Why I Can't Drink Coffee While Calligraphing


If you're anything like me, coffee IS your morning. The actual gesture of pouring the cup, fixing it up how you like it, and sipping that glorious first taste...it is my fuel. Within the last year, I've really gotten into bolder coffees. I've always loved espresso, too. So hand me the high-octane stuff and we're good!

At least...until calligraphy entered my life. When I began practicing calligraphy, I began getting wedding inquiries (woo!!) that required me to devote many mornings to calligraphy. Despite the loopy gracefulness of calligraphy's appearance, there is a certain hustle I have, you know...to get the job done. Last summer, I was working on a client's wedding suite and I didn't have coffee FOR A WHOLE WEEK. Going without coffee, as you may know yourself, is no easy feat. So why sacrifice my favorite morning ritual, my daily fuel? 

For me, calligraphy and coffee simply do not mix. They repel each other like opposite poles of a magnet. The combination of the two results in messy, nasty, shaky calligraphy.  Caffeine gives me the slightest, ever-so-barely-there jitter. My hands shake. It's the most infuriating phenomenon, considering that I love calligraphy and coffee oh so much. Oh, to be able to use my dip pen to calligraph some envelopes while sipping my favorite home-brewed Sumatran roast...but no. It's amazing how much of a difference a slight caffeine-induced tremor can make on my calligraphy.

There are remedies, though, to ease the calligraphy jitters.


Remedy #1: Warming Up

Especially when starting commissioned projects for clients, it is essential that I warm up my hands with little strokes or writing. I like to fill up a full 8.5x11" paper with "doodles" before actually starting the real work. While I do this anyway, I find that it helps my hands loosen up. Calligraphy is all about gaining and releasing pressure, so warming up is a good way to get your shaky hands used to the upward and downward strokes with calligraphy.


Remedy #2: Water, Water, Water (and wait)

In addition to warming up, I chug water if I feel that I am on a caffeine overload. This may be more psychological, but the water (at least in my head) seems to flush out the caffeine. Then comes the waiting. It takes me about 30 minutes of chugging water to notice that my coffee jitters aren't as pronounced.  

A general rule of thumb, I never ever ever drink coffee during a project or within the same 2 hours of a project. Unless I am leisurely practicing, that is. The coffee jitters are really noticeable in my style calligraphy, especially because I like to use fine tip nibs which produce extra-thin and graceful lines. They turn into little zigzags otherwise :) If you're a coffee and calligraphy lover like me, all you need is a little balance, some extra paper and water. And if you can't do that, better start brewing the decaf.