Each has mastered the art of refinement

By Allix Cott
Updated Oct 12, 2017 @ 4:30 pm
Credit: Magnolia Adams Photography

Calligraphy is an art that few master and a technique that even fewer successfully focus into a business. Delicate cursive, handwritten details, and custom designs are the pillars of these successful designers—not to forget undeniable passion and sheer talent!

Now more than ever, custom stationery items are a must-have for a one-of-a-kind celebration. From detailed name cards on a curated tablescape to the first look of your wedding vision through an illustrated invitation, these handwritten masterpieces are here to stay. We've tapped the minds of some of the calligraphy world's most influential artists to ask them how they got their start and what they think is next in the world of delicate handwritten design.

Laura Hooper Leader, Owner + Founder of Laura Hooper Calligraphy

Credit: Sweet Root Village

Having owned and operated her self-titled company since 2002, Laura Hooper Leader could be called an expert when it comes to serving clients with handwritten stationery needs. With over twenty years of calligraphy experience under her belt, Leader has successfully built a business that extends beyond her stunning custom designs, including in-person workshops that teach aspiring calligraphers the art of pointed-pen calligraphy. While probing Leader on her impressive career, the talented entrepreneur gave insight into what's often misunderstood about her impressive craft.

Where did you first develop your love of handwritten calligraphy?

I have always been artistic, and I started with calligraphy at the age of 11. My first job when I was a teenager was personalizing caricature drawings using broad edge calligraphy, but then I started teaching myself pointed pen around the age of 21 and things developed from there.

What inspired you to start your own business?

My dad encouraged me to take the first steps! My best friend was my first client and then I two others by word of mouth and my dad bought my first website domain. We didn't have the kind of online resources for starting your own business like there are today (this was over 15 years ago!), so I literally Googled everything. I knew that I didn't love my corporate job and that I did love calligraphy, so I took the leap to see what I could do with my art and never looked back.

Credit: Laura Hooper Calligraphy

What's one thing people misunderstand about calligraphy?

Definitely how difficult of a skill it is. Usually when you are watching your favorite professional online, they are showing their best work and generally it has been developed over years. I think when people get started, they find that it is much for difficult that it appears and that they will need to invest a fair amount of time, as well as money on quality supplies and learning resources, to truly excel with the art.

What do you think is next in the world of handwritten stationery and invitations?

Honestly, this is hard to say! We've seen so much evolution in the industry over the past few years. I think metallics and muted neutrals will continue with their trends, but one shift we are seeing is a return towards more classic styles again. There was a period where it was all modern scripts all the time, but lately we've had many clients selecting our more traditional styles out the of 20+ handwritten scripts that we offer.

Megan Miller, Owner + Founder of Oh Honey Paper Company

Credit: Amanda Watson Photography

With a knack for crafting one-of-a-kind pieces for stationery and beyond (as seen in the designs of her stunning custom wood signs), calligrapher Megan Miller is an artist with an eye for unique personalized pieces. Specializing in handwritten wedding invitations for couples around the country, each custom order shares the essence of Miller's passion and undisputable talent. While casually fangirling over her gorgeous designs, InStyle sat down with the self-taught artist to discover the root of her vibrant love of calligraphy and handwritten words.

Where did you first develop your love of calligraphy?

Growing up, I loved making anything out of paper—birthday cards, place cards for our family's holiday tables, paper chains to decorate for special occasions (or just a Tuesday afternoon). And my mom has always been a champion for the thank you note. So I learned to love picking out stationery and stamps, writing letters, addressing envelopes, and expressing gratitude. I really believe this was the foundation for my interest in all things related to lettering and typography.

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What inspired you to start your own business?

Throughout college, I was surrounded by incredible women in positions—local business owners, university staff, leaders in campus organizations—and they encouraged me to turn my art into a business. By witnessing them work so diligently within their own callings, I became more motivated to pursue my own. I started selling cards and prints, then larger custom pieces, and after a couple of years I had inquiries for wedding invitations. Serving couples and collaborating with other wedding vendors has continued to keep me inspired every day.

What's one thing people misunderstand about calligraphy?

Whenever I talk to others about calligraphy, they seem to be surprised by the amount of time it takes to learn, to practice, and to create each piece—it is truly a labor of love. Just as with any art form, we tend to only see the finished work; that is part of the magic of it all, but we do need to remember that anything of beauty is worth the time and effort to bring it to life.

