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Editorial blog

The Joy of Modern Calligraphy, An Interview with Joyce Lee

21 Jul 2021

We caught up with modern calligrapher Joyce Lee to discuss her brand new title and her business ventures for the rest of the year and beyond…

How did your interest in calligraphy begin, was there a particular person who encouraged you to try it?

“I was introduced to calligraphy by my then boyfriend, now husband. He’s a fountain pen collector so my calligraphy journey really started off with vintage fountain pens which I found too delicate to use! So I switched over to the more affordable and hardy dip pen for a less stressful writing experience.”

How and why did you decide to become a calligrapher?

“I’d been practising calligraphy for about 3 years when I decided that I was going to pursue a career in calligraphy. It was after I relocated from Singapore to Manchester. The creativity and start-up vibe in the city must’ve rubbed off on me because I had given up job opportunities as a teacher to chase this dream!”

Tell us about your latest book, The Joy of Modern Calligraphy, how did this title come about and what’s the inspiration behind it?

“When I was conceptualising this book, I wanted it to be more than just a manual. I wanted this book to offer more than the technical instructions to practice calligraphy and worksheets. It also has to share about the intangible aspects of practising calligraphy - habits that we ought to bring into our lifestyles. Habits like breathing deeper and slowing down. That’s why we named it The Joy of Modern Calligraphy. There’s the tangible joy of it when you see your calligraphy improve. But there are also unseen joys when we can enjoy the process of the practice.”

Who is the book aimed at?

“People who are interested in picking up Modern Calligraphy, definitely! Apart from instructions, you get a set of photocopiable worksheets which means you can copy as many sets as you want. It’s also the perfect coffee table book for the house-proud individuals. I’m not one to boast, but the photos in this book are some of the best I’ve worked on.”

What are your favourite projects within the book and why?

“First will definitely be the digital calligraphy artwork (Page 110) because it’s a meaningful project. I’ve created countless logos and monograms for brands and individuals alike. But this project was for my best friend’s wedding. So, it takes first position! Second would be the calligraphy on acrylic one on page 102. I’ve always enjoyed applying my calligraphy on a non-paper surface. And acrylic is one of the easiest one to work with!”

How important is the personal touch when it comes to writing letters, gift tags etc.? And do you think that this has grown in relevance over the last couple of years due to social restrictions?

“I wouldn’t say it’s that much more important but you’re sure to make someone’s day when they receive your handwritten letter in their mailbox! Whether it’s a personal gift or something you send out as a company, the element of surprise and appreciation the receiver experiences is something money can’t buy. This is what I find most rewarding.

“Of course, with social restrictions, we’ve seen an increase in people sending care packages. So we’re seeing more and more people picking up calligraphy. Especially in a time like this, what better way to send our thoughts and yearning for our loved ones than with something handwritten?”

How do you think craft retailers should encourage their customers to try calligraphy and branch out with different styles and tools? Why do you think consumers become hooked?

“First would be to package this with the basic tools I mention in the book - a dip pen, nib and ink (maybe throw in a brush pen too). Just these to get readers starter. People get hooked to calligraphy because the process is extremely therapeutic! Even if the shapes don’t come out right at first, just the very movements of creating simple strokes can be rather meditative.”

In your experience, what types of crafts and sentiments are best suited to calligraphy?

“Calligraphy is so versatile and with the right tool, you can apply to any craft! I guess the easiest one would be card making and gift accessories - make your own gift wrap! That’s why we see a lot of calligraphers specialise in wedding stationery. For the more adventurous, you can grab an engraver, transfer your calligraphy onto glass bottles or a heating pen to etch your writing onto wood or leather.”

Have you been able to run virtual calligraphy workshops throughout the pandemic?

“Yes, quite a fair bit actually! Just like crafts around the world, the pandemic has pushed Artsynibs Studio to pivot. Whilst I still run my in-person classes, I’m teaching more and more online. It’s definitely different, but I’ve taken up the challenge to become an equally as effective online calligraphy instructor! So far, no complaints!”

Do you think that the younger generation have become more interested in calligraphy, and do you feel that trends are changing when it comes to this kind of craft?

“I can’t be sure if it’s just calligraphy. But going back to physical writing, certainly! Modern Calligraphy was trending at its peak a few years ago, but it’s here to stay. When I was in school, I doodled on my notes so much but I didn’t know that was what we now call faux calligraphy. Now that we’ve put a name to all those drawings, it’s safe to say that our “younglings” are into some form of calligraphy or lettering.”

Tell us about your range of modern calligraphy kits with British pen company Manuscript, how did this happen and what values were important to you when you created these kits?

“I must say Manuscript Pen Company created this kit at the right time, when Modern Calligraphy was the hottest thing in town. It happened quite casually because I’d been working with them for a while. But with the components, I really just went with what’s the most non-threatening, entry level tools. That’s why the very first kit we came up with only had a straight nib holder.nOne thing we need to know about calligraphy is that we all write differently, especially how much force we use. So the nibs selected have slightly different properties to accommodate our varying writing habits.”

Do you have any projects that you’re working on for the rest of this year? Are there any exciting plans in the pipeline that you can tell us about?

“2021 is the year I’ve been slowly moving into a more teacher training role for aspiring calligraphy instructors. It’s something that I’ve been moving towards for years since my previous career was in education.

“We’ve all seen how the pandemic has threatened our livelihoods and it’s shifted our perspective of what matters in life. I’ve spoken to many who have decided to explore their creative pursuits and monetise it. In part to find fulfilment in life, and also to create a second stable stream of income.

“So for the rest of the year, I’ll be refining my new coaching programme for 2022. It’s about setting up, running and teaching a creative workshop. I’ll be focusing on my business and teaching skills instead of calligraphy techniques. So keep a lookout for it if you’re an aspiring creative instructor!”

The Joy of Modern Calligraphy by Joyce Lee is published by Search Press. Available from 31st July 2021, RRP £15.99. ISBN 13/EAN: 9781782218395. For full stockist details visit the Search Press trade website.

You can find out more about Joyce’s calligraphy business Artsynibs here.

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