I’ve been admiring Jodi Macfarlan Calligraphy for a while, having never met the artist herself until Maddox and I signed up for a holiday workshop with her last month. Fifty-five Christmas card addresses later, I’m still pretty sketchy on my calligraphy skills, but the time spent with my daughter and the opportunity to get to know Jodi was the best part of that November workshop. Today on The Thersday Series, meet a woman first known for her words, now for her handwriting. Jodi, I’m so pleased to have you on the blog. Thanks for teaching us that it’s never too late to chart a new course.
What did you want to be when you were a child? At what point in your life were you called to calligraphy?
According to my kindergarten papers, Minnie Mouse. But since that was only *so* feasible, I started shifting focus toward words, and more specifically journalism, in middle school. My background is in journalism, and my day job until very recently was as a magazine editor. I’m only now making the jump to pursue calligraphy full-ish time, which is both thrilling and terrifying! I’ve been saying for years that I’d love to do this with more of my time, so we’ll see if I’ll be eating my words!
As to the beginning of my love for lettering, I first fell hard when I was getting married in 2011. I kept asking a designer friend about all of these “fonts” I was seeing on invitations online, and when she told me they weren’t fonts at all but hand-done calligraphy, I became hooked—first by the look, and later by the craft itself. My husband bought me my first pen, nib and ink off Etsy a couple of years later, and it became this kind of therapeutic evening hobby.
What daily habit benefits your business?
Practice! I’m even more keenly aware of this now, having recently taken a longer break away from my pen and ink while on a maternity leave of sorts. I get rusty so easily, it’s crazy to realize just how important it is for a hand’s muscle memory to practice, practice, practice.
Beyond that, this may sound silly or even superficial, but scrolling Instagram totally inspires me. I’ll stare at my phone and drool over how someone lettered a P, and then pull out a pen to try my own hand at it. My style has been stretched and honed so much over the years by seeing the work of others I admire.
Is there a favorite project or a commissioned piece that really spoke to you?
I so loved creating this little piece for a sweet friend’s new baby’s nursery. It was a super special piece for me because of who this friend is in my life, because of the words (they come from my favorite benediction/blessing), and because it integrated a bit of watercolor, which stretched me creatively.
What would you say to someone wanting to explore a new art form like calligraphy?
This is SUCH a great time to be alive in the world of all things hobby! Workshops abound, both in person and online, and of course there’s a Youtube video for everything. If you’re interested in something, start scratching the surface and see if that interest is sustained. If not, no big deal, and if so, hooray! Run with it!
Who keeps you company in your line of work?
Friends! Those who encourage me with their words, support me with their commissions, share all sorts of small-business tips, market my work more effectively than I ever could, and so on and so on. I have a dear friend who is an incredible watercolor artist, and we kind of dove into our art “side hustles” at the same time in early motherhood. It’s been really important and fun to have a spirit friend of sorts with whom to collaborate on projects since day one, get advice on this or that, and cheer each other on in our journeys.
Also, my kids quite literally keep me company throughout the day-to-day. They’re with me for every post office and Michaels run; they try their best to be patient while I’m responding to emails on my phone; and—on a good day—they even sit in my office and watch, or play around with scratchy old nibs on paper. I’m hopeful that as I dive into this with more of my “work” time, I’ll be able to be more present with them and soak up these little years that I know are so fleeting (even if super challenging)!