When I Grow Up: Becoming a Calligrapher

Hey guys! Today I want to introduce you to Joy Deneen. She's a calligrapher and artist who currently resides in Montréal. She's originally from California and has an interesting story of how she went from a degree in theater to a career as a calligrapher! Let's read about it now.

When I Grow Up: Becoming a Calligrapher | MrsRobbinsSparkles.com

As a child, I wanted to be an author when I grew up.

 How close (or far) is your current career from that dream? While I’m not an author, I write words every day!

What is your official job title? Proprétaire and calligrapher at imaginejoy calligraphie.

Ok, now what does that really mean? I have my own calligraphy business in Montréal, Québec.  I specialize in modern calligraphy and hand lettered details for weddings and special events.  I also offer classes and private lessons for beginners.

  credit:  Emilie Iggiotti    

credit: Emilie Iggiotti

What is a typical day like? Every day varies, given the nature of my custom commissions.  Depending on the day of the week, I could be teaching a calligraphy class, meeting with clients or going to work onsite for an event.  A “typical” day usually begins with administrative tasks in the morning – answering emails, writing contracts and handling accounting.  I typically start on calligraphy work in the afternoon, which usually spills into the evening.

   credit:  Emilie Iggiotti

How did you end up in this career? In 1999, I moved to Los Angeles to get my bachelor’s degree in theatre at UCLA.  The program was the perfect mix of my interests in writing, design, production and history.  I developed a love for theatrical makeup and special effects and worked as a makeup artist for a few years. However, it was my desire for structure and a steady paycheck that led me to a place where I never envisioned myself – working in commercial real estate finance.  While I have a strong administrative side, compliance checklists and audits could never be construed as creative work.  However, I am grateful for the skills I learned related to accounting, business systems and dealing with demanding clientele. 

It was during my time at the bank that my journey into the world of calligraphy began.  One Christmas, my brother gave me a box of nibs, a bottle of ink and a copy of Modern Mark Making by Lisa Engelbrecht.  I was swept away by the book and soon learned that Lisa was a part of the Society for Calligraphy, a guild in Southern California.  I showed up to a meeting, bright eyed and eager, not knowing a single soul in the room. It was a wonderful surprise to be welcomed with open arms.  I enrolled in classes and workshops and haven’t looked back since! As time passed, I began to take on commissions.  My creative life was flourishing again. 

In 2013, my husband Michael got a job opportunity in Montréal.  Both of us are native Californians and had talked for several years about our desire to one day live in a different state.  At the time of the job offer, we had only been married for six months and knew that it was the perfect time in our lives to set out on a new adventure.  And suddenly, all of the years I spent studying French became very relevant!  The move was also a wonderful opportunity for me to start fresh and establish my calligraphy business as a full-time endeavor.

  credit:  Emilie Iggiotti    

credit: Emilie Iggiotti

What kind of education or training did you complete for this career? My calligraphy education began in the form of small group classes, studying Copperplate, and I went on to take numerous workshops covering a wide array of styles. I am a perpetual student, so I’m always seeking out learning opportunities. I’m very excited to attend the annual IAMPETH conference this summer – a full week of calligraphy classes with the masters!

 What advice would you give to someone who wants a similar career? If you are new to calligraphy, take advantage of all of the resources out there.  Join your local calligraphy guild, take as many in-person classes as possible and start a habit of daily practice.  When it comes to launching your business, be sure to establish clear terms and procedures. In the realm of custom work, booking deposits and contracts are vital!

 Do you have any other career dreams? What do you want to be when you grow up? Going back to my childhood dream, I would still love to write a book.  As a child, I envisioned writing novels but I’ve found that I really love interviewing other artists and learning about their journey and creative processes.

 Any last thoughts or encouragement for others trying to decide what they want to do “when they grow up”? One of my favorite quotes is from Picasso:  “All children are born artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” Can you identify an interest or fascination that you’ve had ever since you were a child?  Our passions are often evident at a very young age, but they will usually evolve over time.  I’ve found that it is incredibly helpful to reflect upon your goals in writing, be it through journaling or making lists. 

   credit:  Emilie Iggiotti

Thank you for sharing your story Joy! I love that Picasso quote so much :) Please visit Joy's website, Imagine Joy, for more information or if you are interested in her services. I wish I'd known about her before our wedding!

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