Sunday, August 11, 2013

Makers Part 11


"Calligraphy is structured movement, not static form" says Andrew van der Merwe. Calligraphy is an ancient art and one in which the viewer is confronted with both meaning and form on first viewing. A kind of visual poetry that slips back and forth between writing and art. My next maker, Mary who lives in the UK draws on her logical skills to chart the details of the play between these two forms of communicating. The results of her explorations can be found in her etsy shop, Calligraphette, on tumblr and on Facebook

Can you tell me a little about your background? 

I'm from the West Coast of Ireland and true to Irish form I have travelled widely. I've been around the world twice and have lived in New York, Mallorca, Tenerife, Sydney, Jersey (Channel Islands), London, Hitchin, in Hertfordshire, UK and I've very recently moved back to the beautiful Channel Islands again. By profession I am an accountant but I've always done well at art and I taught myself calligraphy. I now run a business using calligraphy to make products.

At the moment I divide my time between doing intensive accountancy work (I work in turn-around which means that our team will go into a struggling business, assess it for it's strengths and weaknesses, develop a turn-around action plan and then implement this on behalf of banks, shareholders or creditors), and my true love, my fledging calligraphy business. The accountancy work I do on a project basis pays the bills, which is great as my calligraphy business is in the early start-up stage.

What do you make?

I've taken on an ambitious task of trying to build a sustainable art business, which I hope to be able to run full-time in the not too distant future.
I have spent a lot of time on R & D, and have divided my business into:-
Prints - book-marks, cards, wall-hangings
Fashion - jewellery and accessories
Home-wares - Coming in 2014 (cushions, mirror lightboxes)
Bespoke - calligraphy for weddings, events, personalised art-work

What attracted you to this particular medium? How did you get started?

As part of my art exam in school, I choose calligraphy as my craft (in Ireland the art exam is broken into 4 categories, still life, craft, life drawing and imaginative composition). I bought a pen set and an instruction booklet and began to doodle. I loved it - I wasn't very good, but I loved it. I started to buy books on advanced calligraphy went to visit museums to view the Celtic manuscripts to see what was possible.

How long have you been making?

I've been doing calligraphy since I was in school and over the years I have done lots of wedding invitations and works of art for my family and friends who requested them. When I left school, I got into university for both accountancy and art. I choose to do accountancy at that time and parked my art, knowing that I would eventually come back to it. I decided to open as a calligraphy business in 2011 because more and more people started to ask me to put my art and craft items up for sale.

How does your practice fit in with your everyday life? Do you have your own studio space and when do you work and where?


I think that I have, or at least am working towards, a healthy life balance. I use my skills as an accountant to earn money but I only work on a project basis which means that I can spend my downtime working on my calligraphy business - fulfilling orders, creating pieces and researching new ideas. I have created a studio space in the guest bedroom. I’m lucky as I can take my business anywhere, but at minimum I need loads of light, a good internet connection and my art materials to hand.

What are the best and worst aspects about working with this medium? 

I've started my business with paper products, (book-marks, cards and wall-hangings) and accept commissions for bespoke work. The great thing about using paper and card as a start point is that I can keep costs low which means that I can do lots of experiments with the design layouts. I mainly use felt-tipped calligraphy pens when I'm working with paper as I find these much easier to work with - they are not as messy as dipping inks, which dye my fingers.

Who or what inspires you?

My main inspiration comes from my customers, and the research I do into the stories behind the images. I try via my work to bring out as much of the story character as I can. One of the most moving stories was a lady who bought my card from one of the shops I sell into - it was a little quote that read: 

'Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain'. 

This lady had just recovered from chemo and she bought more of this design to give to her fellow patients in the treatment centre to give them a boost. I love that my art was used in this way.

Do you get creative blocks? If so, how do you deal with it?

I don't get creative blocks as such, but I am very easily distracted, When this happens I take a break and then get back to things afterwards. I live by lists and I try and give myself targets each day, so today for example, (even though it is the most amazing day ever and there is a parade passing my house), I need to work on my Christmas designs. I'm now living by the beach so it doesn't take me very long to get back on track. If I want to stay living by the beach then I need to make my business a success!

What other mediums would you love to explore? 

I'm very excited about developing my home-ware ranges, as I’ll be dealing with fabric, screen printing, plastic, mirror and hopefully ceramics. I’ll start with cushions and mirror light-boxes - all featuring calligraphy. I want to create bright unique products that have a really good quality finish. I hope that lots of my products will become treasured possessions in many homes around the world.

What do you hope to do next with your practice?

I want to continue to build my brand. As my aim is to build an art business that will sustain me as I grow a family. I also want to create a children's book out of my calligraphy animals and I would like to incorporate my existing designs onto my home-ware range as this develops. …. and I hope to launch my website in the next few days (, so lots to keep me busy! Live well, love passionately and always, always make time in your life for beautiful writing xxx

Thank you Mary! Are you an artist or an avid collector? I would love to hear from you! 

1 comment:

  1. I was always amazed by people who could do calligraphy, thank you for this post!