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Adding Personal Flourishes | Interview with Jane Rollins of Scribe Calligraphy | Wedding Secrets Unveiled! Podcast

Today on Wedding Secrets Unveiled!, Sara sits down with Jane Rollins of Scribe Calligraphy! With over 35 years of experience as a Rhode Island-based calligrapher, Jane is here to share her expert insights. She discusses how personalized elements, like custom colors, individual menus, and hand-lettered seaglass place cards for each guest, can significantly enhance your wedding’s aesthetic. If you can dream it, she can personalize it!

Tips and tricks for custom wedding calligraphy: an interview with Jane Rollins of Scribe Calligraphy on Wedding Secrets Unveiled! Podcast

Before we get going and introduce you to our listeners, I just wanted to share a little backstory about why we invited Jane on the show today.  We always listen to your requests, and we’ve had many listeners write in (especially on Instagram) and ask about having a calligrapher on the show. Jane’s studio used to be right down the road from where my old studio was and we’ve known each other for many years. So I’m extra excited to have her on the show today. So, Jen, tell us about who you are, who you serve and what you do! 

I’m Jane Rollins and I have been a calligraphy artist for more than 40 years. I’ve had a storefront Studio Gallery on Main Street in East Greenwich, Rhode Island for 35 years. It is my 35th anniversary this year. I’m excited about that. It’s a lot of longevity. I started by just with my little pen, addressing envelopes for customers 35 years ago, when the options were black ink or black ink on white or off white – the choices were pretty thin at the time. Calligraphy was pretty, pretty popular. People wanted to study it, people wanted to take it, people wanted to use it. And it was, no pun intended, it was flourishing. Then it became a trend for machine lettering, but it was still marketed as calligraphy. So that was a little bit of a cramp in everybody’s style. 

Then I branched into starting to design invitations. Pocket invitations became popular for a while. So I was actually creating pockets myself until they became manufactured, but pockets were still pretty popular. So I designed them and I made them. I also offer invitations that you can pick out fonts and paper and designs from a book. I also help with designs for table settings – like printed menu cards at each setting or seating cards. Something that’s become really popular is lettering on shells – like oyster shells or rocks. We’re an ocean state, so I’m seeing that a lot! 

And just most recently, I have been asked to do lettering on seaglass for place cards. That makes a stunning presentation. So I’m excited actually to start getting on my gold ink and lettering on  sea glass, which is kind of fun. I’ve etched on mirrors for seating charts – those are really popular. So there’s lots of lots of lots of skill sets that I’ve learned along the way. Honestly, I just say yes and figure out how to do it! 

Tips and tricks for custom wedding calligraphy: an interview with Jane Rollins of Scribe Calligraphy on Wedding Secrets Unveiled! Podcast

Love it! Let’s dive into some of the information that you just gave us and the trends and the process of calligraphy and how and what you’ve been seeing used in the wedding industry. Starting with the trends- you said that you’ve been doing a lot of shells, or seaglass, you said is trending right now.

Yeah, oyster shells are really popular for the guests’ names and table number. On my end, they do need to be treated – you can’t just grab a shell out of the ocean and use it, ha! It needs to be treated so the paint or ink will stick to it. Then we do the name and apply some gold leaf or accents to it. It’s really beautiful, but you’re limited with the material that will actually stick and not smear or bleed or flake off. Mussel shells have also been popular and for a while, I was doing sand dollars. Those are challenging to write on because of the texture, actually! And, as I just said, I got an inquiry for sea glass place cards. So, we’ll see how that plays out. 

Tips and tricks for custom wedding calligraphy: an interview with Jane Rollins of Scribe Calligraphy on Wedding Secrets Unveiled! Podcast

I’m going through my mind, because I photograph them. And you’re right. It’s popular and trendy, but I understand why it is. We are the ocean state. So at least in this region it makes sense! Can you take us through some of the other trends you’ve seen and maybe some that our listeners should consider bringing back for their own wedding?

I think one of the things that I could share are color combinations that you might not necessarily put together. I remember doing an invitation, years back, with the pocket folds with a brown and blue combination. Then there was another with a pink and brown combination. I thought that’s kind of odd. But actually when you put it together, it looks kind of cool. I think what happens though, is my clients come in and they want something simple and elegant. Something that’s timeless – not all the bells and whistles. So, I understand that and appreciate it because it’s kind of a statement. It might feel cliche, but the invitation sets the tone. 

Do you work with people all over the nation or just in our region?

I’m not all over the nation! Geography affects your price point. So I keep my prices competitive with people in my area. I’m not looking to outsource or break down my pricing to cover that. 

So going back to that classic, timeless look… You’ve seen the trends come, like the shells and nautical stuff now. But what are some of the timeless pieces that people continue to use at their weddings year after year? 

Traditional place cards and traditional standup table numbers are things that people use a lot. What I’m finding also is that a lot of brides want to have a say in what they create on their table. Like, I just worked with a couple who did an unusual arrangement for their seating chart. They brought me paper that would be folded in half to look like a book and each table was named after a chapter. It was really cute and she wanted to do a lot of stuff herself. So, I think that’s pretty neat. 

