Rachel Yallop

A109 Disciplined Freedom: Mastering the Ruling Pen

Two and a Half Day Class
Lettering, Tools & Materials

The ruling pen is a very versatile and expressive tool not least because it comes in more than one form: the folded, the pointed, and the Cola pen. Even then there are different shapes within these groups which affect the marks made. Unlike many of the tools we use that have specific purposes, the ruling pen requires the writer to determine what it will ultimately produce. It is capable of everything from explosive to subtle, traditional to contemporary.

This class will explore the myriad possibilities of the ruling pen’s “line”—that fascinating bitten edge. The ruling pen, of whichever sort, makes a unique line, and pen manipulation and the position in the hand, forms a large part of this. We will look at the marks made, how to achieve the spatter effect including instruction on enhancing lines through touch-up. In designing letters in skeletal form and practicing both formal and informal letter shapes, we can create the ultimate contrast from writing large multi-lined, textural letters, to the more restrained built-up capitals, word design, or a combination of all these things. In this exciting class the possibilities are endless.

Supply List
We will make a Cola pen. For this you need
  • An empty drinks can (eg. coke or lager)
  • Scissors to cut can
  • Masking or parcel tape
  • Nail file/emery board
  • Old pencil to use as a handle for the pen

  • Old, new, or borrowed ruling pens: pointed, folded, cola, or even ruling writers. The more there are to experiment with the better.
  • Lots of paper! Layout paper for working out letter designs, cartridge/drawing paper for practice, also some watercolor/textured paper and black paper for writing in white on black
  • Ink: full bottle should be enough (I use Pelikan 4001)
  • White gouache, if you would like to try writing in white on black (I use Schmincke Calligraphy gouache or Dr Martin’s Bleedproof white)
  • Water jar
  • Mixing brush
  • Palette
  • Small, narrow bottles/old ink bottles with lids: for storing mixed gouache and dipping in the pen
  • Pencil

Rachel Yallop is a British calligrapher and lettering designer. Her love of letters stems from a lifelong passion for drawing, with her original calligraphic works exploring line, form, space, and lettering design. Rachel studied at Ravensbourne and then the Central School of Art & Design in London, gaining an MA in 1985. She has pursued a freelance career specializing in creative and expressive calligraphy for 35 years, working with design consultants handling accounts from major UK companies. For much of this time she has also taught a wide variety of calligraphic and design disciplines in art schools, at conferences, and workshops both in the UK and internationally. She has also written and designed two copperplate manuals. Rachel is a Founder Member and past Chairman of Letter Exchange and an Honoured Fellow of the Calligraphy & Lettering Arts Society.