Modernizing her Ps and Qs: Calligrapher Molly Suber Thorpe

Practice your calligraphy skills on chalk boards, planters, wine glass charms — even letters to Mom

A simple class on traditional italic calligraphy, which dates from the Italian Renaissance, ignited Molly Suber Thorpe's love of the handwritten letter.

But she's moved on to a fresh, modern lettering style of her own that she admits makes some calligraphers cringe.

"What I do now is very different. I'm known for modern calligraphy," she said. "I see what I'm doing as a continuation of an art form."

Calligraphy, a centuries-old form, focuses on classical script styles such as Edwardian and Spencerian, which have established letter forms and are taught as a complete alphabet. Modern calligraphy focuses on personal style and a unique interpretation of the letter form.

This modern take on hand-lettering has spread far beyond the traditional letter or formal invitation and into the home. "It started in the wedding industry and grew from there," Suber Thorpe said. "Now that same target audience wants to literally brand their homes — from jam labels to address stamps to bed linens and wall art."

The award-winning graphic designer and calligrapher recently moved her company, Plurabelle Calligraphy and Design Studio, to Boston from L.A., where she had set up shop in 2009 after she graduated from UCLA. She later came out with a book, "Modern Calligraphy: Everything You Need to Know to Get Started in Script Calligraphy," which has been the No. 1 bestseller in the Calligraphy Guide category and fluctuates between No. 1 and No. 2 in the Papercraft category.

The book, in its fourth printing, was a bit of a breakout success story. "I never dreamed that it would do so well," Suber Thorpe said. "It's a real indication of how much people love this type of art. I get fans sending me pictures of their projects all the time."

Among the more popular trends for the home are chalkboard wall art and menus. "People love chalkboard lettering, and you see it everywhere. It's also a nice project for beginners, because you can always just erase and start over," Suber Thorpe said.

You can also practice calligraphy on chalkboard planters and pots from companies like West Elm ($1.99 to $16 for pots) and Williams-Sonoma ($144.95 to $399.95 for vertical planters), wineglass charms from Sur la Table ($9.95, set of six) or a carafe and glasses from Pier 1 ($10.95 for the carafe, $3.95 for a stemless wine glass or tumbler).

The popularity of this hand-lettering style may be a backlash to all the technology around us. "The whole style is expanding and evolving, and it is actually finally being appreciated as an art form," Suber Thorpe said. "I think people are really attracted to something that feels hand-done, not just typed up."

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