ROOM TO GROW – WE BOUGHT A FARM!

After two long years of searching for the perfect little homestead, our farm journey is finally beginning. Earlier this week my husband and I closed on a 30 acre parcel complete with a beautiful home, a barn, an established fruit and nut orchard, two large ponds, and a little tribe of chickens. We’re very excited to get our hands into the dirt! First we have to wait for the snow to melt. :)

Please bear with me over the next few weeks as we settle in & unpack – I will be sharing more about our adventures and inspiration after the flurry of boxes ends. One of the first such challenges will be setting up reliable internet access! We’re now miles away from even the slowest DSL, so our options are very limited – I’ve been spoiled with reliability and fast speeds (and unlimited data!) after living in the city for a decade… It’s a bit of a shock to calculate exactly how quickly I’ll reach a satellite data cap with all of those tempting Youtube cats just a click away!

For everyone who has been following along, thank you so very much for your support & warm wishes. I could not have survived this crazy chapter without you!

SOUTHERN WEDDINGS MAGAZINE BRANDING

I’m so excited to share a delightful branding refresh! A few months ago, the wonderful team at Southern Weddings Magazine asked me to help them redesign their logo & create a series of coordinating lettered features for the new website. Their new site went live on Friday & it is seriously gorgeous – so bright, fresh, and charming!

I hand-lettered a main logo, as well as several alternate marks with different layouts, so that the team has full control over future layouts. The calligraphy is based on historical scripts, but has been updated with modern flourishes and a dancing baseline. Just like the magazine itself, it’s a fresh take on tradition!

I just love the warm, heartfelt touches on the site. The adorable graphics and sweet patterns pair perfectly with their candy-colored palette. The new print editions are picking up the updated branding as well, which is terribly exciting!

This project was the highlight of 2013! I’m pretty convinced that the amazing ladies behind Southern Weddings are the hardest working gals in publishing. And they’re downright delightful at the same time! Thank you so much, Lara, Emily, Nicole, Kristin, Lisa & Marissa!!

FONT AID VII – HELPING THE PHILIPPINES

Have you heard about the FontAid VII project? It’s a collaborative typeface that the Society of Typographic Aficionados is creating to benefit the victims of Typhoon Haiyan. Designers & lettering artists from around the world are submitting glyphs based on the Philippine flag’s sun. These characters will be compiled into a font and the proceeds will be donated to the Philippine Red Cross.

I submitted the glyph above. There are 8 ‘rays’ bursting out from the sun, one for each of the country’s first provinces, and a heart in the middle that represents the strength & tenacity of the Filipino people. With the rising of the sun, so rises hope for the future.

If you want to submit a glyph of your own, head on over to the SOTA Font Aid site where you’ll find instructions and an Illustrator template. The deadline for file submission is December 1st.

FREE THANKSGIVING PRINTABLE

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It’s a day of reflection and gratitude, and if one is lucky, the companionship of loved ones. I’m ever so thankful for the kindnesses of life; health and friends, dear family and the opportunities we all share each rising sun. Every breath is a blessing, isn’t it?

Lovelies, this Thanksgiving, I want to thank you for your fellowship & support. In gratitude, I lettered up a little art print that you can print and share with your special ones. This printable is totally free – all you have to do is click on the lettering and it will open up at full size. (It’s designed to fit onto a letter-sized sheet of cardstock.)

Enjoy the print, thank you for being you (!) and have a delightful Thanksgiving!!

USING OPENTYPE FONTS IN MICROSOFT WORD

Today, we’re talking shop, Microsoft Word style! Specifically, how to turn Opentype features on & off within the advanced menu options.

What are Opentype features and why should you care about them? Well, these are little bits of code (sometimes big bits!) that tell your software to do certain actions like inserting swashes, substituting alternate letters, and enabling connected letter pairs called ‘ligatures’. Basically, this code takes a standard alphabet and makes it do amazing things for you!

