The Calligrapher's Life

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Who decides you’re a professional calligrapher?

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Anyone who’s glanced through the glossy pages of a wedding magazine or stumbled across an online wedding site should have noticed ads speckled throughout featuring freelance calligraphy services. These calligraphers offer fancy lettering for anything from invitation design to addressing envelopes.

As I reviewed a few calligraphers’ websites, I wondered how long they practiced the craft before launching their business.

Prior to starting calligraphy a few years ago, I dreamed. I dreamed big.  Visions of grandeur popped into my mind on a regular basis. I imagined hanging out my shingle for freelance calligraphy services. I fantasized about lining up brides to be, wedding planners and party hosts to address envelopes for them in Copperplate, Spencerian and italics.

Reality set in after one week of practice. My dreams shattered like a wine glass slipping to concrete.  How could I imagine handwriting professionally when I struggled helplessly week after week no matter what writing tool I used?

Time passed. I practiced more. I saw progress in my calligraphy, yet I still had doubt I could exchange my services for pay. Although I received compliments on envelopes I addressed for family and friends, the doubt remained and I held onto the lingering question—how much practice is required to become a pro calligrapher?

Over the years, no single concrete answer presented itself about the length of time required to leap into the pros.  Even sitting amongst amateur and professional calligraphers alike in class and society meetings failed to reveal a solid answer for me. Months later, I got the impression that if I were to consider myself a calligrapher, it possibly required ten or more years of dedicated calligraphy practice.

What a feat to accomplish. My dreams were set further back until I read Stuart David’s book called “How to Become a Professional Calligrapher”. In this slim “how-to” book, Mr. David explains how hobbyists can turn their passion for calligraphy into profit. His words offer guidance and positive direction stating that any artist with enough drive, practice and talent can break into the pros.

What I love most about the book is that he doesn’t set a timetable for mastering calligraphy. This relieves a heavy burden from any budding lettering artist who’s confident in their talent. He also offers sage advice on how to gage your skill before going pro, so you’re prepared before moving too deep without a net.

From the book, I took away bits of knowledge to apply to my goals for going pro that will help you:

  • Show off your portfolio.
  • Address envelopes for a friend or family member.
  • Time your handwriting to see if you’re skilled and quick enough to earn a living wage.
  • Soak in all the compliments to gain added confidence.

So, who decides when you’re a professional calligraher? Only you can answer that for yourself. Take stock in your skill and confidence and it’s possible to take on the challenge of running a business doing what you love.

Were you ever told how long it would take to master calligraphy? If so, how long did they say?


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