I'm so excited for this first installment of the artist spotlight series! There's something invaluable about getting insight into another creative's mind, workspace, process and inspiration.
This first interview is with my friend, Amy Webber, from Sincerely Amy Designs! We actually go all the way back to 2008, when we went on a Cru summer project together! And being the small world it is, we also happened to be taking the same online calligraphy course at the exact same time! I love that we're on this small business, calligraphy journey together!
5 adjectives that describe Sincerely Amy Designs:
Detail Oriented, Sincere (no pun intended), Comfortable, Giving, Clean
Favorite tools of the trade:
I really believe for the best calligraphy, it’s critical to have quality supplies (read: don’t go to Michaels for your supplies!) so I have to include my favorite ink and paper in the answer to this question!
I absolutely love this black ink. I’ve tried all kinds and always end up back with this Sumi black ink. It seems to work the best on the most kinds of surfaces and paper types. It’s not too thick and not too runny.
Along with all kinds of ink, I’ve also tried all kinds of paper and I haven’t found anything that tops Rhodia pads. It’s perfect for practice and for calligraphy that you want to scan into your computer.
One thing I couldn’t live without is my LED daylight desk lamp. It’s nothing fancy but I work in a very poorly lit room and most of my work happens at night after I come home from my day job so there is no natural light. This lamp has a bunch of different settings and a USB port, which I’m constantly plugging my phone into to charge. It’s slim and doesn’t take up much space on my desk. It swivels and you can change the angle of the light. Ever since I’ve had it, I’ve never had a problem making sure I had adequate light to do my work.
How did you get started in calligraphy and how did you turn it into a thriving business?
I have always had a love for letters. Growing up, I would practice my handwriting and I would look for ways to do letters differently. People often commented on my handwriting and would ask me to write things for them. Calligraphy came into the picture when I was lettering some envelopes for a friend’s baby shower. I was spending hours on the envelopes using the fake calligraphy method. I loved every minute of it, but knew if I wanted to do this again, I couldn’t spend an hour on one envelope. I thought if I could learn real calligraphy I would be able to do it faster. My husband got me a starter kit and signed me up for Melissa Esplin’s I Still Love Calligraphy online course for Christmas a few months later and I fell in love immediately!
I feel so crazy blessed with the success that Sincerely Amy Designs has had in such a short period of time. I’m still learning so much about how to run a business and making many mistakes along the way, I’m sure. I attribute the success of Sincerely Amy Designs to the grace and goodness of the Lord, and also to networking. The relationships I have formed with others in the wedding industry has been one the greatest joys for me in running this business. It can be scary to reach out to others in the industry that you look up to but it is so worth it! Those connections have not only been critical to my success but have also turned into the sweetest friendships. We aren’t meant to do this journey alone and it’s impossible to reach our full potential when we try. We need people who believe in us when we are struggling, people who can push us when we aren’t dreaming big enough, and people who provide us with opportunities and ideas that stretch and challenge us.
What's been the hardest thing about owning your own business & how are you working to overcome it?
When you run your own business, you put so much of yourself, your passion, and your heart into it. It’s easy to want to give it a ton of your time and attention. I think one of the hard parts for me so far has been wanting to and being ready to invest more time and energy into the business, but being in a place in life where that is not possible. I work full time during the day as a nanny and my husband is a full time engineering student at VCU. We live with and take care of my aging grandma who requires a lot of attention and assistance. It can be difficult to be in a place where I want to give more to this business that I am so passionate about, but also know that I am in a season where I have to invest the majority of my time elsewhere.
How do you balance work, life, family, friends & grow your business?
I don’t haha. I almost put this as the hardest part about owning my own business and I’m sure I’m not alone in the struggle to find balance. Owning your own business is incredibly time consuming. There is so much to do and learn and it isn’t easy to just shut off your brain from your work at the end of the day, like it might be with a typical 9-5 job. I think with our current life situation, I am in a season where balance just isn’t going to happen and, for a season, I think that’s okay. There aren’t enough days in a week to be able to give adequate time to all of my responsibilities, plus make time for rest, leisure, and friends. Every week looks a bit different, but I’m constantly having to make choices about what will take priority that week and what will have to go on the back burner and maybe not be done so well. However, one thing that has been helping me to find some balance in the midst of chaos is to stop holding on to my desire for perfection so tightly. I’ve always been a perfectionist and running my own business has required me to loosen up on that to an extent. It really is impossible to do it all and to do it all perfectly. There are times when you just have to grab ahold of grace and let the frustration of striving for perfection go.
Flourishing is so hard, and your work is known for it's graceful, effortless flourishes - give us some insight on how you mastered it?
Wow! I’m so flattered that you would describe my work with those words. I have always considered flourishes as one of my weaknesses and it’s currently an area with my calligraphy that I am working to grow and improve. Because flourishing is something I’m working on improving, I spend a lot of time studying the work of calligraphers that I think create really great flourishes. I’m constantly tracing letters in my mind and doodling them on paper. It’s funny that flourishing looks effortless because it is definitely not. Each move, at least for me, is incredibly thought out. I’m hoping the day will come when it really is effortless, but for now, while it might look effortless, there was likely a lot of trial and error behind the final product that you see.
