Welcome to The Pen Company’s first ever interview. Join us…
This month’s interview is with talented and accomplished US-based calligrapher, Linda Yoshida. Have you often found yourself staring at beautiful handwriting and lettering, wondering how someone created it? Or have you ever daydreamed of becoming a calligrapher yourself? Grab a cuppa, and have a read of our chat with Linda, as we find out what it takes to be a successful calligrapher.
Hi Linda, I love your work! Do you enjoy your job?
Thank you so much. I work as a graphic designer during the day and calligraphy is my side job. I sit in front of a computer all day, so when I am home I really enjoy working with my hands to create letterforms with calligraphy. I am very fortunate to have the flexibility and opportunity to do so.
When did you first develop an interest in calligraphy?
My first introduction to calligraphy was in the sixth grade [at age 11-12]. My teacher had the most beautiful handwriting and taught us basic Italic Hand. I was so inspired by her that I would sit at my desk after finishing my homework and practice my cursive over and over. Since then, I have continued my love of letterforms by studying graphic design and typography, then through working as a web designer and graphic designer.
How long have you been working as a calligrapher?
I have always done calligraphy for friends and family, but my first real commission was a referral from a calligrapher friend in 2012. She was booked for the job months in advance, but couldn’t do it because she was pregnant and the baby arrived earlier than expected! So she asked me to take over. Everything went very well despite the pressure and the rush, and I gained some great experience from it too.
As it’s not a conventional career choice, how did you know what training to opt for? Did you have a mentor to guide you?
Many practicing calligraphers are self-taught and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but I knew early on that if I was to be serious about the art and craft of calligraphy, I had to learn it the right way, which is from professional calligraphers. Thankfully, there is a very active calligraphy guild in my city: the Society for Calligraphy in Los Angeles/Southern California. I found the guild through a web search, and then found some wonderful teachers through the guild. I studied with Yukimi Annand in her studio for two years, and I have also attended workshops taught by senior calligraphers in my guild. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done for myself as a calligrapher.
What skills do you need to be a calligrapher?
Calligraphy is a life-long learning experience – we need to be constantly learning and honing our skills in order for calligraphy to stay relevant, and to keep up with the changing times and client requests. I firmly believe that to be a good calligrapher, we need to study from the old masters. There is a wealth of free resources out there online (such as Dr. Joe Vitolo’s zanerian.com and also the website of International Associate of Master Penmen, Engrossers and Teachers of Handwriting) and of course at the local library. Learn the rules and foundations first before breaking them skillfully and purposefully.
I also think it’s important to be internet-savvy and have social media skills as a calligrapher today. In the pre-Internet days, it was possible to just work away in a studio and get business from a client list, but now there is a great surge of interest in calligraphy online, not to mention the number of calligraphers from all over the world who are active on social media. There is a huge community on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and of course, Instagram [click through to view Linda’s accounts]. By actively participating and engaging with fellow kindred spirits, I hope to share my passion and dedication for the art. I have gotten quite a few work inquiries through social media as well.
What tips would you give to somebody who aspires to work as a calligrapher?
- Be humble – there is always something to learn, and there will always be someone who is more skilled than you.
- Be patient – calligraphy skills cannot be achieved in one day, one week, or even one year, if you don’t practice mindfully.
- Be diligent – practice does not make perfect, but it does make progress.
That said, I am still working on all of the above, reminding myself to try to be those things every day!
What have been your favourite projects to work on, and why?
I really enjoy working with my wedding clients – whether brides, planners, or stationery designers. Every wedding is different and it’s always a new learning experience. With each invitation, I bring the element of hand-lettered calligraphy into the fold, complementing the overall style, paper, color, and making each set of invitations unique and special. I also love collaborating with wedding planners, photographers and stylists on photo shoots. I am given the opportunity to create an invitation suite, signage, and other paper goods to add to a beautiful setting – not to mention the chance to have my calligraphy work professionally styled. It’s always such a wonderful treat to see my work published, whether digitally or in print.
Which pens, paper and tools are your favourites?
I prefer dip pens and nibs – my favorite broad edge nibs are Brause Bandzug and Leonardt Tape, and my favorite pointed nibs are Brause 66EF, Titanium Zebra G, and a few vintage nibs.
For pointed pen practice, I love Clairefontaine or Rhodia lined pads! They are so smooth and lovely to write on. For broad edge, I like using Arches hot press watercolor paper and Canson Mi-Teintes paper.
For ink – walnut ink is my absolute favorite. I also really like Moon Palace sumi ink, vermilion ink, PearlEx pigments, FineTec gold palette, Schmincke Calligraphy Gouache, and Winsor & Newton Designers Gouache.
I also love the convenience of using fountain pens and inks – my mother gave me her vintage 1960s Parker fountain pens that I still use today, and for quick practice, I use a Lamy Safari with a 1.5mm Italic nib. Some of my favorite brands of ink are Diamine, J. Herbin, Noodlers, and Pilot.
What are your plans for the future with your work?
I still consider myself a student of calligraphy – I am inspired by my teacher Yukimi Annand and I see her as one of my calligraphy role models. I would like to keep working, learning, and eventually, I would love to teach calligraphy.
Thank you so much for the opportunity to share my thoughts on calligraphy!