Tips and tricks for custom wedding calligraphy: an interview with Jane Rollins of Scribe Calligraphy on Wedding Secrets Unveiled! Podcast

There’s a difference with DIY vs having input and being completely involved in all aspects. I think there’s a very distinctive line with that. 

It’s a collaboration. I do like collaborating with my clients, because it becomes more of a thing for them. I also teach classes – calligraphy and different hands, historic hands. 

What do you mean by different hands? I think I know what you’re about to say – but so the listeners know. 

I’m talking about different hands that were prevalent during certain times in history. So the most popular hand that people want to learn is called the italic hint, which was popularized in the 1600s. It’s Italian -during the emergence of the Italian Renaissance after the dark ages. And it’s lovely – the more flourishes, the better. But, I talk about this because people want to take a class and after 6 weeks say they’ll do their invitations. I try to tell them that if they’re interested in a class for a class’s sake – like they want to learn the script, that’s fine. But to do invitations, give yourself a year. Practice and learn. I teach large lettering first but then you have to get smaller and smaller to fit on the envelope. 

Yeah, so that’s a goal – take a class and give yourself a year to practice. 

It’s doable, truly. 

Tips and tricks for custom wedding calligraphy: an interview with Jane Rollins of Scribe Calligraphy on Wedding Secrets Unveiled! Podcast

While we’re talking about invitations… I think a lot of people hear calligraphy and immediately think of just invitations. That’s the meat of what you do, so that makes sense. I know you’ve already touched a little on other things that you can do. But, can you tell us where else someone could use calligraphy for their wedding day? I always love when people use it across several pieces – because it really becomes more cohesive. 

Yeah, any kind of seating chart that you want to make into a presentation or a statement. I want it to be more than a list of names. One trend was lettering on mirrors or glass. Mirrors are tricky because you see double, ha. 

I want to talk about mirrors really quickly –  mirrors are beautiful. But, I have to say, as a photographer, I really would like to start to see mirrors go away. They’re reflective. When I’m trying to photograph a mirror, I can see my reflection. Honestly, I think it’s hard for people to read too. I know there’s ways to add film so it’s almost less reflective. I know they’re beautiful – but, they need to go. Or be adjusted. So, if someone listening wants to be on trend and classic, stay away from mirrors! 

Agreed. The classic option is the paper. There are companies who can render them mechanically – without having to have a calligrapher touch it. And, it just depends on what you want to spend. I create an heirloom andI use our acid free materials. Plus, I use ground up sticking or I will hand embellish on each piece. For that $400-$500, you have an heirloom you can keep and frame. 

What other staples, beyond the seating chart, can couples use calligraphy for?

Menus. Sometimes people will want little signage in frames for a remembrance table or a donation table (in lieu of favors). So, any kind of informational, stationery based kinds of things.

Especially with the menus, having somebody that you can work with and collaborate with is really important so people can personalize their menus. 

That’s right – and then they can use them as place settings. 

Can clients add to something that’s pre-purchased or is everything you do from scratch? 

Yeah, we can definitely add onto something you’ve created or printed elsewhere.  

Tips and tricks for custom wedding calligraphy: an interview with Jane Rollins of Scribe Calligraphy on Wedding Secrets Unveiled! Podcast

Will you walk us through some of the history of calligraphy? 

Well, it’s kind of a 2000 year history. In my classes, I teach historic hands and go back to Roman lettering, which is what alphabets and language is largely based on. Those are the ones that were chiseled in stone, with the tools they had. It evolved from there. Depending on what calligraphy was actually written, it was often used for religious purposes. So, only priests and monks had that skill – they were they only ones who could read and write, they were the literate people. It wasn’t for the masses. But, it eventually evolved to be the massed manuscripts and in the Bible. But, for contemporary use, I would say that, if you were going back even just a few generations back, people’s handwriting was a lot better then than it is now. 

All in all, it would have required someone with neat penmanship to address those invitations. You had official society accepted wording and underneath, was the “favor of your reply requested”, which was put in the envelope. It would be given to a butler, opened on the silver tray and someone would get out their stationery to write back their acceptance or regret to the hosts. There were no pre-printed cards with a menu choice. But, it was the expectation that you’d write back. Then you’d have all of these events and activities. 

And I think what I try to do when I sell or make an invitation is to streamline that down. Do you have your wedding and reception in the same location? Then you don’t need a separate reception card – you don’t need another piece of paper… that kind of thing.

Tips and tricks for custom wedding calligraphy: an interview with Jane Rollins of Scribe Calligraphy on Wedding Secrets Unveiled! Podcast

How have the changes in the industry impacted your job as a calligrapher?

It has affected envelope addressing a lot, because the digital addressing can be done in just about any color and on any paper, which is something I couldn’t always do. So, it comes down to a matter of choice but the distinction between the two is pretty remarkable. 

I want to talk about fonts. Can you share some of the differences between fonts, handwriting, and digital printing? 