What are your favorite instagram accounts?
I love Instagram and have so many favorites! It’s hard to narrow it down, but here are a few of my current favorites:
Andrea Pesce has one of the most beautiful Instagram feeds. I always love when she posts.
Parris Chic Boutique’s lettering is so beautiful and I want every single product she creates.
And if you are a paper lover like me, Amanda Day Rose will fill your feed with gorgeously styled wedding stationery.
What are your unique & interesting characteristics that you've turned into a strength for your business?
I am an introvert who really loves building relationships with others that go beyond the surface. Big groups of people really overwhelm but I absolutely love pouring into others and learning more about them in a one on one relationship. I think this has been really beneficial for my business when working with clients or other vendors in the industry. I hope that quality produces a really great experience for my client and communicates that my interest and care for them goes deeper than the project they have hired me for.
Another characteristic is one that I used to label as “indecisive” but now view in a different light. I struggled for a long time feeling like I needed to create one style of calligraphy that would be mine. I thought I should perfect it and only offer that style. The problem was that I have a love for and am inspired by all types and styles of lettering. Part of the creative process that I really enjoy is coming up with a lettering style that best fits the project. Offering only one style of calligraphy would put me in a box and stifle creativity. I think for the time being, what I viewed as indecisiveness in my style has actually been a strength and not a weakness. It challenges me, allows me to experiment, and gives me flexibility with the types of projects I can take on.
How have you utilized social media to grow your business?
I love Instagram but to be honest, other than that, I struggle to understand and utilize the other social media outlets (Don’t even get me started on Periscope. The thought of that app really catching on scares me haha). I do, however, try to be consistent with what and how I post on social media. I also try to post things that I think would draw in my ideal client and do it in a way that would be appealing to them. For example, I want to draw in a client that really loves, appreciates, and is excited about the detail of lettering so even when I am not posting about something calligraphy related, but maybe choosing to post something more personal, I try see if there is a way to incorporate lettering into the image for that post. I also try to be really interactive and I think that has helped to grow my business. I’ve been surprised by how many inquires have come in and friendships formed simply from choosing to interact on other’s posts and responding to the comments on my posts.
Time saving tips for other calligraphers to try out:
When I first started calligraphy, I was horrible at centering my words on a page or envelope. Over time, I have been getting better at being able to eye it, but I have learned a quick trick that has helped me with centering and saved me from having to do pieces or envelopes over again. I put the words that I need to write in a font on my computer that resembles my calligraphy. I can then take that address or quote and better estimate how to center it on my paper based on how it’s centered on my computer. So for example, when I go to write the second line of an address, I can look at where the second line of the address on my computer starts, and that gives me a good idea of where I should start the second line on the envelope.
The other thing that has saved me a lot of time is using Google Docs with my clients when working on envelope orders. The Google Doc has been great for so many reasons. Clients were taking a long time to get to me the Word document with the names and addresses and understandably so, gathering names and addresses is no small task. They needed the list to be complete before they sent over the file so waiting on one or two addresses could really slow down the process. With the Google Doc, they can work on the addresses at any time and the document is immediately updated on my end. This means I can get started on their order, with the addresses they have filled out, before their list of addresses is complete. The other thing I didn’t like about Word documents was that clients often had changes or additions and those couldn’t be made in the Word document without them sending me a whole new file. This meant I was getting a lot of emails with those changes and additions. Trying to keep track of those emails along with the Word document was a pain. With the Google Doc, I tell my clients that after I have calligraphed that name and address, I will change it to hot pink in the Google Doc. They do not need to notify me of any changes or additions unless it is to one that is in hot pink. I’ve found that my clients also enjoy tracking along with my progress and watching the names and addresses change from black to hot pink. One bride even left me encouraging notes in the document along the way, which was really fun! One more thing I like to do with the Google Doc, but I’m sure it could probably be done in Word too, is zoom in to 200%. This allows only one name and address to show on my screen at a time. This helps eliminate the problem of accidentally taking bits and pieces from surrounding addresses.
What do you want your legacy for Sincerely Amy Designs to be?
What a great question! My prayer for Sincerely Amy Designs has always been that God will use this small thing for something much greater, something of eternal value. I pray the legacy of Sincerely Amy Designs will be one that makes much of Jesus and less of me. I love that this business has given me a platform to love and care for others that I wouldn’t have crossed paths with otherwise and I love that this business has given me so many opportunities to share about the goodness and grace of God. I absolutely love pretty letters and I think God finds joy and beauty in those as well, but I hope Sincerely Amy Designs is remembered for more than pretty letters and is used to help inspire others live out their story that God has written just for them.
Photos by: Andrea Pesce Photography