Modern Calligraphy’and started to teach myself using the Besotted Blog for research. It took so long to learn because it was relatively new to the UK back then, and it was hard to get hold of the right supplies. That was three years ago now, it’s flown by!

What are some of your favorite supplies? (this people go nuts for!)

I love the Blue Pumpkin and Leonardt Prinicpal EF for nibs. It took me months to be able to use the Blue Pumpkin, so I advise beginners to start with the Zebra G or Nikko G nibs. I use Dr PH Martins Bleedproof White for white ink, Higgins eternal for black ink, and I have a small set of gouache tubes that I mix up with water and a few drops of gum arabic for every colour in between. I flit between straight pen holders and oblique, and I get through a lot of Daler Rowney A4 Layout Paper pads. I’m yet to get one of those Finetec Metallic Palettes but that is next on my list!

Can you name some of your inspirations? (books, music, artists, etc.)

I love going to Old Spitalfields on a Thursday morning so I can add to my collection of vintage stationery. I’m particularly interested in telegrams and fold out souvenir cards and I use old packaging a lot to dictate my layout and choice of typefaces. I like looking at traditional sign painting too. Although it can be hard to find these days, my parents live by the sea in Cornwall, and you can’t use vinyl because the sea spray makes it curl up and peel off very quickly, so there’s lots of lovely traditional painted examples about the place!

Can you go a little into your process of how you work on a project?

I am probably not someone to emulate in terms of work process!! I still haven’t got round to learning how to use a fancy tablet…I will though, one day! Everything is practiced on layout paper first, and then written or drawn numerous times until I am happy with it and scanned in to then be artworked in Photoshop, and then laid out in InDesign. I’m really particular about things, sometimes I will write a word fifty times before I’m happy with it. I think that surprises people because a lot of my work has a naive feel, and my calligraphy style is fairly whimsical with long lines and leaders, and never following a straight line – but often my process is fairly lengthy!

Any tips for newbies on how to develop their own style?

I suppose when you strip it back, it is all about patience, practice and attention to detail. I think it’s important to be really noticing the way other artists are creating their letters, making a mental note of  little elements you particularly like, and leaving bits you don’t. I can’t lie though, you need to practice, practice, practice! Write down song lyrics, swear words, inspirational quotes, your shopping list, anything!

I think trusty old Pinterest is a great place to be finetuning your preferred styles. I have one board for nicely styled shoots that inspire me, but another board specifically for close up examples of letters that I especially like the look of.

It’s also helpful to remember that Modern Calligraphy has evolved from traditional Copperplate script, and studying that style can hugely improve your control. Dr J.M Vitolo’s amazing online resource, Iampeth, really helped me at the beginning, as did Fozzy Castro-Dayrit. She is so dedicated to the study of calligraphy, and her instagram always encourages me to do my drills!

Any recommendations of books or classes for lettering enthusiasts to further their studies?

Obviously if you are in London you should come to one of my classes, but if you are too far away, you can’t beat the online course, the Modern Calligraphy Summit, that covers it allllll! Even though I had been a professional calligrapher for two years, when the Summit came along I just had to sign up because I was about to start teaching my own workshops, and I had this fear that my technique might be incorrect in the eyes of the calligraphy overlords, but actually it was a comforting reminder that I knew what I was doing and that I should go forth and share my lettering knowledge!

Do you have some favorite projects you would like me to mention?

My collaborations with bookbinder Catherine Willis (who works under the name Kitty Farrow) are probably my favourite. She is a traditional book binder and box maker, and so between us we have a really unusual and old fashioned skill set! We’re a couple of old fashioned gals at heart, there is usually always a glass of sherry or two in our meetings. I find it very hard to work with other people as I’m so used to working alone, but Cat makes me macaroni cheese so everything is always ok.

Any advice on what ‘not’ to do?

