For the benefit of my students, these are my personal recommendations for art shops in London (or online) and helpful publications relating to calligraphy and geometry. For a more extensive list of books, see my Bibliography.
These are good, affordable places to go to for basics: brushes, geometry implements (ruler, compass etc), ink pens, paints, basic art paper. They also have random craft supplies that can spark ideas.
London Graphic Centre
A good place to start, large range, reasonably priced.
Covent Garden flagship store:
16-18 Shelton Street, London WC2H 9JL (Leicester Sq or Covent Garden stations)
Tel: 020 7759 4500
Smaller branches in Fitzrovia, Clerkenwell, King’s Cross
Particularly cheap, but sometimes at the expense of quality.
Islington flagship store:
66-67 Colebrooke Row, London N1 8AB (Angel station)
Tel: 020 73542999
Smaller branches in Hampstead, Charing Cross, Soho, Kensington, Kingston
Cowling & Wilcox
Good student-to-professional range in art, design and architecture supplies.
112 Shoreditch High Street, London E1 6JN (Shoreditch High Str or Old Street stations)
Tel: 020 7033 3685
Other branches in Camberwell, Holloway Road, Walthamstow
These (pricier) shops provide high-quality specialized supplies such as pigments, gold leaf and gilding implements, a wider range of paper, etc. Exciting to browse, but most of this is difficult to use without prior training.
L. Cornelissen & Son
The oldest art store in London and very well-stocked, but notoriously more expensive than others. Still the place to go to for gold leaf, of which they have a range, and pigments (and to visit for its own sake, as it’s kept its 19th century cachet!)
105 Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3RY (Tottenham Court Road station)
Tel: 020 7636 1045
This store rivals with Cornelissen for pigments as they stock pigments Kremer, the best maker in Europe. Their range for other products is similar but with European brands. Overall slightly cheaper and convenient for East London residents.
142 Cambridge Heath Road, London E1 5QJ (Bethnal Green station)
Tel: 020 7790 0884
This is THE paper and bookbinding store in London. Their range is huge. If your closest art store doesn’t carry the kind of paper you’re looking for, head straight there. You can browse the many samplers that allow you to feel the paper before choosing.
30 Gillingham Street, Victoria, London SW1V 1HU (Victoria station)
Tel: 020 7233 9999
If at a loss regarding what paper to choose, I can recommend the following to begin with.
- Saunders Waterford 300gsm, hot pressed (56×76 cm) (ivory)
- Fabriano Artistico 300gsm hot pressed (comes in Fina, very fine texture, or Satinata, completely smooth) (50x70cm) (white or ivory)
- Islamic Calligraphy, Yasin Safadi: Mainstream kind of historical overview, oversimplified but short affordable read with plenty of illustrations.
- Islamic Calligraphy, Sheila Blair: The deﬁnitive volume on the subject, unparalleled in depth and coverage, from origins to modern artists, from writing tools to paper dyeing. Pricey although you may find good second-hand copies on Amazon; in any case it is really worth it.
- Calligraphie Arabe Vivante, Hassan Massoudy (French and Arabic): A rare specimen, being written by a calligrapher. More about styles and techniques and less about history. Beautifully illustrated with the Arabic text handwritten. May be hard to ﬁnd.
- The Rise of Islamic Calligraphy, Alain George: A recent and groundbreaking study of the origins of Kufi. Of interest if you’re specially drawn to these styles.
- Islamic Manuscripts Reference Library: Massive reference library of books on the subject including out-of-print books. B&W only, and fragmented pdfs, but good for research and deciding what to buy.
- Arabic, Ottoman & Persian calligraphy: Gallery of styles and other resources.
- Styles of Calligraphy: An extract from Annemarie Schimmel’s book Calligraphy and Islamic Culture