I LOVE writing out family trees. It's not every calligrapher's cup of tea, but the nerdy design and measuring appeals to me, and there's such satisfaction in creating something which means so much to the commissioner.
There's no "usual way" for family trees - the relationship with the customer varies a great deal, as does the outcome.
I thought I'd talk about the rough stages we go through, to give you an idea (and maybe even inspire you to get your tree done.)
I seem to have a lot to say (!) so I've split it into 2 parts - second part will be published soon so please check back.
I've done a few trees where the family has asked someone (a genealogist or a PA to a family member) to get the tree done - this is absolutely fine, but I wonder if we miss the chance to make it as personal as possible.
Usually the person I'm talking to will be right there on the finished piece - and I like that!
We talk (usually on email) about the information to be included, the format it's currently in, who the tree is for, when it's needed and a whole host of other things.
It's very helpful if I can see the information about the family - I'll almost always create a diagram of how it could look to help the conversation along.
Information can be in a spreadsheet, a word document, a printed tree diagram, hand written tree diagrams or by giving me access to your research in Ancestry or similar - all are fine.
(In my early days before I knew better I agreed to work from a GedCom file which was something like 120 pages of text, and I had to pick my way through finding out how the family relationships worked - I wouldn't do that again.)
As early as I can in the conversation I come up with a price. This is simply "Time to design/complete the piece" plus "time to write out 1 person" multiplied by number of family members.
If it's very complex or includes decorative elements such as a crest, I include that time in the "Time to design/complete" estimate.
In nearly all cases this is the price paid at the end - I've only ever altered the quote (up and down) if the number of family members changes.
Refining the content
Once we're agreed on price and a deposit has been paid, we continue to work on refining the content of the tree. This can happen really quickly, or can take a few emails.
I'll often refine the little diagram, so that we remain clear what the piece will look like, and there'll be a spreadsheet containing the tree details. Sometimes I create this, sometimes the customer, but its important moment comes when I ask the customer to sign off that its contents are 100% accurate - and mistake I make after that is my issue to fix, but if the information was wrong, that's not my issue.
(In truth it's almost never an issue - of course my customers take great care to provide the right information. I did have one early customer who pointed out the misspelling of a place name on the piece once it was delivered, despite it having been wrong in the information we'd been sharing for weeks. Because of that, I'm now a bit more "fierce" with signing off the content.)
This is now the point at which it all goes quiet for the customer - it's even possible they won't see anything until the final piece arrives in the post.
Part 2 coming soon - please check back!
I'm Janet Smith, a calligrapher who loves to experiment with lettering and calligraphy.