March is a time to celebrate women! Monday (3/8) was International Women’s Day, and March is Women’s History Month. This week, we’re taking a look at twelve influential women in calligraphy and asking them a question: “What’s your proudest accomplishment, and what did it take for you to get there?” This is the second installment…
Tuesday’s blog post featured mini-interviews with six influential female calligraphers in Part I of this series. Today, we’re looking at six additional inspirational women to conclude the “Influential Women of Calligraphy” series. As a reminder, the interview question that these women are answering is: “What’s your proudest accomplishment, and what did it take for you to get there?” The interviews below appear in alphabetical order as a continuation from Part I.
1. Karla Lim
My greatest achievement would be coming together as a mom and a business owner. Becoming a mom humbled my perspective towards myself, my life and my business. I know becoming a mom may seem like a normal season of life for a lot of people, and while it is hard, they power through it. But for me, after my son was born, I struggled with postpartum anxiety and baby blues, and I felt myself drowning in guilt, feelings of inadequacy and the lack of control.
Prior to becoming a mom, I felt confident about my life, my work and my career being an invitation designer, doing what I love doing and blessing other people with my work. Thus, the journey of rediscovering myself began. I found solace in doing work with my hands once again through calligraphy. Then, I slowly started to find the balance between being a mother and my work, in that it was no longer a separate thing, but rather that it was one thing altogether. It did mean that I had to make decisions in how I managed my time, as well as my business. I re-explored teaching, which I had done in my teenage years, as the demand of teaching and mentoring increased about my business. I had to stretch myself in different ways, as well as to close some doors to things that would rock my priorities so that I can be fully present as a mom boss. I found myself working better and more efficiently, with an even stronger drive and purpose than before I became a mom.
This entire transformative journey couldn’t have happened without the support I received from my husband and family, to help me stand on my two feet again. I’m so grateful for my peers and partners in the wedding industry and my Instagram followers for not giving up on me as I navigated through this rediscovery and pivoted and changed over the past few years. I’m so excited to be sharing more of it this year as I launch my next two online courses over designing invitations and running a calligraphy business.
I was in my early 20s when I immigrated to the US from my home country of Malaysia, and it took me about 7 years of working as a graphic designer before I received my Green Card. During that time, calligraphy was my refuge. As I adjusted to a new country and culture, I found everyone in the calligraphy community to be so kind and welcoming. I enjoyed meeting Americans and calligraphers from all over the world at conventions, workshops and classes. It is truly the highlight of my year to meet like-minded people who are as obsessed with letters as I am.
Under a working visa, I was never sure when my time here would expire. As a result, I studied calligraphy ravenously, always aware of the ticking clock, as if time was always running out. A few years ago my Green Card application finally came through, and one day out of nowhere the card arrived in the mail, unceremoniously. It was just a small laminated card, but for me it represented hope and security, a new life and an opportunity to give back. Now whenever I am given the opportunity to teach, I look back at my path and feel blessed to be able to help new students on their own journeys.
Schin Loong is the calligrapher and artist for Open Ink Stand Studio in Las Vegas, Nevada. As a professional graphic artist and illustrator with a BFA from Ringling College of Art & Design, she has over a decade of experience collaborating and creating illustration and lettering art for hundreds of individuals, companies and wedding planners. You can follow her work on Instagram.
3. Phyllis Macaluso
My love for calligraphy and for painting have been with me for as long as I can remember. Though teaching school and raising a family were my priority in the beginning, I never stopped learning. I made a commitment to myself to maintain a balance of self-care and pursuit of knowledge as I carved out pockets of time to dedicate to creative learning. This meant staying up later or waking up earlier to make the time for study and practice. It also meant being disciplined with my time for local weekend classes. Years later, I continued to keep this promise to myself, and I signed up for week long international classes and multiple private lessons with accomplished masters to improve my skills. Learning never stopped. I am still always learning. To achieve success I sought highly skilled instructors who could mentor me and help me to achieve my higher goals of excellence. My advice is to never stop learning, seek the best instructors, and aim high. Balance, patience and perseverance will get you there.
I have several proudest accomplishments! First, I won the artistic and creative 2013 Graceful Envelope international contest. Second, I studied with and earned my certification and seal for engrosser’s script penmanship from Gold Seal Master Penman William A. Lilly. Third, I achieved my seal as a graduate and member of the Sumi-e Artists of Canada, and signed a multiple year contract for my work with a luxury stationery company. Another unexpected dream was realized in 2014 when I designed a course for beginners. In my course, I incorporated the spontaneity and simplicity of minimal brush strokes that I borrowed from my studies in Chinese brush painting in order to produce expressive and delicate botanicals using the wedge or triangle brush, a western tool. To this day I continue to teach this popular class, both in live workshops (scheduled again in 2022), online workshops, and privately in one-on-one in virtual tutorials.
