Carla Hackett and Barbara Enright met back in 2013 through mutual friends and bonded over their love of letters and being left-handed. Carla immediately asked Barbara if she could teach her the art of brush lettering. At the time, she had just started her own lettering business and had been dabbling in drawing lettering with pens, pencils and chalk. After giving Carla a private lesson, Barbara became her mentor and what has developed is a flourishing relationship with the two now collaborating on commercial projects and delivering workshops in Sydney and Melbourne.
In the past two years, they have taken on the mission to teach this lost art to anyone willing to listen, seeing the massive comeback of hand-crafted, original lettering that simply cannot be created by a machine.
Barbara has been practising lettering since 1967 – when being a ‘Showcard & Ticketwriter’ was still an actual occupation. Barbara produced thousands of tickets and showcards for Myer Melbourne, Grace Bros. and other retail outlets in Sydney. She started her own sign and screen printing studio producing retail and promotional signage for many years. Even when the digital wave came through, Barbara was still asked to create signs by hand for those who appreciated the skill.
Carla works out of a shared studio space called Little Gold Studios in Brunswick, Melbourne. She focuses exclusively on creating lettering for a large range of clients, including Westfield, Tiffany & Co and Frankie Magazine. Barbara has completely changed the track of Carla’s business. She is now using her brush lettering skills that Barbara has taught her for most the of the projects she does. She feels very lucky to have Barbara’s wealth of knowledge as a mentor not only for lettering, but for business decisions as well.
The workshops that Carla and Barbara host are different from other lettering workshops; the lettering is crafted solely by hand using a special Sable hair lettering brush. This brush is more versatile than other brushes as you can create a chisel or pointed tip to achieve different lettering styles, something you can’t do with most disposable pens. Her decades of practice show her master skills as she can create the most beautiful lettering designs in a matter of seconds.
Exercise 1 – Loops
First off we witnessed Barbaras amazing skills first-hand, watching her writing out the words “Learn Brush Lettering” while explaining how hold the brush and how to get the mixture of paint and water just right. We then moved on to our first exercise – drawing loops – with the aim of getting used to the brush and getting thins and thicks right for upward and downward strokes. This is a lot harder than it sounds and actually takes a while! Checking back when photos were taken, we actually spent an hour just doing that.
Exercise 2 – Lowercase Alphabet
Barbara had to step in a few times, demonstrating on-the-fly how this all works for right-handers (both Barbara and Carla are actually left-handed! I’m starting to see a trend here.) Once we all kind of got the hang of it, the next step was to practise the lowercase alphabet. Barbara demonstrated again, then sent us off to practise ourselves under her watch.
Exercise 3 – Uppercase Alphabet
After a few rounds of lower case alphabet writing – two hours later – we moved on to the next demonstration, uppercase letterforms.
Demo – Different Styles all with the same Brush
In her last demonstration Barbara showed how many different styles can be achieved actually using the same kind of brush. It’s quite impressive how much you can get out of one (type of brush).
This workshop was an incredible experience; diving into the history of lettering, witnessing Barbara’s amazing skills and trying our hand at scripts and flourishing under her watchful eye. I would highly recommended this class to anyone, no matter your experience.
As to what’s next for Carla and Barbara – we were told that an online course to learn brush lettering is in the works! Complete with detailed videos and downloadable PDF’s so you can work your way through how to learn at home, in your own time. The full course will be launching later this year, you can sign up for updates and launch details at learnbrushlettering.com.
Apart from that Carla is hosting an exhibition opening this Thursday 5th of November 2015, called ‘I’d Letterpress The Shit Out Of That!‘ featuring all of the speakers from this years Typism Conference. The line-up is an incredible list of some of Australia’s best lettering talent – Jess Cruickshank, Luke Lucas, Jasmine Dowling and Dave Foster, just to name a few – be sure to check it out if you’re in Melbourne, it’s open until the 15th of November and will continue online until sold out!
We also heard whispers of more workshops to come in 2016, with the first one of the year in Penrith on Saturday 6th of February, a collaboration to produce a brush lettering guide book, and a new website for Barbara set to go live early next year.
Stay tuned for further updates, there’s a lot to come from these two.