My name's Suzy Lee and I'm 28 years old. I live in San Diego, CA but grew up in the deserts of El Paso, flew over a very big continent and a very big sea to do my Masters in Scotland, and then came all the way back and lived the poorest and hardest of my "WTF should I do with my life?" days in LA. Now I live here as an eternal optimist, drenched in the Southern California sun and experimenting with letters and words every day.
What are the steps someone needs to take to be calligrapher?
Be curious. Be prepared to mess up a lot of times and "waste" a lot of paper. Prepare to give yourself grace and more than anything, just keep trying. And even more than that, do it your way.
What are startup costs?
About $12.00 to get yourself a nib, a pen holder, ink, and paper.
What is the pay like?
This might be the hardest part. Sometimes you'll get clients who totally understand and value your work. It's an incredible gift when that happens. Other times you'll get clients who are annoyed with your pricing and will say things like, "How long is it really going to take you to write that?" To which I reply with this story about Picasso, where some guy asks him to draw him something on a napkin...says he'll pay for it. Picasso does, and then tells him it's $1 million. The guy is flabbergasted and says, "That only took you thirty seconds!" to which Picasso replies, "But it took me fifty years to learn how to draw that in 30 seconds." I'm no Picasso, but if they don't value my work and the years it's taken me to get here, they probably don't need to hire me. It took me a long, long, long time (way longer than it took to learn calligraphy), to learn how to value my work, but I've learned that Picasso saying that paved the way for me to make my living as an artist, and me saying it, might pave the way for someone else. But to answer this question broadly, It took me 5 years of working on my calligraphy everyday after my day job to get to a point where I'm doing this full-time. I can't afford the luxuries with this pay as it is now, but that's not why I'm doing it anyway, so I can't complain.
What are the best parts of being a calligrapher?
Words are magic to me. By themselves they don't have the power to do anything, but certain words, read by the right heart at the right time, can have the power to change the world in ways that I'll never know. As a calligrapher, at least a quarter of my work is private commissioned work, where people will ask me to write out phrases, verses, quotes, or letters that are shaping them in some way...getting to be a part of their journey in this little way that empowers them, and challenges them to hope for more...that's pretty cool.
What are the biggest challenges in being a calligrapher?
One of the biggest things is finding value in your work beyond just making pretty letters. What does that do for the world? But I always think about something an old pal once said to me, "Your pen is mightier than a thousand swords." You have to make your own meaning and fight for your own purpose in the world, believe in it every day, for it to have a chance at contributing anything to the world. That's a daily battle. But more practically, not comparing yourself to other calligraphers or artists, and realizing you must do it your own way. Fighting the voices that tell you you're not good enough. That's hard, but can only be fought by refining your own craft and seeing your own value.
Any other helpful resources or links on this topic?
Not really. You know how to write. Now you have to explore. See what kinds of tools are out there and just get to work.