Texas Calligraphers: Write on. Write Now.
By: Jessica Moreau
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then what is a word that makes a beautiful picture worth? Calligraphy, the lost art of decorative writing, is making a resurgence. You have likely seen the scrolling and elegant lettering on invitations and other paper goods, but right now, all things handwritten and hand-lettered are en vogue. Calligraphy is no longer reserved for weddings and formal events. There are services, some likely nearby in your neighborhood, that will create beautiful works by hand for your invitation, frame-able print, and personalized stationery needs.
Lauren Brod, a Texas calligrapher, explains that “Calligraphy has an ebb and flow to it that you can get lost in. The swells on the downstroke and thin hairlines on the upstrokes give beauty and precision. It is meticulous, and it is full of feeling.” Creating beautiful letters also has a historical element that Lauren loves. She adds, “It pulls you in and takes you back to a time when penmanship was highly esteemed when a master penman was hired to scribe the most important documents. It has value and elegance.”
Across Texas, there is an abundance of calligraphy services from which to choose. These featured calligraphers have discovered unique ways to bring hand lettering into lives in the most thoughtful ways.
Maureen Vickery, of PenDance Caligraphy & Engraving, grew up loving crafts, drawing, painting, and making things with her hands. Her mother was not a crafty type, but she encouraged Maureen to try whatever piqued her interest. Maureen was in middle school when her mother purchased her first calligraphy book, and the rest is (lettering) history.
When planning her wedding, Maureen felt compelled to address all of her envelopes herself in elegant calligraphy, so she took private lessons in order to learn do so. She enjoyed every minute, and her love of calligraphy began to look like a viable career path. She became a go-to for friends looking to hire someone to do their hand-lettering, and soon had a thriving part-time business. In January 2001, she took the leap into full-time calligraphy.
Her husband, Don, works with Maureen at home and he offers computer printing services for envelopes and place cards; approximately half of PenDance’s customers choose this alternative to hand lettering due to time and budgetary constraints. Turnaround time is key when planning a wedding or other large-scale event, and even more so when a calligrapher is involved. Maureen ask clients to allow about one week per one hundred addresses since she usually has several jobs booked each week. For computer printing, Don needs only about three to five business days from the time he has the final approved guest list and the envelopes in hand.
Maureen also offers several products that set her apart from many other calligraphers. She enjoys creating hand-lettered family tree designs customized for each family. Maureen has even developed an online handwriting class called “Handwriting Makeover” that helps adults improve their penmanship skills through short video lessons and daily practice over the course of several weeks. The goal of the class is to help adults learn what makes handwriting both legible and beautiful, show them how to practice, then guide them into creating their own unique styles about which they should feel proud.
As a bonus, the hope is that the class will encourage adults to teach their own children how to write beautifully since the art of penmanship is no longer a focus in many schools. On the lost art of handwriting, Maureen comments, “I think people would find pleasure again in writing notes and love letters, and journaling about their daily lives, if they developed a handwriting style that flowed easily from their pen and was legible and beautiful to read. Handwritten letters and journals can be an amazing legacy to leave to future generations.”
Polished Pen (Dallas)
Kelly Hager, of Polished Pen in Dallas, is a woman with sass who also happens to love her calligraphy. Her background with lettering dates back to 2011 when she was working a corporate job after graduating from Texas A&M University. She was in Dallas and wanting an outlet for her creativity when she came across a listing for a six-week calligraphy class at Southern Methodist University. She had always loved beautiful calligraphy and personalized stationery, so the class instantly caught her eye and she was hooked from the first lesson, so much so that she took all of the classes the teacher offered!
Kelly works with many calligraphy styles and products. She has studied classic styles such as italic, old English, and copperplate, as well as adapting several modern and whimsical styles. Kelly says, “I enjoy the variety that each client brings and love finding just the right style for their project.”