I believe in everyone’s potential. If I can share with others the richness and wonderful joy of artful expression, then creatives can come to realize the delightful pleasure and magic of one’s own unique creativity. I believe that everyone has the ability to celebrate and develop their own signature style. Finding this joy in creative expression with brush and pen, and sharing it with others, is a deeply rewarding journey for me.
Phyllis is a freelance calligrapher, watercolorist, sumi-e artist, and international instructor whose background in teaching and art became a springboard into the lettering arts world. Her passion for color, graceful lettering/flourishing, and painting is elegantly expressed in the one-of-a-kind gracefully embellished stationery she creates. You can follow her work on Instagram.
4. Kathy Milici
Thinking about my 40+ year career in the calligraphy industry has caused me to realize that my greatest accomplishment has been my lifelong, unflappable dedication to the art of calligraphy. Although there have been many milestones along the way, my greatest accomplishment is not any one of those milestones. When I started playing with letters as a youngster, I never dreamt that I would become well-known in our field, have my work shown in magazines and on television, have interviews and articles written about me, or be invited to teach at national and international calligraphy conferences, like IAMPETH. But what I did do was continually follow what I love so deeply, which is my curious passion for everything calligraphy.
Sometimes, when I look back on my journey so far, I’m speechless. Without early, conscious thought of purpose, I was set on an exciting path of joyful learning, acquiring skills, and then sharing those skills with others. I continued on that path through the years (still do!), and I never thought about doing anything else. Today, I’m grateful to strive for a higher and deeper understanding of our craft and its long-celebrated traditions, and I find more joy than ever in the doing, teaching and sharing my gifts with others.
Kathy is an internationally known calligrapher, designer, teacher, speaker, author and mentor based in Newton, New Jersey. Her work has been featured in books, design blogs, national magazines and on television. Kathy’s clients include private individuals, collectors and corporations, worldwide. You can learn more about her on her website and follow her work on Facebook or Instagram.
5. Amanda Reid
My proudest accomplishment has been creating an inclusive community of diverse calligraphers and letterers through Calligraphers of Color. When I started to learn calligraphy and took multiple workshops, I had a hard time finding other calligraphers that look like me, with black or brown skin. I remember creating a simple Instagram page in July 2019 that grew to about 500 followers pretty slowly over the next few months. Now the group has over 14K followers on Instagram and a Facebook group of over 800 calligraphers. While the group is diverse and representative of all, we all share one thing in common: our love for the beautiful art of calligraphy and lettering.
You would never think that meeting such a simple need could grow to be something so impactful for so many. It has been such an honor to meet calligraphers all over the world that share similar experiences and are grateful to see representation in our industry. Through Calligraphers of Color, I have been able to learn from other brilliant calligraphers, be inspired by the beautiful work of talented letterers, and make new friends from a variety of cultures and countries. I’m looking forward to being able to travel again to be able to meet some of the many new connections I have made over the past 1-2 years through such an amazing community.
Amanda Reid is a modern calligrapher, workshop instructor and physical therapist. She is the owner of Amanda Reid Designs, a modern calligraphy studio based in Austin, TX, and founder of Calligraphers of Color. You can learn more about her at www.amandareiddesigns.com or follow on Instagram (@amandareiddesigns or @calligraphersofcolor).
6. Maureen Vickery
My proudest accomplishment has been publishing a digital magazine for calligraphers called Calligraphy Crush. It covers topics I’m fascinated with: how calligraphers practice lettering, develop their unique styles, tackle commission projects, and run thriving businesses. The magazine includes artist interviews, tutorials, behind-the-scenes process articles, studio hacks, business advice, and product reviews.
I was able to start this magazine with the generous guidance of my talented friend Erica McPhee, publisher of Dasherie. After a year of weekly accountability phone calls and almost-daily texting back and forth, I launched the first issue in December 2018. I owe so much of the magazine’s success to the friendships I’ve developed with other calligraphers I’ve met at calligraphy guild meetings, workshops, international conferences, and online through social media. Almost every calligrapher I’ve contacted to contribute to the magazine has said yes. The calligraphy community is supportive about sharing information that makes calligraphy accessible to newbies and elevates the art form.
My sincere thanks goes out to Pat, Shinah, Younghae, Becca, Suzanne, Katrina, Karla, Schin, Phyllis, Kathy, Amanda, and Maureen for taking the time to craft thoughtful responses for this series. It was such a fun article to write, and it makes me proud to be part of the calligraphy community. Write on, ladies!