Danielle Sweeney’s love of lettering began with a childhood calligraphy class and a simple yet profound revelation about the power of words on the page.
“That’s when it struck me that words could have a beautiful meaning but could also look beautiful,” the Toronto-based artist behind Design in Words says. “Which, as a nine-year-old, kind of blew my world apart.”
Since then, Sweeney has brought the beauty of words to the masses, from hand lettering for weddings and private and corporate events, to working for luxury brands such as Chanel and Louis Vuitton. She has lettered on walls, paper and plant leaves, on chalkboards, jeans and leather jackets. She has written on macarons with edible ink and on skin with temporary tattoos.
“I always joke about having these nana hobbies, and it’s been awesome to – no offense to nanas out there – to take the nana out of the calligraphy world.”
Sweeney will teach the art of hand-lettering at our sixth Craft Club class on March 30 at 7 p.m. ET.
After her early interest in calligraphy as a child, Sweeney took up lettering again about 13 years ago, while working as a goldsmith in Australia. She says she was looking for a creative hobby she could do in the evening and, seeing a calligraphy class being offered, remembered how much she’d enjoyed it. She was immediately hooked again.
After doing some lettering for a friend’s event, Sweeney found herself drawn into writing as both a hobby and business, and as a way to relax.
“The magic of it is it’s this really active meditation,” she says. “So I’d have this really busy day at work, and then I’d come home and I’d pour a glass of wine and I sit down with my calligraphy pen and knock out 300 postcards for a lunch the next day. I guess I just fell into it again, the love of having this thing where you have to slow down. You have to take it easy because you can’t rush lettering.”
Studies have shown both the positive neurological effects of handwriting, and of the power of seeing words written around us. In recent years, hand-written messages have become a popular design element in commercial spaces and homes, as people embrace the effects of having inspiring, encouraging or humorous sayings around.
In a period where much of what we write is typed or printed – and some have predicted the extinction of handwriting all together – Sweeney says the power of the pen is strong, and even growing stronger.
“I think people are realizing the power of words again, the visual element to the words, as well as the meaning of the words.”
And to those of us with, um, less-than-perfect handwriting, Sweeney says not to worry.
“What I love about handwriting is that it comes from you, and it comes from the heart,” she says. “The goal is for people to do this with their own handwriting and just make their handwriting sing, so their own style and their own personality show through. If I could have a goal, it’s that people create something that’s super, super them. Like their own handwriting, jazzed up a bit.”
Supplies you’ll need for our hand-lettering class
- A lead pencil (preferred over mechanical pencil)
- An eraser
- A black felt-tipped pen with a fine point
- A ruler
- Plain paper
- Coloured markers (highlighters will also work)
- A few plain envelopes
- If you can, print out Danielle Sweeney’s hand lettering workbook to use during the class, though it’s not essential.
- Coloured paper
- Kraft or other paper gift tags
- Coloured markers
- White gel pen, chalk marker or paint marker
- Silver, gold or other metallic pen
- White chalk
- Envelopes of various colours
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