DIY + Giveaway | The Gift of Calligraphy | Botanical Wreath Illustrations

Today we're excited to share a DIY project from one of the most beautiful books I've seen in a while, The Gift of Calligraphy, A Modern Approach to Hand Lettering with 25 Projects to Give & to Keep by Maybelle Imasa-Stukuls.  As a big fan of calligraphy, I am more than honoured to share an excerpt of Maybelle's book here on the blog.  From teaching you the basics of calligraphy, and then how to use your new skills to create projects such as invitations, wall art, wrapping paper, a tote bag, even a calligraphy kit for kits, the gorgeously-styled book is interspersed with messages of inspiration, gratitude, and finding beauty in imperfection, featuring photography by Thuss and Farrel. With 25 projects in total, the book is a great way to jumpstart your own creative practice or hobby.

Update: We're hosting a giveaway for a copy of The Gift of Calligraphy on our Instagram this week to one lucky winner, (check out our post here to enter)!

The Botanical Wreath Illustrations
Reprinted with permission from The Gift of Calligraphy: A Modern Approach to Hand Lettering with 25 Projects to Give and to Keep by Maybelle Imasa-Stukuls, copyright (c) 2018. Published by Watson-Guptill, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc. Photographs (c) 2018 by Thuss + Farrell.

To develop designs for this project, start keeping a sketchbook designated for nature-inspired ideas. Don’t worry if you don’t know how to draw. You may not realize this but you have been “drawing” letters all along with your calligraphy practice! Simply note any unusual plants and floral elements that you observe in your everyday life. You don’t need to go to a botanical garden or museum—there is much to discover in your own backyard or around the neighborhood. I collect old French botany books, Diderot encyclopedias, books on naturalists like John Muir, and engravings such as those from the Linnaeus system, some of which date back to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. I love the handwritten information—Latin names, characteristics, and so on—in beautiful lettering.

Once I have an idea of which plants and flowers I want to include in my botanical wreath project, my process starts with a traditional cut and paste—with actual scissors and tape, not a keyboard. This tactile creative process is what we learned in design school, when computer programs like Photoshop and Illustrator were just being introduced. If you have never worked this way, you may find this to be a refreshing exercise and another way to step away from the computer.

Before you begin working, surround yourself with beauty, natural light, and some fresh flowers. This always makes me feel so happy and inspired. And don’t be afraid to mix some of the fresh flowers in with your cut-and-paste process. Work with your favorite pair of scissors and colorful washi tape. Working this way allows more freedom, a break from the computer, and a new energy and positive flow. Enjoy the process and don’t be afraid of making a beautiful mess!

Skill Level 

Sketches of flowers and plants
Botanical Wreath templates (click here for download) or on page 203 of book; optional
Removable Scotch tape
Borden & Riley #234 Paris Paper for Pens (bleedproof)
Light table
Pointed pen
Black ink
Grommets; optional
Ribbon; optional

1 Decide the type of flowers and plants that you want to include in your illustration. For this wreath I envisioned mostly ferns and a few flowers such as dogwood and ranunculus. Then bring your sketches, books, and any other inspiration to a copy shop or use a multifunction printer at home. Photocopy the images you want to use in your illustration.

2 Choose the copies of the plants that you want to use for the final design. Don’t worry about the size, shape, or look of the final illustration; just pick the plants you like, and then cut them out. If you are unsure if you like one enough, cut it out anyway—you may or may not end up using it.

3 Securely tape the cutout images in a wreath shape on bleedproof paper. Play around with a few designs until you are happy with the results.

4 Using a light table and pencil, trace the taped-down composition onto a new sheet of drawing paper.

5 With pointed pen and ink, draw in the lines. Work slowly in small sections, ensuring that you don’t smudge the artwork. Allow the ink to dry completely.

6 Erase any visible pencil marks, and then add calligraphy in the center of the wreath. Add grommets and some ribbon for hanging, if desired.

The Gift of Calligraphy, A Modern Approach to Hand Lettering with 25 Projects to Give & to Keep by Maybelle Imasa-Stukuls is available at,,, or any online bookseller of your choice.

Jan Halvarson

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