Credit: Magnolia Adams Photography

What do you think is next in the world of handwritten stationery and invitations?

I am always exploring new avenues to incorporate calligraphy into weddings; there are so many ways that stationery and signs can add personal touches for a couple's special day. It is also fun to work with combining different paper types, materials, and printing methods. Stationery has endless possibilities, which is one of the reasons that creating it is such a joy!

Julie Song, Owner + Founder of Julie Song Ink

Credit: Jose Villa

Crafting a business that embraced artist Julie Song's three unique job titles—calligrapher, illustrator, and designer—led the talented entrepreneur to start her own eponymous company. Song has established a name for herself in the handwritten world thanks to her stunning range of stationery, greeting cards, art prints, and more. Talking with the artist, we discovered just how she got her start and how she envisions the art of calligraphy growing in years to come.

Where did you first develop your love of calligraphy?

I was always enamored with letterforms since I was a child experimenting with different ways to make them, but first discovered calligraphy when I found my sister's Sheaffer fountain pen calligraphy kit. I was hooked, and after practicing the letterforms and applied it to every school project that I could. Though I worked extensively with typography during my work in the graphic design field, my own wedding was when I had the perfect opportunity to resurrect my love of hand lettering and calligraphy.

Credit: Courtesy Julie Song

What inspired you to start your own business?

Following some press coverage on my wedding, which included photos of the stationery I had designed, I received a significant influx of inquiries from brides draw to the handwritten and hand-painted aesthetic. I realized that my passion could be a viable business, and took a brief leave from my attorney job at the time to pursue it. That "brief leave" took on a life of its own, and became permanent. The explosion of social media around this time was also very serendipitous. It allowed me to see other artists successfully take the leap into pursuing their creative passions full-time, and then to connect so many others with similar interests (including commercial collaborations I never dreamed possible).

What's one thing people misunderstand about calligraphy?

Perhaps associating it with only formal or even "stuffy" events. While it can certainly provide an element of elegance, formality, and luxury, modern calligraphy can take on so many personalities and can enhance all types of occasions and applications, including whimsical personal stationery.

What do you think is next in the world of handwritten stationery and invitations?

There is definitely a wonderful trend of experimentation to push the boundaries of calligraphy and stationery. Similar to fashion, experimentation with turning the old into something new has been happening all over the world of handwritten stationery and invitations. Individuals and couples are doing this with modern heraldic crests incorporating unorthodox symbols and imagery, looser styles of calligraphy and twists on traditional Copperplate forms, and in general being willing to inject a healthy dose of their own personalities into customized stationery.

Katie Fischer Cohen, CEO + Creative Director of Katie Fischer Design

Credit: Charlie Juliet Photography

As the founder of one of Manhattan's premier custom stationery design studios, Katie Fischer Cohen and her multi-talented team are committed to working with some of the industry's top calligraphers. As a graphic designer, Cohen creates innovative custom designs with the collaboration of handwritten artists. We asked the graphic design guru a few questions on where she thinks the calligraphy industry is headed, and what inspired her to start her own business.

Where did you first develop your love of custom stationery design?

I've loved stationery ever since I was a little girl. Hallmark was my favorite store, I had an extensive stamp collection, and I used to make sets of hand-painted note cards that I'd give as gifts.

What inspired you to start your own business?

Before I started Katie Fischer Design I worked at Endeavor talent agency. ​

At night and on the weekends, I made my hand-painted stationery sets that I'd sell at different LA boutiques. A dear friend at the agency recognized that stationery design was my true passion. She held a dinner party for me with a group of people who had dropped out of corporate America and had started their own businesses. Inspired, I quit Endeavor and went back to grad school at NYU for graphic design,​ art, and business. After I graduated I stared KFD!

What's one thing people misunderstand about calligraphy?

Hand-written calligraphy takes time (2-3 weeks) and it's not something you want to rush. It's a time-honored craft that deserves proper attention and rushing it becomes expensive.

Credit: Robert Wagner

What do you think is next in the world of handwritten stationery and invitations?

A return to the classic calligraphy style, but presented in unexpected ways: etched into acrylic, blind debossed on black paper, in a digital invitation video, or paired with modern artwork.