Week 5: A Modern Calligraphy Workshop [Score +8]

Week 5: A Modern Calligraphy Workshop [Score +8]

For the second time in a week, the women’s network at my office hosted an evening activity designed to bring people together who might not otherwise interact. It’s going to be hard to top last week’s Cirque Indy outing, but this was fun in a very different kind of way: a modern calligraphy workshop.

Thanks to the likes of Instagram and Pinterest, modern calligraphy and hand lettering is everywhere. I suspect it was everywhere before, too, but these particular sites have made its presence all the more visible.

Taught by the proprietress of Manayunk Calligraphy, Kimberly Shrack, I found both the class content itself and this woman’s business story inspiring.

First, the art itself: we each quickly learned that calligraphy is not just cursive writing done with a fancy pen. The experience for me was closer to painting than to writing a nice note. Traditional fountain pens with chisel nibs are still around, but in this class, we learned using a brush pen: an ink marker with a flexible, pointed tip. Rather than creating variations in stroke widths with the angle of the pen, calligraphers using a brush pen create those variations with pressure on the page.

In the first 90 minutes of the class, I felt like someone who just watched Bob Ross paint a flawless landscape with happy little trees, thought, “Oh, that looks easy enough!” then sat down and instead painted a landscape with a toddler’s finger paints. My alphabet looked nothing like Kim’s example.

In the last 30 minutes, though, it started to click: my hand and arm got more used to the pen and the technique, and my letters started to look smooth and attractive. Kim gave us a perfectly appropriate project at the end to take home: create an Instagram-ready short quote on a 4x6” card. Every artistic class needs to have a take-home item, and I found Kim’s understanding of her audience in this way—women ready to share their DIY projects on Instagram—to be refreshing. Rather than be annoyed by people pulling out their phones during class, she addressed it right up front and encouraged us to take photos throughout the evening.

Kim’s sense for business and promotion runs throughout her work. She taught herself calligraphy from books and videos, started an Etsy shop to offer her services, and before long had to choose between keeping her 9-to-5 job with the calligraphy on the side or going all-in with her growing business. She chose calligraphy and now does this work full-time. In this way, she was the perfect guest speaker and teacher for our women’s networking group: a woman who found something she loved and was good at, started a business as a side hustle, then grew it into a full-time career. I wasn’t the only person inspired.

Lest you worry that I didn’t do much actual networking at this networking event, the first 30 minutes of our evening together as a group were spent sipping wine and eating artisanal pizza from a local restaurant. We bonded over our shared struggle to make graceful letters through the rest of the evening.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself and will most certainly be buying more brush pens to create things that just might make it to Instagram. I don’t intend for this to become yet another side hustle for me, though, so I’ll paper my house with pretty, inspiring quotes purely for my own enjoyment.


  • Did something outside my routine: +1
  • Left the house: +1
  • Did something entirely new: +1
  • Had a conversation with a stranger of at least 30 seconds: +2
  • Learned someone’s name: +3
Week 6: 100 Acres Art & Nature Park [Score +9]

Week 6: 100 Acres Art & Nature Park [Score +9]

Week 4: Circus School [Score +10]

Week 4: Circus School [Score +10]