You see, font designers don’t just create letters – they actually program those letters to respond to your commands. The complicated swapping happens behind the scenes; all you have to do is click a few buttons and your program will take care of the rest. Talk about power, right? For whatever reason, though, some programs **cough cough, Microsoft Word** assume that you would rather not take over the world with swashed and flourished documents. So they hide these buttons deep inside advanced option menus, or worse still, pretend like fancy font code doesn’t exist. And that’s a shame, because almost every Opentype font has this cool code stuff built right in.

So, how do we start switching these cool features on? The first step is to make sure you’re running up-to-date software. Microsoft started offering fancy Opentype feature support in Word 2010, so if you’re using an earlier copy, you’ll need to upgrade. Once that’s done, simply open up the program and start a blank document. (In this tutorial, I am using Word 2011 for Mac. The menus and options look similar in newer versions, but you can always refer to Microsoft Office’s support page for instructions specific to your software.)

On the main menu, click the ‘Format’ option and select ‘Font’ from the drop-down menu. This will pull up a dialogue box with two tabs, ‘Font’ and ‘Advanced’. First, we’ll make sure our ‘Font’ settings are correct.

In this example, we’ll select the font, Ondise. Choose the style you prefer (Ondise looks best as ‘regular’) and the letter size. We’ll leave the rest of the options set to default/blank. Notice that the preview window at the bottom of this dialogue box is ‘live’ – the name of the font will grow or shrink based on the letter size you select. This is exactly how the letters will appear in your document.

Now, let’s click on the ‘Advanced’ tab. This is where the Opentype magic happens! The first thing you should do is set your character scale to 100%, and make sure that the ‘Kerning for fonts:’ button is checked. Set the number in the box next door to the smallest number possible (usually 8). This means kerning will be applied anytime you’re using a point size of 8 or above. If you set this number to 12, kerning will not be applied to words that are point size 11 or smaller.

You may be wondering, what the heck is kerning? Very simply, it’s the spacing between two specific letters. Font designers spend a ridiculous amount of time going through every possible combination of characters in the font to make sure that your words look balanced and beautiful, and are easy to read. There are literally thousands of combinations that must be set by hand, and if you’re making a hand-drawn font, this process can take months to complete. (Kerning = love!) When a font is properly kerned, your words will look amazing – so make sure you’ve got that button checked.

You may also be wondering, if kerning is so magical and important for pretty words, and if the whole point of a word processor is to assemble pretty words into functional documents, why on earth would Microsoft keep this option turned off by default? Yeah. Type designers wonder about that too.

Next, we’re going to start enabling the ‘ligatures’ feature. As I mentioned earlier, ‘ligature’ is a fancy way of describing letter combinations. Usually this refers to a pair, but sometimes there are multi-letter ligatures like ‘ffi’. Almost every font comes with standard ligatures – most also have discretionary ligatures built in. A smaller subset of fonts have contextual and historical ligatures. In this example, we will set ligatures to ‘All’, but feel free to experiment with other fonts to see how turning various ligatures combos on or off affects the document.

Number spacing is the next option. If you’re working with lots of numbers in a chart or table, you will probably want to select ‘Tabular’. Tabular numbers have the exact same width as one another so that they line up perfectly in vertical column. Proportional numbers are more visually pleasing, and work well for dates or phone numbers. You can see examples of both in use at Fonts.com. In this example, we’ll leave this option set to ‘Default’.

Number forms is the next option, and as you might imagine, it only affects numbers in your project. Lining and Old-style are two different ways of arranging numbers on a baseline. When you’ve selected ‘Lining’, your numbers will appear in a straight row, with the tops & bottoms of each number lining up exactly. Old-style numbers look a little more irregular; some letters dip down below others, and others even change shape. Look at the difference in the zeros above – do you see how the Old-style version is smaller and rounded? Try toggling between these options and seeing how the numbers in your project change. Which version do you prefer?

And now, a word about Stylistic Sets. The most common question I am asked is, “How do I get those pretty swashed letters in my document?!” The short answer is, Stylistic Sets. Here’s the long explanation:

Many kinds of Opentype features are recognized by professional design applications like Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. The most common (and fun!) feature that people are looking for in a font is the ‘Swash’ feature. If you’re using one of the programs mentioned above, you can easily access Ondise’s swashes in the program’s Opentype menu. Yay! Unfortunately, Microsoft Word doesn’t support the ‘Swash’ feature yet. Boo!

