Calligraphy and lettercutting

Make your own quills, pens and drawing tools with Susan Hufton

Ref: S3D09718

Suitable for all

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Places available

About this course

You will make your own tools for writing or drawing, and how to adapt them for specific uses. Using traditional and experimental methods and materials, you will make quills, pens and mark-making instruments.

Course Description

Learning to make your own pens and writing implements open up possibilities of being able to make the flowing lines, shapes and patterns you exactly want rather than being limited by the constraints of mass-manufactured tools.

From the beginning of civilisation until comparatively recently, humans made their own tools to use to communicate through drawing and writing. With commercially made writing and drawing tools, came speed and convenience but these tools are rarely adaptable and do not always give the exact results you want. Many of the traditional ways of making writing implements are still relevant today and this course will explore methods of making these for yourself. A good quill-pen has always been a perfect tool for making written letters and many artists through time have used them as a flexible and sensitive tool for drawing. You will learn how to make quills, to cure and cut them and then work with them.

These techniques are useful for developing and honing your technical skills that will enable you to then go on to use all sorts of other materials for making pens and you will be shown examples of a range of different handmade pens as starting points which you can try for yourself. Then you will learn how to use wood, plastic, card and fabric to create your own tools. Each material gives a different quality of line and you will be encouraged to explore these and to experiment with adapting them to your own specifications.

The performance of a writing tool depends as much upon the surface it is writing on as much as the tool itself so you will have the chance to use different papers as you develop and create the implements you make. You will discover how the interaction of the tool and the surface can give interesting and exciting results.


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

Course Materials


  • 5 sheets of cartridge paper, and part sheets of a range of papers, selected by the tutor and shared amongst participants who then buy for themselves more of the papers they individually choose to use.

What students need to bring

  • Bring examples of any pens and pencils that you particularly like using that you can work with alongside the development of your hand-made tools
  • Any papers you already have that you find difficult to work on using commercially made pens and want to explore using with handmade pens.
  • Please bring the following if you have them:
  • Craft knife with sharp blades
  • Small metal ruler (longer ones will be available to use if needed)
  • Pencil and notebook
  • Inks and paints (watercolour or gouache)
  • Mixing pots, with lids if possible (you will need to mix up and store a quantity of paint for using with any big tools that you make.
  • Brushes for mixing paints
  • A couple of old rags for cleaning etc.

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • Craft knives
  • Metal rulers
  • Inks and paints, including watercolour or gouache
  • Brushes
  • Masking tape
  • Available from tutor:
  • Feathers to make quills and suitable wood, plastic and fabric for making pens A contribution to cover the costs of materials (wood, plastic, fabric) for making pens will be payable, this should be no more than £5 per person.


Susan Hufton

Susan Hufton trained at Roehampton and now teaches and writes about calligraphy and bookbinding in the UK and abroad. She undertakes public and private commissions, and has pieces in V&A and Crafts Study Centre collections. Susan is a Fellow of The Society of Scribes and Illuminators and Full Member of Letter Exchange.


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

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