Over the past year – and indeed in the years leading up to the pandemic too – there has been a growing resurgence among many artisanal crafts once considered dying art forms.
Calligraphy, or more specifically modern calligraphy, is one such craft that has seen a tremendous surge in popularity in recent times, and not just within the wedding marketplace where it has traditionally found a home. More relaxed and freestyle than traditional calligraphy, the modern practice of considered penmanship can be as therapeutic a pastime as adult colouring books, hand-built clay modelling or at-home candle-making.
For Another Loop founders Charlotte Laidler and Tom Camm, the joy of calligraphy is not a new discovery. “Now more than ever it seems that people are growing a little weary of the limitations of digital life,” says Tom, “and are turning to physical activities that allow them to step outside the feeling of passivity that modern life can bring. Working with your hands to create something physical feels really productive and rewarding. You can almost take pleasure in the amount of time it takes you to learn a skill such as calligraphy – particularly when we’ve all had so much of it on our hands over the last year!”
We wanted to inspire people to invest in an alternative to bulk printed, off-the-shelf printed stationery, as we believe stationery can be considered miniature pieces of art in their own right.
The couple founded their modern calligraphy studio in 2017. “We share a creative background,” says Tom, “having met while studying Fine Art at Central St Martins. When we moved back up North to Newcastle, where Charlotte grew up, it was only a matter of time before we started a paper-based business really!”
“We were both really into trying out different print processes, collecting paper ephemera, limited publications, zines etc.” explains Charlotte, “which absorbed most of our limited funds while we were in London! We knew we wanted to inspire people to invest in an alternative to bulk printed, off-the-shelf printed stationery, as we believe stationery can be considered miniature pieces of art in their own right.”
Inspired by the fact both their parents run their own family businesses, Charlotte and Tom tell me they knew pretty early on that they wanted to begin a business together, and felt it important that their brand should appeal to and meet the expectations of an environmentally conscious audience.
“As our primary material, we put a lot of time into sourcing our papers when we first started out,” says Charlotte, “trying to strike a balance between colour, recycled pulp content, and those which would work best with our hot foil press. We always choose uncoated stock for that subtle texture and tactile feel which you just can’t beat! We try to always work with natural or reusable materials; glass bottles, terracotta, slate etc. If an object can be used again after an event, or kept as a memento, then that is ideal and a great way to cut down on single-use objects and plastics.”
“Gently pushing the boundaries of what you can do with paper when creating multiple editions has definitely helped us to find our own niche,” says Tom. “We now have quite a few tools at our disposal, from calligraphy and hot foil stamping, to painting and die-cutting, and for us it has become about how to incorporate these touches in a contemporary way to celebrate print, while leaving plenty of room for the design to breathe.”
“Taking inspiration from colour palettes, textures, typography and finishes from various eras and locations, our most important goal is for our customers to feel they have something completely individual, with a human touch. Luxury print processes are great in their own right, but you can’t rely on them alone to achieve that.”
The couple tell me they are lucky to have a hot foil press in their studio, allowing them to create beautiful finishes in-house. “Personally we love the fact that our hot foil machine is old, yet would work on the exact same principles if it was made today,” says Tom. “So many print techniques are completely timeless, and you can’t really imitate those subtle qualities which make them unique. The fact that our customers pick up on that, and appreciate the craftsmanship when they hold our work, only makes us want to try out more and keep on learning.”
“Because we do pretty much everything in-house, from printing to photography, we haven’t had to spend too much to get Another Loop off the ground and have been growing organically,” says Charlotte. “That said, we were just entering our third year in business when the first wave of the pandemic hit, and feel like it came at a fortuitous time for us to evaluate our progress and the direction we wanted to head in. This time last year our whole business was completely geared up for the wedding industry, and although we always planned to broaden our offering in the long-term, the pandemic meant we had the time and impetus to speed things up a bit.”
The range now includes a wider array of paper-based items, covering local-inspired greetings cards (which include a food bank donation), alongside more bespoke options such as House Portraits, Golden Tickets and Love Tokens which they personalise to order with modern calligraphy. “Lettering so many Golden Tickets as gifts for events and meet-ups that people can look forward as things gradually return to normal has definitely helped keep our spirits up too!” says Charlotte.
Long-term they see themselves as more of an open studio, creating work for private clients and businesses while also sharing in-depth information about artistic printing processes by delivering classes and workshops. “We also want to build up our semi-bespoke wedding range – which feels like it could be a never-ending project – but we enjoy it too much to stop!” says Charlotte. “There is always more print equipment to acquire too,” says Tom. “We wouldn’t say no to a letterpress, pending more space!”
Photography © Another Loop / Emma Ryan, used with permission.