Luckily for us, font-designers get around this problem with Stylistic Sets. Think of these numbered sets as back doors – designers often duplicate “unsupported-in-Word” features into them. In Ondise, for example, you can enable the beautiful swashed letters at the beginning and end of each word by selecting ‘1’ from the drop down menu. Make sure to experiment with these sets to see what features they unlock; you might be surprised at all of the beautiful characters that were hiding behind the curtains!

Notice how the preview changed after we selected Stylistic Set 1? That shows that the swashed letters are now enabled. When you type within your document, anytime you put a space or punctuation before/after a letter, it will automatically flourish itself as you type. Nifty, huh?

Before you close this dialogue box, make sure to check ‘Use contextual alternates’ and ‘Enable TrueType typography features’. The contextual alternates feature tells the program to look for and make changes to specific letter combinations. When this option is checked while using Ondise, you’ll see that the second letter in an identical-letter pair will automatically change into an alternate form. So the identical o’s in soon will suddenly connect in a more natural way, and will appear to be hand-drawn.

Once you’ve made sure all of your options match those of this tutorial, click OK to go back to your document.

Voila!!! All of your fancy Opentype settings will now be in use and you can impress your friends & family with your mad font skillz. One quick note – even after you’ve made all of these changes, Word still thinks it’s smarter than you. Any auto-correct functions (capitalizing the first letter of a sentence, automatic carriage returns, etc.) will override the font’s Opentype code. You’ll need to turn all of the functions off within the Options/Preferences panels before you have 100% control over your project. (And when you do, it will feel so good.)

At some point, the wizards over at Slytherin Microsoft will catch up with the demand for one-click Opentype options & full feature support. In the meantime, hopefully this guide will help you get the most fun out of your font library!

WALKING AMONGST THE GIANTS

Last weekend we finally had the inspection for the farm we’re in the process of buying. After scooting around in the crawlspace, learning all about geothermal systems, and introducing ourselves to some very skeptical chickens, we decided to head south for an early November hike.

A lot of people think Illinois is totally flat & filled with nothing but cornfields. This couldn’t be further from the truth! As soon as you cross I-64, the smooth northern prairies suddenly explode into steep hills and limestone bluffs left untouched by Ice Age glaciers. Keep traveling south and you’ll eventually wind up in a huge river delta where large swathes of forest and swamp have been preserved by the National Park System.

On this rainy, chilly day we decided to visit the swamps! It was perfect actually, because the cold weather knocked the bugs back & the rain kept most other hikers away. It also made my hair frizz up like a chia pet. Fun.

We hiked just 5 miles or so around the Cache River and met three champion trees in the process: the state’s biggest cypress tree (over 1,100 years old), the state’s biggest cherry bark oak (probably older), and the state’s biggest swamp tupelo. Each is growing in a grove of virgin forest – rare for these parts – so it felt like being in a fairy tale. Or Jurassic Park, as my husband insisted. He did have a point – it was pretty primordial to stand under the canopy of these ancient sentinels, some of whom were saplings during The Crusades, listening to leaves gently falling & owls’ hoots echoing across the swamp as the sun set. We felt small and insignificant in the most miraculous of ways.

The colors in the swamp were totally unexpected; it’s the tail-end of autumn, so we thought most of the leaves would be gone already. Instead, the bright yellow-green colors of the tupelo groves popped against the damp, dark tree bark. Their leaves dotted the surface of the water like confetti. The cypress trees were shedding bits of bark on their knobby roots, revealing a kaleidoscope of oranges and greys…even purples! All the while cypress needles were drifting down and landing in our hair like angel’s feathers. Amazing.

Later this winter, we plan on coming back with a canoe and spending the day puttering around. We were told that the duckweed ‘blooms’ into a sea of beautiful green, which will be a sorely missed color come January. Maybe we’ll finally be settled on our farm by then??? (Keeping fingers crossed.)

FONTS IN USE: SAISSANT

Lovelies, have you seen the new website for Hazelet’s Journal? I am just adoring how Old Stone Press used Saissant; it’s the perfect match for an adventurer’s journal, don’t you think? I’m obsessed with the Alaskan Frontier, so this one is definitely going into my reading basket!