Cripes, there are so many dont’s!! I’ve learnt the hard way! Most importantly, do not rush, and give yourself plenty of time to learn if you have a specific project in mind.  Secondly, try not to associate calligraphy with ‘hand writing’. Hand writing is something totally different, something we have subconsciously spent decades practicing. It also has a totally different pace to modern calligraphy, and you hold the pen and angle your hand differently, so instead, think of calligraphy as a series of lines and curves that you need to teach your brain by repeating and repeating until your muscle memory knows exactly what to do. It’s frustrating at the beginning but it gets easier!

Last of all, do not leave your nib in your penholder all the time like I do until it is fused with rust to your penholder and has to be pulled out with pliers….it’s a terrible habit…

If you want to mention any upcoming workshops…

Oh yes. I run Beginners lessons every other Saturday and Improvers classes on occasional Tuesday evenings. Both of which take place in my favourite East London cafes.

Name one random talent you have that people may not know?

I am pretty good at hula hooping and roller skating…Marawa the Amazing used to run lessons at her Hoopermarket by my studio one summer, and I used to go every week, practice most days and had grand dreams (some would say delusions!) of one day becoming a Majorette….I think I’ll just stick to my fancy writing though….



Interview with June Letters

june letters interview

We have had a few interviews in the queue that we thought you might like to read sooner than later, perhaps you will take some of the tips they share and put them into practice?  And we certainly didn’t want you to think with all this talk about ‘focus’ that we were going to drop your lettering fix like a hot potato. First up is Jessica Levitz of June Letters. I am pretty positive she thinks I am one of the most annoying bloggers ever, but even still, she was gracious and provided this interview. I love Jessica’s quirky hand, sense of humor and eye for design, I especially loved her inspiration, as we share a lot in common! We do hope you enjoy her!  Here’s one more of Jessica’s hand that we loved (but might offend others), it made us laugh out loud.Read More

Finding Vivian Maier Review

finding vivian maier review via besotted blog

I did it!  I watched my FIRST documentary since my daughter was born (2.5 years ago), yes, it has been that long. This must be what it feels like for an athlete to make a comeback. I need to watch a movie next, it’s on my goals list (open to suggestions). I was actually going to watch another one that was suggested by Michelle, but it wasn’t available on Netflix, but when this popped up I knew that I wanted to watch it, we have written about Ms. Maier a few times and I find her story endlessly fascinating. The concise version– Vivian was a nanny and an avid street photographer who not only shot  extensively but did the very odd thing of never developing her film. One day a young man bought her storage locker of film, developed it, showcased it on his blog and Vivian became viral. The most interesting thing of the documentary to me was that the young man that discovered the undeveloped film rolls, his story is equally as fascinating. It’s just really thought provoking and if you love photography, a good treasure hunt and/or a feel good story, I think you’d enjoy this doc!


Finding Vivian Maier trailer

Vivian Maier posts here + here

Doc featuring a Camera Obscura ( Michelle’s doc recommendation)

Miss Tristan B. is the co-creator of the world’s best + easiest product photography editing tool-Foto Rx | Shopkeeper’s Helper and the fastest way to clean + digitize your lettering and line art –Lettering Rx | Paper to pixel and one of the writer’s of this delightful blog. Her lofty goal here is to make this a creative resource repository to inspire you to fall truly, madly, deeply in love with your life.