In my early days, we all took a class and would do all of the writing by hand. But, then a machine came about – Inscribe – and it had a stylus and pen. You would type in all of the information and it would mechanically make the letters on the envelope. But, it was limited as far as styles – and it couldn’t do a lot of them. It also couldn’t use waterproof ink. It became obsolete within a decade. Then digital printing emerged – so there was no reason to have Inscribe anymore. The digital printing does look nice. There are a ton more fonts to choose from now, and I have to admit to my own bias… there are some that are just dreadful, and I don’t know how they got into these books, ha! People will ask if I can copy a font, and I want to say, “why would I?!”. Some are just so hard to read and I have to steer away from them. 

So that’s the key: it may be pretty but if it’s hard to read… 

It’s exotic looking and it’s a throwback. But, you can’t follow it and it’s hard to replicate a scribble. 

I guess the takeaway that you’re trying to say is: you may find something that’s pretty but try writing it out or getting a sample. You may realize that it’s incredibly hard to read.  

Let’s talk about the actual envelope and how to address it. There has to be some type of etiquette and who goes first or what name goes first, right? How does someone navigate that?

That’s a good question. And I’m happy to help people and guide them for what is the socially acceptable verbiage. There are things that are traditional: generally the Mr. and Mrs. line is the traditional line. But I do realize that there are some people that want to have the wife’s name or the female name on the invitation first, so I will have to guide them as to the best way to do that. 

So instead of Mr. and Mrs. John Smith, it will be Mr. John Smith and Mrs. Mary Smith if they want her first name used. It just works better that way but social situations can call for different things. I try to be pretty careful about navigating all of that. 

Tips and tricks for custom wedding calligraphy: an interview with Jane Rollins of Scribe Calligraphy on Wedding Secrets Unveiled! Podcast

Is there etiquette for the parts about who’s hosting the event?

That’s usually my starting point. It can become a sticky situation, honestly. So I help them work all that out too. 

Is there proper etiquette for just names? Does the guy or girl go first, like John and Sally or Sally and John?

I think it’s a personal choice. I think for the invitation, the bride’s name should be first. 

Take me through the process of what you do from a timeline perspective and turnaround times. 

For invitations, if I’m going to be designing and creating them – I would need to start at least 3 months ahead of time, four months would be ideal because you have to get the materials, do the design and the prototype. And then mailing them. People are mailing them too early, I think. 

I understand the thought process – people want to give the date early so that people can plan. But there’s a sweet spot. If you send it out too early, it’s too far out. They don’t know what’s going on in their own lives that far ahead. But if you send it too close, then it defeats the purpose. I think, at most 8-10 months before the wedding is ideal for the save the date unless it’s a destination wedding. 

I agree. For the invitations, if you’ve sent out save the dates, I think that 8 weeks beforehand is great. Get a reply from them by 4 weeks before your wedding day. 

And the doubly unfortunate thing is that no matter what you do, no matter how many hoops you jump through to get people to respond to you – there is going to be a time where you have to contact guests because they don’t respond. That’s unfortunate. 

I know, it’s just one of those things. 

I just worked with a couple recently and they asked to do a QR code on their invitation, which apparently is an option with some of the invitation companies. The groom told me he flat out wouldn’t send an RSVP card back if he got one, ha. 

I guess it’s that instant gratification thing. So, even though you provide an envelope with the stamp, they have to go put it in the mailbox. But a QR code can be scanned and done immediately. 

What about other invitation options – like if you’re ordering them from the book you mentioned? 

The company that I work with, their turnaround time is pretty quick. They’ve made the whole approval process very easy, because it’s all online. I put the font and ensign and then the couple can approve it. Once that’s done, it ships within 2 weeks. They’re pretty quick. Custom is a good 5 months, because we have to get the materials. 

I have to say, being a photographer – I see all of these beautiful invitation suites and stationery sets. I love being able to set up the flat lays with the details. It’s a fun glimpse into the journey that the couple took with wedding planning because this really is setting the tone for their day. 

I’ve recently had some clients who are older and getting married for the second time around. I was able to create really custom beautiful pieces because they didn’t need nearly as many. It was a lot of fun. 

Especially when you’re having a smaller wedding, you’re able to invest in each item a little bit more because the quantity is less. I feel like we’re seeing an influx of smaller weddings. 

Wrap-Up Question

What are some key points that couples should be asking their calligrapher when they’re inquiring to make sure that they are working with a professional company to ensure that their wedding day is an absolutely perfect event?

I suggest that people get samples – hands on samples – from a calligrapher. 

Talk and develop a relationship with the calligrapher that you work with. 

Ask about the ink that they’re using. You want to be sure it’s waterproof so it doesn’t run – and don’t forget to grab extra envelopes for your calligrapher. Mistakes happen. 

Tips and tricks for custom wedding calligraphy: an interview with Jane Rollins of Scribe Calligraphy on Wedding Secrets Unveiled! Podcast

What We Discussed

Meet Jane (2:56)

Trends in wedding calligraphy (7:54)

Tips for calligraphy (12:30)

Printing v. Handwriting (23:00)

Wedding invitation etiquette (27:39) 

Wrap-Up Question (43:40)

Links Mentioned in the Episode

Find Scribe Calligraphy at Website | Facebook

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