In the world of writing vows and tying the knot, a traditional look never goes out of style. Most girls have Pinterest pages a mile long full of lace dresses, baby blue hankies, and an array of baby’s breath. Along with these delicate wedding details comes the invitation. Formally handwritten by the bride’s parents, invitations are now being massed produced by millions of companies across the globe. Yet, in our fast-paced world, there is still a large sum of us who are doing it all by hand. These goddesses with the penmanship of a 1900’s king have not only taken over the wedding industry, but the design industry as well.
Calligraphers aren’t just getting creative on the envelope. Their hand-done method is proven to be desired by magazine editors, visual merchandisers, and ad agencies alike. Some of my favorite ink-goddesses (I say this with experience, calligraphy is quite difficult to master!) include Laura Hooper, Dana Tanamachi, and my dear friend, Griffin Glaze.
Griffin and I were 2 of 7 the graduating graphic designers at my university. I remember meeting her and thinking, damnit, this girl is good. She has always had a way with typography that made me cringe with jealousy. Today, she is a full time assistant video content developer at a renowned design agency in Charlotte. Her creative days end with soothing nights of pen and ink. Griff and I chat about her new business and how she fell in love with this old school craft:
I picked up calligraphy about a year ago. I never had the patience for it. How did you start and why do you think has it stuck with you?
“A few months after starting my graphic design job (about a year and a half ago), I started to get an itch to do something that involved using my hands and learning something new. In school, I had become so used to spending about half my time working on a computer and the other half creating things with pens, X-acto blades and actual paper. It was a bit of an adjustment when I began to work at a computer for at least 7.5 hours a day.
The challenge of honing my skills in a craft and continuing to learn new things was something that I really missed. I’ve had a love for typography for a few years now, and after seeing an online class to learn calligraphy, it seemed like the perfect way to fill that void. Up until that point, my experience with calligraphy was limited to some calligraphy markers I’d used back in high school to pass notes in class and to scrapbook. I was a pretty classy high schooler.”
What is your favorite thing about the old school art form?
“I was always the kind of kid to sit in my room for hours on end and just make things, so calligraphy became my adult version of those same habits. Calligraphy has also taken a modern swing, and I think that makes it more accessible to a wider (and younger) audience. It allows a bit more room for imperfection. In an increasingly digital world, hand-crafted pieces begin to have more value because they have character to them. They help connect us to our humanity.”
Did you teach yourself? What resources are out there for those looking to pick up a pen?
“I took a Modern Calligraphy for Beginners course online at skillshare.com and practiced on my own. The class was relatively inexpensive. The instructor broke down exactly what tools you needed to purchase and how to form the basic alphabet. I was able to take the classes on my own time and at the speed that I wanted. After I went through all of the lessons, I just spent hours practicing on a big pad of paper in my living room.
If you want to continue with calligraphy online, they have more advanced levels that detail how to digitize your calligraphy and how to layout the perfect envelope. Many paper stores also offer calligraphy classes for a more personal approach. I am definitely no expert, so I hope to work with more calligraphers this year to learn more.”
What calligraphers, if any, got your fire going? Who/what inspires you most?
“Molly Jacques, the woman who taught my beginners course, was a great intro in the world of calligraphy. Her style is very modern, and her portfolio includes more calligraphic illustration pieces than not. Charmaine Almulaifi is also incredibly inspiring. She can nail some serious flourishes (something I’m desperately trying to get better at), and her style has such a wide range from a contemporary approach to the traditional copperplate.
Typographers in general are a big inspiration for my work, including people like Jessica Hische, Jessica Walsh, and Casey Ligon. It is a different arena than calligraphy, which is more about perfecting a hand motion as opposed to illustrating letters. However, the two disciplines definitely influence each other, and what I’ve learned from calligraphy has vastly improved my typographic work. If you are looking for more inspiration, follow some calligraphers on Instagram and you will have a daily feed of some fantastic type.”
How do you manage a full time design job and your own side business? What tips do you have for freelance calligraphers or artists?
“Calligraphy is my chance to work on something creative that is just for me, and that also allows me to make my own schedule. The repetitive rhythm of it is calming so it doesn’t really feel like working. It feels like playing.
If you want to improve a skill-set, make sure to get your work in front of people that can critique it and make it better. In the online course I took, you can upload your work and get feedback from the teacher and other students. I started doing freelance jobs for the people that I knew, and then they told their friends. A great bonus to being a calligrapher in your twenties or thirties is that you probably have received a good handful of Facebook notifications about a friend getting engaged. It’s a great way to practice and get better. I also made a few ads that showed my work, and then gave postcard print outs with my information to local paper and stationary stores to hand out to potential customers.”
What is your favorite thing to write write/design?
“Right now I am still starting pretty small with my calligraphy: envelopes, gift tags, and short phrases. As I begin to feel more confident with my composition skills, I’ll probably create some bigger pieces with longer quotes. Maybe a menu!”
What does the future hold for this freelance business? When will we see “Griffin Glaze Calligraphy” in our Southern Weddings Magazine?
“My day job helps me to take care of my bills, get groceries, and save money for when I’m old. My calligraphy jobs are my “fundraising money,” which I save for traveling and other adventures. I really enjoy the social aspect of working in an office, and I think that would difficult to find if I were freelancing full time. If I were going to pursue calligraphy more seriously, I think that business would have to encompass a broader range of design that included calligraphy, such as invitations, illustrations, and logos.”
What advice do you have for young 20-somethings with a passion outside their career?
“One of the biggest shockers for me post college was finding that there is very little time between work and bedtime, and some days you just feel too tired to do anything BESIDES go to bed. So pick something that you enjoy doing or you want to improve on and make a point to do that. Write down your goal and tell other people about it to hold you accountable. Hopefully, what you are passionate about will somehow be involved in your work life.
If you aren’t quite sure where to start or don’t want to invest too much money, then sign up for an introductory class or reach out to other people who work in that same area to see if they have advice on how to get started. But don’t let the fear of failing at something new keep you locked up in your apartment binge watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix (like I’ve been guilty of). Life’s too short. If you decide to take the Netflix route, at least pick up a pen and practice your alphabet.”
To contact Griffin for freelance or other inquiries, visit www.griffinglaze.com/calligraphy or email her directly at email@example.com