Bloom where you are planted…

bloom where you are planted via besotted blog

I thought I’d pop in and give you a quick update and perhaps a little pep talk on this whole ‘focus’ journey, if you too are in the same boat and wondering if change is possible. Firstly, it’s been f’in! hard (and you know I don’t like to swear!)  I have successfully trimmed a bunch of ‘fat’. It seems I had more interests that I pursued in some form (even if it was just research), more than I would ever know what to do with–ever. An example would be hair bows; they are inordinately expensive for something that your toddler will inevitably pull out of their hair and lose within minutes. I decided one day I’d make my own, I researched for hours, got my supplies and then got down to business. I made 2. I lost hours of my life, literally hours that I can’t retrieve ever again. I now am asking myself before I try something, if the effort to pursue something is worth my time (for me time is money, especially with such a shortage of it). It would have in essence been a lot more cost effective for me to order a few sets of bows than waste those hours. Lesson learned.  I decided that since I have limited time, if I did pursue a hobby (that seems laughable), but if I did, it would need to enhance my life both personally and professionally, since I can’t afford for those to be too separate and honestly I don’t need them to be too disparate. I asked myself what I would regret in 10 years if I didn’t do it and didn’t try to master (and that is a goal of mine to obtain mastery) and it was shockingly, hold on to your seats, not lettering. I loved it and enjoyed myself immensely discovering and exploring technique, but I have no desire to be a lettering artist professionally and the more I practiced I got farther away from the wonky hand I like. I will now admire from afar, as I actually have been doing for quite some time now, but being able to let that go feels very freeing. When I asked myself what I would regret the most if I didn’t do it, it would be documenting my life and it’s ‘wild imaginings’ (as Michelle put it) via photography and writing. I was on cloud 9 when Michelle and I wrote our novel, I felt like I was on creative steroids, it’s one of my most proudest personal achievements. I want to make more time in my life to write, not for the pursuit of anything but for the sheer pleasure it gives me. If I am making toddler hair bows, or whatever shiny thing I see that day I can’t spend time getting better at something that would truly enhance my life. These are all very huge lessons for me! The photography, I am a little embarrassed to say this, I wasn’t shooting, because I was bemoaning what I didn’t have and what I thought I needed to make the shots that I was envisioning. I was seeing all this great work and I wanted my images to look like that but I have a totally different environment and instead of embracing it, exploring it and experimenting with it, I was avoiding it. Completely. I decided to just shoot and see what happened. You know what? It’s not like what I had wanted, it’s polar opposite in fact, but it’s not half bad, just different, and I am enjoying the process and starting to feel like maybe, just maybe I could make it something. Michelle, that sage woman said, ‘bloom where you are planted.’ I guess I never really realized what that meant until now.

The business part we are discussing, dissecting, dreaming, etc. we are getting closer and closer to something that feels more authentic to us, makes sense and has lots of room for growth. We are really trying to cut out whatever doesn’t make sense and does not enhance where we are trying to go. We discovered so much about ourselves in such a short period of time. Not all of it has been great, but Michelle and I are eternal optimists and if we get knocked down, even if we knock ourselves down, we are pretty darn good about brushing off our hands and getting back up again. We shall continue to keep you posted!

What about you?  I know a lot of you have felt like you are in the same situation with multiple interests and not a ton of real success. Have you started to take action as well?  Anything working out for you? Feeling worse than before you started focusing? I can raise my hand on that one…


This is for everyone that is multi-passionate that wants to stay that way!

This book keeps on getting recommended as a life changer, I have a request in at the library for it

I am taking this class, a photo journalistic approach to photographing family

If you are an Austin Kleon fan you’ll love this interview

Around here…

henri matisse quote via besotted blog

It’s been a while since we did a little round up of random things we are doing, liking etc. so how about right now? Sounds good to me!

Michelle sent me the above quote and I loved it! Even though Mssr. Matisse felt this way it did not stop him from his passion of painting!

I am really loving this drugstore mascara. You can either wear it natural or bring on the glam and I haven’t had trouble with racoon eyes-Win!

I haven’t had any success with adding new summer frocks to my closet, but a couple ladies I follow have suggested these great finds 1 | 2 | 3. I am super tempted to order the Amazon dress, I would never consider Amazon for clothes, have you?

A few of you suggested some books to help focus and I thought I would share them here 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

A client of ours read the focus post and said that meditation helped her hone in on her dream and sent me this link.

I have been taking an Instagram class, it’s not a social media outlet I feel I really understand and certainly not one I truly considered for our business. Did you know that if you find an account you like and start going through their feed and liking a bunch of photos that may be considered weird and stalkerish?  Me neither!  I have done it on many an occasion.

We have a boatload of unclaimed prizes from our brush lettering week, if you played please check to see if you won. We will give those winners until Friday, July 22, 2016 to claim prizes and if they don’t we will give it to ONE winner!