When people ask me how I found calligraphy, I usually respond with something like, "Oh, I tried a bunch of things, but calligraphy is what I fell in love with!"
Sounds kinda like I was at a party flirting casually with a buncha dudes, when suddenly my eyes locked on THE ONE and music started playing while the rest of the world faded out to black...
Yeah. Not exactly.
It was more like a year and a half of intense internet dating, where there is lots and lots of texting and ghosting and meeting complete strangers at coffee shops. Sometimes it’s exciting and invigorating and you meet someone you actually connect with. But then, that person fizzles out for some reason or another and you wonder when you’ll ever find THE ONE. And suddenly your inbox full of messages seems way too overwhelming…
Ok, that’s a little dramatic. All I’m saying is that it wasn’t a straightforward path. It was… CROOKED ;)
After I quit my corporate law job in 2013, I knew I wanted to do something more creative but I had NO IDEA what that might be.... so I explored. A LOT.
Here's a brief list of all the things I tried before I found calligraphy, and what I learned from each one:
LIVE FIGURE DRAWING:
My experience: I had always dabbled in drawing little anime characters, so I found a local figure-drawing night with a live model and everything. After two hours, I had an awkward cartoony-looking thing. And the 18-yr-old in front of me had a jaw-droppingly realistic charcoal drawing.
What I learned: I realized pretty quickly that I didn’t feel passionately enough about drawing to devote the hours and HOURS it takes to get good at it.
My experience: I signed up for a class with Pam Weir-Quiton - a woman who has been working out of a gloriously messy studio in Venice for 50 years. It took three hours to make a beautiful but simple heart cut out of wood.
What I learned: It was really inspiring to see an actual capital-A “Artist" making a living off her craft. Her studio was huge and jam-packed with projects and beautiful finished pieces. I didn’t see myself living the same way, but it opened my eyes to the possibility.
My experience: I was bored, so I found some tutorials online and bought some supplies. I created a huge pile of mediocre-looking stuff out of beads and wire before realizing I don’t actually wear that much jewelry. And also, I read online that jewelry is one of the most saturated and hard-to-break-into industries on Etsy.
What I learned: Just because it’s pretty, doesn’t mean it’s for me.
My experience: I’ve always been good at writing (at least the kind you do in school) and my father is actually a poet and playwright. So I signed up for a two-month-long creative writing workshop. There were 6 of us and we ended up really opening up to each other through our writing assignments - there were lots of tears and powerful shared moments.
What I learned: Just because I’m good at it, doesn’t mean it’s a sustainable passion. Writing has called out to me at certain times in my life, but never in a consistent way. I figured, if I have to force myself to sit down and do it… it’s probably not going to make me a living.
My experience: I got really into Project Runway so I dusted off my sewing machine and bought some fabric to make myself a skirt. It took forever and I hated it the entire time.
What I learned: Sewing is waaaayyy too exact for me. I have no patience for all the careful measuring and folding and straightening and ironing - blech!
My experience: My grandmother taught me to knit when I was 9, and I’ve always done it here and there as a hobby. I always liked using really chunky yarn to make scarves that I could knit up really quickly. (Are you noticing a pattern with the short attention span?)
So I created some unique scarf designs and opened an Etsy shop called FuzzyCloudDesigns. But, when people actually started ordering them and I had to knit the same thing over and over again…. ugh, boring!
I shifted to creating downloadable knitting patterns instead and that was so much better. But, I didn’t like the meticulous process of writing down each stitch and making sure my instructions were crystal clear. Whenever someone emailed me with a question, I wanted to run away and hide.
What I learned: I loved creating my own knitted designs. But I hated how long it took to actually knit a full piece (especially the same exact piece over and over). I also didn’t love the process of creating detailed written instructions.
My experience: I took an Intro to Watercolor class and loved it, but watercolor painting always felt too OPEN for me. I made a few little paintings of roses, but never went beyond that.
What I learned: I still use watercolors occasionally. But, the best thing that came out of this experience was meeting Montine - who became my business coach and who I still work with to this day. You never know what will happen when you go out there with an open mind!
DIY & FOOD BLOGGING:
My experience: I’ve always loved DIY. I like creating things with my own two hands and doing it on a budget. After I quit my full-time job, I moved in with my best friend in Hollywood. So I did some DIY projects around the house, like building shelves out of pipes and wood planks. Or, stenciling the powder room or organizing the front entryway. I was also cooking a lot at the time, so I started photographing and writing down the recipes I was using. I put it all into a blog loosely connected to my knitting Etsy shop: The FuzzyCloudDesigns Blog
What I learned: The process of dreaming up and executing each project was magical and fun. But, having to document and write down each step started to turn it into more of a chore. Also, I started to really dislike photography because I could never get the pictures to turn out the way I envisioned them in my head.
I’m gonna stop here, ‘cause this post is already suuuuper friggin’ long. And this isn’t even everything I tried… I also dabbled in copywriting, hand lettering, graphic design and fashion blogging (hah!).
After a year and a half of exploring, calligraphy was the thing that just clicked. But, here’s the key - I don’t know if calligraphy would have clicked in the same way if I hadn’t tried so many other things first.
I learned so much from my winding road of exploration. I LOVE designing and creating, but not in a meticulous way. I like a mode of creativity that’s loose, but that still has a practical application. Knitting and sewing are practical, but too exact. Watercolor is loose, but not practical enough. I like to explain and teach things, but I don’t like writing instructions every day.
Before I found calligraphy, I used to beat myself up about not having a passion. I thought I wasn’t an interesting person, or even a WHOLE person without one.
But now, I realize that a “passion” doesn’t have to look the same for every person. Some people know from the age of 3 that they’re going to be a dancer. Some people shift their interests throughout their entire lives, while still being true to themselves.
So if you haven't found THE ONE yet... don't despair. There's nothing wrong with you. As long as you're looking and noticing and staying open-minded, you're on the right path.
To be honest, I don’t know if I’m going to be a calligrapher forever. My passion for calligraphy is rooted in my need to create and teach others. So wherever that underlying desire takes me… I’ll go. Passionately.
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