How Calligrapher Joanna Chia Runs Her Creative Biz - Feat. Lettering Demo

Content is king! I enjoy meeting different creatives from the community, and meeting Joanna Chia, a Calligrapher and artist from Quirky By Design was a delightful experience. A pleasant person, I found the session knowledgeable as Joanna was kind enough to share with me tips and tools for calligraphy. I have always been fascinated with the art of lettering and that's why I have decided to pick Joanna's brain about calligraphy. (Thanks, Joanna!) Read about her take on being a Calligrapher full time.

Tell us about yourself! What do you do?
Hi ! I’m Jo , my full name, Joanna is what my mum uses when she’s about the launch into a long lecture about how much trouble I’m in. So, just Jo. I’m a calligrapher and artist, but most days I moonlight as an ice cream ninja. I have a great talent for making tubs of it disappear.
Quirky By Design is such a unique name! Tell us how did it all started, and what inspired you to share QBD?
My brother calls me quirky. Well, not really. His actual word was weirdo, but my sister-in-law who is way nicer constantly comforts me by saying “Nah, you’re just quirky”. Needless to say, I decided to keep both her, and the nickname. QBD started as a need to channel some creativity in my life. Back then I was doing research and as fun as that was, I was going almost bonkers repeating experiments over and over, so naturally I decided to pick up a hobby that required me to write alphabets over and over again. If you’re sensing a pattern there, you’re right. I’m a stickler for punishment. I’m kidding. When QBD started, my mother was the only one commenting and liking my post (I may or may not have made her do it),  but it sure has grown beyond my wildest dreams and I now call it my day job!

To educate the folks out there, could you share a little about calligraphy?
Calligraphy comes from the Greek words kallos and graphein, which means “beauty” and “to write”. In its essence, it is the art of beautiful handwriting. There are many forms of calligraphy, but I mainly do pointed pen calligraphy with a dip pen. If you’re thinking of tickly feather quills and monks in robes, you’re quite right, only that the feathers have been replaced by beautiful handmade pens, and the monks well .. a lot of calligraphers are quiet and calm and meditative. That is, a lot of calligraphers besides me. These days you’ll be surprised to find that calligraphy isn’t all that foreign. Just look around you, look at packaging and wedding invites and famous logos, Coca Cola being one of them. To me, calligraphy is not making a ‘comeback’, it is just finally getting the recognition it deserves and needs to continue to grow.

Are you doing this full time? What is your day-to-day like running a calligraphy business?
Yes, I do calligraphy and art full time now. One of my favourite parts of this business is that no two days are ever the same. Some days I sit for hours addressing envelopes, there may or may not be a huge bowl of Maltesers keeping me company, and some days I get to do live calligraphy at media launches and talk to people about calligraphy. I also do illustrations for corporate brands, and it is always a joy to combine both calligraphy and illustration work.

Aside from emerging artists sharing their work, how else do you think the Malaysian creative community can grow and learn to accept the arts and crafts as part of the economy?
I think that having a sense of community and having events that gather the community will help the art industry grow. It’s difficult to expect the public to be receptive of anything if the artists and crafters themselves cannot be accepting of one another. No man is an island, and no man is an original, as hard as that may be to digest for some artists. We all have so much to learn from one another so if we reached out to others in the field, you’d realise that we all complement each other in our skills and talents. Having a united front and support of like-minded individuals will greatly help the arts and craft industry flourish and grow.

Besides calligraphy, what other types of art do you do? Do you combine the two together?
I’m a watercolour addict ! And yes, I often combine the two together.

Where do you go to gather creative ideas & inspirations for calligraphy and lettering?
Pinterest, pinterest, pinterest ! However, whenever I get the chance, nothing beats visiting an exhibition or a gallery or just taking a walk in nature. One of my favourite calligraphy styles : Spencerian, was actually inspired by the gentle waves of streams and rivers near where Roger Platt Spencer, the creator of this hand, grew up.

What do you think is the most difficult part of running a creative business, especially a niche like calligraphy?
I think the hardest part right now is still in educating the general audience / clients. Calligraphy is not JUST handwriting. It is an artform that has transcended generations of history, and it has been the vessel of so many stories and cultures as it has evolved and grown to be what it is today. To me, it is a living exhibit of man’s need to inscribe and leave a mark , a story, a memory for generations to come. Handwriting is a personal token, and a person’s words seem to come alive in writing, even years after that person has passed.

Tips! What online platforms do you recommend to other lettering artists to use to showcase their work and give it a good style?
I’m a huge fan of Instagram. I think one of the reasons it is popular is because it’s a visual based platform, so you can say so much and show so much with just one picture. Pictures say a thousand words after all.

Write Pretty with Masking Fluid Demo by Joanna Chia

Follow more of Joanna's work on Instagram and Naiise

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