Joi Hunt of Bien Fait Calligraphy
Joi, the unstoppable force behind Bien Fait Calligraphy, is all things graceful sophistication and down-to-earth encouragement all in one human being! When I started on my instagram/calligraphy journey I, of course, started following her. Her shimmering gold calligraphy perfection was inspiring to say the least, but what really left a mark on me was her kind-hearted nature. I actually tell this story quite a bit, but when I was first starting out I remember having one of those days where everything I was doing was terrible (it really was) and I was starting to feel hopeless (the calligraphy struggle is real!) Up popped a beautiful Bien Fait Calligraphy image on my IG feed, 'UGH. I will never be that good.' I made some kind of woe-is-me comment about my inferiority and you know what?! Joi went to my terrible, sad, little Instagram feed and commented on like 10 of my pictures, encouraging me - "This has great rhythm!" "This is really pretty!"
My husband still remembers that because I was SO excited. I shook off the self-doubt and picked up the pen again. I still sucked. But I was filled with a small hope and a smile. And I told myself that if I ever got good, got a following, that I would be that type of person. The one who responds, and makes you feel important no matter where you are on your calligraphy journey.
And now I've had the amazing opportunity to collaborate with her on some beautiful nib holders, and interview her! She is the best kind of wealth of knowledge - the one with an open hand. I'm so thankful for her opening her hand to give us a glimpse into her business!
5 adjectives that describe Bien Fait Calligraphy:
Elegant, Classic, Clean, Bespoke, and Fun. At least that's what I hope!
Calligraphy tools you can't live without:
Oh gosh sooo many, and I am a tool addict. Part of the fun of calligraphy is trying out so much fun stuff.
- Pencils. I totally admit to penciling lettering before inking. I can't center to save my life, so using a 2H pencil helps me figure out alignment, and makes sure descenders and ascenders don't crash in ugly ways. I love a Palomino Blackwing 602, a Steadtler Lumograph 2H, and just got these beautiful HB mint green pencils from Craft Design Technology. I also love a Palomino Blackwing Pearl for doing pencil drills and warm ups.
- Of course an oblique and straight holder. I use a straight holder when doing a vertical script, oblique for slanted scripts. Right now my 2 favorite oblique holders are one by Chris Held (which was a gift from a very good friend), and my Serenity holder by Ashley! A vision come to life, I am so in LOVE with it! The straight holder was also a gift from a generous friend, and made by Christopher Yoke.
- A really good eraser. My favorite is a Tombow Mono Eraser, it does not leave a ghost line on dark envelopes. They are tiny so I buy them in bulk.
- Fons and Porter automatic pencil with white lead. Invaluable for using on dark envelopes.
- Walnut ink. I love it for practice. Economical, non staining, and beautiful. I think it really helps me to see the forms of my letters because it's semi sheer.
- Grid Ruler. Can't.Live.Without. in 6", 12", and 18", I use one every day.
- Rhodia paper pads. I call them the cashmere of paper. Once you try it you can't go back to anything else. Super smooth, super pricey, but fighting with paper that bleeds or snags is just not worth it.
- Gold Ink! I always have Dr. Ph Martins Copperplate Gold, Spectralite 18k Gold, Finetec Moon Gold and Tibet Gold, gold gouache, and lots of Pearl Ex gold in my tool box.
How did you get started in calligraphy and how did you turn it into a thriving business?:
Well this is a story! It all started because I was addressing my family's holiday card envelopes. Before I became a stay at home mom of 2 children, I worked in corporate interior design. I architectural lettered all the time. But without the practice of a career, it just became sloppy, and those holiday envelopes looked horrid to me. So I asked Google...I searched "pretty handwriting", and came across the most beautiful lettering...calligraphy...pointed pen calligraphy...and specifically this script called Copperplate. click click click and I ordered Mastering Copperplate Calligraphy, a Speedball plastic oblique, a few nibs, and a bottle of Higgins Eternal, and I was off and running. Little did I know that it would be so hard! OMG so hard! But I was determined. I feel in love the first stroke, when the sound of nib scratching on paper hit my ears, I swooned. I spend months learning on my own, reading books, watching videos from Dr. Joe Vitolo, self critiquing. About 3 months in I joined Instagram. I wanted to visually and chronologically document my journey. I knew nothing of following or followers. It opened up this whole world of inspiration and a way of connecting with others. I still don't understand how my following grew, but I did, and I am still amazed that anyone is interested in what I am doing!