Pick up your copy of the book here or on Amazon.

ONDISE FEATURED IN RISING STARS

Magpie Paper Works calligraphy font Ondise is featured in MyFonts November 2013 issue of Rising Stars

MyFonts just mailed out their November Rising Stars newsletter and it featured a familiar ‘face’ that you might recognize: Ondise! To say I’m excited & honored is an understatement; the fonts and designers included in this edition are just incredible. I mean, Charles Borges de Oliveira? Jeremy Dooley?? I’m pinching myself! As many of you know, I fell into font design almost by accident so to have one of my fonts mentioned alongside heavyweights like Le Havre, is pretty incredible.

It seems pretty crazy how far I’ve come since creating my first font, Vermandois. My background is in hand-lettering and graphic design; in early 2011 I was designing a project with a large amount of text that needed to be written in calligraphy. Lettering the piece by hand would have taken eons, so I figured I should try to turn my writing into a font. Easy, right? Well, no. (Stop laughing, typeface designers.)

Teaching myself the nuts & bolts of font design turned out to be a whole lot like teaching myself Japanese – exponentially complex and totally confusing – but it was also rewarding and addictive! (Ganbarimasu.) People, making a functional end product is hard. Every single letter of the alphabet (and then some) must be designed and harmonized with every other letter in the same alphabet. Unlike calligraphy, however, the characters can exist only in a straight line & must appear balanced no matter how they’re arranged. (No hand-lettering tricks allowed!) There’s spacing and kerning to contend with, connections must be designed to blend seamlessly and of course Opentype coding. All of these aspects make it sound like the medium is very limiting but honestly, once you really start mucking around you see that the real challenge is actually infinite possibilities. The most difficult part of transitioning from calligrapher to font designer has been developing the logical side of my brain so that I can recognize them. Folks, there is as much strategy in a font as there is design.

And Ondise is really the culmination of all of this self-teaching. She’s a much more robust font than my earlier releases, and I guess that shows – Ondise was released in late September and in that short time she’s rocketed to the top of MyFonts’ Hot New Fonts list. Right now, she’s the 15th best seller on the site. (Say what?!) I feel like I’ve hit my stride with this one, and am really, really proud of how much I’ve grown. There is so much more to come from my burgeoning solo foundry, Lovelies! Stay tuned…

HAPPY HALLOWEEN, LOVELIES!

Happy Halloween everyone! I’m celebrating today with kettle corn, Charlie Brown, and a brand new calligraphy font that I made called Dasha!!!

I drew Dasha up with a vintage dip pen and sumi ink, and really tried to keep the bouncing baseline look that is so beloved these days. The fantastic-amazing thing about Opentype is that designers can program fonts to look just like handwriting by adding clever features; things like letter pairs that automatically connect or alternate versions of the same letter, and even different initial and terminal letter forms. If you have access to Opentype software like the Adobe CS suite, you’ll see several ‘tricks’ in Dasha that make it look just like calligraphy:

– a full set of alternate capital letters
– seamless ligatures that automatically connect as you type
– beginning and end-of-word swashes
– a set of elaborate swashed capital letters
– old-style numerals
– arbitrary fractions
– 22 (!) alternate ampersand characters

Most of these fun features also work in recent versions of Microsoft Word (2010 and newer) so if you’re designing your own invitations or wanting to print envelopes that look hand-addressed, you can simply turn on the advanced font options. Yay!

If you don’t have access to Opentype-friendly software, don’t fret — you can still access all of the extra characters, you’ll just need a third party application like Ultra Character Map (Mac) or PopChar (Windows) to view and copy/paste all of the goodies.

Personally, I think Dasha would make some amazing holiday cards! Or maybe wedding announcements?

It’s delicate, feminine vibe pairs well with vintage imagery too. I’m dreaming of gilded business cards!

You can pick up a copy of Dasha in our shop here. Right now she’s on sale for $32, but in a couple of weeks she’ll be available through my vendors too, and the price will go up a bit. Early birds, now is your chance!