Who handwrites letters anymore? Amina Ahmad and Christy Batta still do, literally—they practice the art of hand lettering—writing in different lettering styles, for fun. I met with them on Halloween at the Fenton Street Farmer’s Market to learn more about The Unofficial Hand Lettering Society of Silver Spring.
How the Society Started
The two became friends and founded the group after Batta completed design work for Ahmad’s small-batch candle company, Handmade Habitat in January 2015. While designing a logo for the company, they began talking about how interesting hand lettering is and decided to meet once a month to practice penmanship with likeminded letterers.
Both women are creative professionals as well as lettering enthusiasts. Christy Batta is a graphic designer for SW Creatives; Amina Ahmad owns Handmade Habitat and also does marketing and vendor relations for downtown Silver Spring’s weekly Fenton Street Market. Both Batta and Ahmad have a passion for lettering because it is a great way to exercise creativity and can even be therapeutic at times.
Being required to exercise lots of creativity at work can make it easy to neglect creative growth at home. Like many professionals, both women were seeking a way to practice personal creativity outside of the daily grind. Working on projects in a group setting seemed like a great way to grow artistically and learn new things from others in a relaxed space. “We were looking for a way to separate work creativity from ‘fun’ creativity,” says Ahmad.
Whether you’re a graphic designer by day and want extra practice, or you’ve never tried lettering or doodling in your life, participating in the group can be a rewarding experience. In fact, the success of the group has grown above and beyond what its founders expected.
(Lettering by Christy Batta and Amina Ahmad pictured above. Instagram #SSLetters.)
Why Hand Lettering?
The group began meeting at Zed’s café on Georgia Avenue but has moved to larger venues after growing dramatically in size over the past several months. “We have about 62 people on our mailing list right now and people subscribe as they get tickets to our meetings. One of our members started coming early on and has since then started her own hand-lettered paper goods company, Meekly Yours.” says Batta.
“A lot of our members use the Society as a creative outlet. We have lots of enthusiasts who come. Some were once creative and are looking to get back into it; some dabble in other art forms. Some have no artistic experience at all, and come for the fun and to de-stress! We have had a few members struggling with illness lately and it seems to have been a good therapeutic outlet for them as well.”
De-stressing and socializing with other artists is as much the point as practicing writing and drawing. If you take a look at the #SSLetters hashtag on Instagram and Twitter, you can see some really cool artistic results from these meetings. Collaborating and communicating with others is so important in growing as an artist, and this group is a prime example of how effective art partnership is.
Tools of the Trade
The Society can be found on Tumblr, and the site is a great resource for those interested in hand lettering. If you are trying to get started with hand lettering, or get back into regular creative practice outside of work hours, the website and meetups are a great way to get back into the groove. A feed of Instagram photos and lettering inspiration can be found on the website, along with the supply list and signups for meet-ups.
Ahmad and Batta say they are much pickier about pens than paper; they generally use basic sketchbooks rather than fine papers, but members’ pen selections can range widely. Most members like to have a write range of shapes, colors and qualities in their pen arsenal.
“We are always testing new pens out from Plaza! The Pilot Bravo and all kinds of brush pens tend to be big favorites among our members though.” There is also a “swap box” at the meetings so people can share tools and try out new pens. Sharpie Brush Tip Markers seem to be pretty popular:
Batta and Ahmad are always happy to see new faces at meetings: “We're excited about the possibilities and would love to meet more local lettering enthusiasts!” One of the biggest accomplishments for the Lettering Society this year was a collaborative project to make a tote bag featuring different lettered logos that members created at one meeting. The group also has plans to create a zine featuring inspirational quotes lettered at a different meeting.
Unfortunately for Plaza Art enthusiasts who do not live near the Washington D.C/Silver Spring area, the group is tied to downtown Silver Spring. If you live outside of the area, maybe the UHLSSS will inspire you to start your own hand lettering group!
The Unofficial Hand Lettering Society of Silver Spring always meets on the second Tuesday of the month. Please bring your own drawing supplies and remember that the focus is on lettering! Meetings are free, but held at restaurants, so you will probably want to bring money for food or drinks while you’re lettering.
Check the website for exact dates and times, and please sign up prior to meetings so they can get a head count: SSHandLettering.tumblr.com