I never had any plans to go into business. My only goal was to be able to make my holiday envelopes pretty for the next year. But something happened. I started getting emails from people asking if I would calligraph their wedding invitation envelopes. Who me? I'm just a hobbyist! But I said yes, figuring it would be really fun. It just snowballed from there. Luckily I have friend who is web designer and she threw together a website for me. My mottos became "Fake it til ya make it" and "Act as If". They totally worked for me. I acted as if I knew exactly what I was doing. I threw together invoice forms and spreadsheets, pricing...adjusting it all as I went along.
Since then I have done style shoots, onsite work, lots of weddings, calligraphy for a social stationary line...I could never have imagined any of this!
I still consider my self a student of calligraphy. I have been fortunate to be able to study from Master Penman and master calligraphers. There is nothing like getting back a sheet of homework with red marks all over it! Continual improvement is one of the things I love most about calligraphy. You are always learning and getting better at your script.
You're a mother and a business owner, how do you make it work? How do you find time?:
I don't!!! My house is a disaster! Laundry goes unfolded, winter clothes don't get put away, the floor in the kitchen is sticky, and library books get returned late! That is the struggle of every working mom, finding the balance. I finally gave up on the word balance, because it does not exist. The important things are first, the care of my children. They know they are loved and my first priority. So that means that during the day I am doing administrative work and warm ups or layouts with pencil, things that I can easily step away from. The actual calligraphy is done after the kids go to bed or early in the morning while still sleeping. I skype with my teacher once a week at 5am. Somehow, it all gets done.
You're known for your copperplate perfection, and rightly so (we are not worthy!) How did you develop your personal calligraphy style? Do you utilize certain drills, study from certain people?:
Is that what I'm known for? Wow! I started by studying the fundamentals of good form. I wanted to have a really good foundation, to understand exactly how Copperplate/Engrosser's/Spencerian is created. I really do believe that knowing the rules makes it easier to break them, and break them well. My own style just developed, and is still developing, from lots and lots of doodles. Studying the work of past penman, trying to replicate their exemplars, and then making them work for my hand. Everyone has their own personal style, and I love for people to let it develop. Try new things, try difficult things, try obscure things, scribble, and doodle... it all helps!
What are your favorite Instagram accounts?:
For calligraphy: @openinkstand, @federflugcalligraphy, @loveletterer, @tomehope, @meisographic. They all have that wonderful combination of technique and personal style.
To get my butt in the gym: @sianmarshallpilates
And of course, you gotta have a calligraphy bestie. Mine is @masgrimes. He started out as a student of sorts, but we became friends, the kind of friends where you can say, nah that looks like rubbish, or wow that looks cool, let's explore that. We have worked together on a couple of projects, and combining styles and scripts with someone else is really really cool. So much learning takes place. Its really helpful to have a friend be able to look at your script and tell you what you can improve upon, with out feelings getting hurt. I was surprised at how much you learn while teaching someone else. It's mutually beneficial.
Time saving tip for other calligraphers to try out:
I always clean up my workspace at the end of a work session, no matter how late. Getting re-organized helps me stay organized and work efficiently.
What do you want your legacy for Bien Fait Calligraphy to be?:
Hmmm, I have never thought of this before...legacy...I hope it would be that Joi is human, just like everyone else, but she made the world just a little bit prettier with some calligraphy. She worked hard to hone her craft and it showed. Does that sound good? ;)