When asked about her favorite projects, Kelly identified one immediately. “A collection of song lyrics that were special to a couple,” sits high atop her favorites list. “The man used [them] as part of his proposal to his fiancé.” One of her other most memorable projects was creating a family tree which depicted several generations, but doing so in an heirloom Masonic Bible. “People often think that calligraphy is just a business of wedding invitations, and I absolutely swoon over calligraphy for a wedding invitation, but many people do not imagine all of the possibilities calligraphy can offer. Think of all of the moments worth celebrating and commemorating in a person’s life. Calligraphy adds such as personal touch, and as a calligrapher I get to hear all of the wonderful stories that inspire each piece,” Kelly says, “This is one of the true joys of a calligrapher.”
Wondrous Whimsy (Austin)
Austin is known for a many great things: live music, SXSW, food trucks, and art. And it would be easy to add calligraphy to that list as well. Wondrous Whimsy of Austin is the place to get all of your handwritten items for life’s biggest moments.
Samantha Burnett founded her business after wanting a more creative outlet than the corporate graphic design job she was pursuing. She grew up doing creative things and making things with her hands. Samantha also harbors a special love of lettering, and during college fell in love with typography. It was during an internship with a stationery designer where Samantha learned the art of modern calligraphy through an online class. She began selling calligraphy prints through an online shop, but after getting connected with some local wedding industry professionals, she became immersed into the wedding world.
From there, Wondrous Whimsy has grown to be a fine art wedding stationery boutique. They use the finest papers, materials, and printing methods to provide the best wedding stationery experience to all customers. In fact, they are working to launch a customizable collection of pre-designed invitation suites for quicker timelines at a lower price point. This will take the stress and lengthy timeline out of custom invitation design, to make the handmade custom wedding invitation process accessible to a wider variety of couples.
Samantha loves this business so much that she recently began teaching modern calligraphy. When asked her thoughts on the lost art, she replied, “I never thought I would be great at teaching, but I am so passionate about the art, and there is such a need for professional calligraphers to share their skills with those just starting out. I now teach an introduction to modern calligraphy where we focus on all the basics, from how to use the tools to how to form letters and words, all using a modern form of copperplate calligraphy.” She adds, “I love to encourage students to put their own unique styles into their lettering because that is truly what modern calligraphy is all about. No two calligraphers’ styles will be the same. It is very personal and unique to you as an artist.”
Tone and State (Houston)
Houstonian Lauren Brod is the proud owner of Tone and State, which offers a unique lettering and papering experience. Lauren began her pursuit of artistic lettering back in high school, while playing sports. While an unlikely place to begin an art business, she credits decorating her teammates’ lockers in the locker room as her first foray into letterforms. Now a stay-at-home mom of two toddlers, Tone and State was born from a need for a creative outlet, as well as a passion for handwritten notes and the like.
A majority of Lauren’s work is done through custom orders, such as lettered art prints, stationery, wedding suites, and calligraphy pieces. She does them all herself, without the help of an assistant, so turnaround time is dependent on the scope and scale of the project. Wedding envelopes take approximately two weeks to complete, while an art print is usually done and printed within a week. Non-customized items are stocked and therefore shipped out much sooner.
When asked about her favorite projects, an impassioned Lauren responded, “One of my favorite things to work on is weddings. I have loved designing custom stationery for brides’ wedding suites and signage for their events. The icing on the cake is when I am asked to do the calligraphy on the envelopes as well.” The aspect of weddings Lauren enjoys the most is the personalization and the reflection of a bride’s personality. “Calligraphy and lettering is an expression in all its forms… I love reflecting the personality of my clients in their pieces. It takes it beyond paper, and gives it meaning.”
As for the current craze of hand-lettered décor, stationary, and prints, Lauren explains, “Writing in general, whether with a pointed pen or pencil, is something that needs more emphasis. We live in a day where electronic communication is primary for survival. Few and far between do you get handwritten letters in the mail or ‘just because’ cards.” She hopes that her products impact people in a positive way, and adds, “My hope is that in my little corner of the world, I make a difference. I hope I empower people to be intentional through paper goods they are proud of.”
The fire for what these women do burns deep, and it is evident when speaking to them. Words are just words, but when they are beautifully written, the meaning just seems to leap from the page and land directly into your heart.