An Interview with Suzanne Cunningham
Suzanne is the type of person that you just want to hang out with. Do you have any online accounts you follow who you just need to meet in 'real-life'? Well, that's her! She has a totally approachable, and down-to-earth personality that makes you feel like she'd give really good hugs. I love that in a person! She's so warm and encouraging, and that really leaves a lasting mark on you. Not to mention, she oozes talent! Her flourishing makes me wanna give up, it's just that good! So grab your hot cup of tea, and join Suzanne on her comfy couch as we get a glimpse into her amazing business!
Location: Florence, Alabama
Favorite way to treat yourself:
Mani/pedi at my favorite nail salon, eating "healthy" 70% dark chocolate, and watching The Bachelor (current fav is Ben Z.)
Best advice you've ever received:
Be concerned with how you act and carry your own self and don't worry about what others do or say. Always conduct yourself in a way that's upstanding and pleasing to God, even if others around you aren't.
Five adjectives that describe your business:
Classic, flourish-filled, punctual (for the most part), creative, heart-felt
Favorite tools of the trade:
- Unique Oblique holder
- Tachikawa G and Zebra G nibs (I'm trying to get the hang of the Leonardt Principal EF and wishing my heavy hand would cooperate)
- Dr. Ph. Martin's Black Star ink, Sumi ink, Bombay inks, Pearl Ex, FineTec
- Windex, paper towels, guide sheet, light box, ruler, kneaded gum eraser, pencil, paperclips, and most importantly, a big glass of piping hot black tea
How did you get started in calligraphy and how did you turn it into a thriving business?
I have done calligraphy since I was a child. My mom had a Speedball book of various alphabets and I would fill up notebooks trying to copy the letters. I would also write whatever I happen to hear on TV at the moment, so I had a notebook of commercial slogans like "two all-beef patties, special sauce lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun" and "hold the pickle hold the lettuce..." My mom was an amazing artist, and I always watched her paint and create the most beautiful pieces. I admired her so much then, and still do. I think creating has always been in my blood. I received my first official wedding order in 1993 when I was 25. I submitted samples to Weddings, Etc., a wedding shop in Birmingham, Alabama in hopes of getting my name out to the public. Sally Hopson was the owner and became a friend of mine via the orders I did for her shop. My price back then was 50 cents for a double envelope, can you imagine??
What are your favorite Instagram accounts?
- @the_md_writes, because Gail is so knowledgable about the technical way strokes are supposed to be written and is so generous with her information (plus she's just so nice)
- @bienfaitcalligraphy, because Joi has mastered Pearl Ex in a way no one else has, and I struggle with metallics so much
- @masgrimes, because David's hairlines are amazing, and his dry brush calligraphy is so unusual, besides the fact he's a freak of nature in parkour (it terrifies me to watch his videos)
- @annekeenanhiggins, because the colorful and whimsy ladies Anne sketches are by far the cutest things I have ever seen, and I wish I could be one
- @mrjacobira, because not only does Jacob have phenomenal Ornamental Penmanship and bird flourishes, his drive and work ethic are like nothing I've ever seen before, and I look up to him so much
- @pascribe, because Paul is beyond talented in so many different styles and his new studio is amazing, never mind the fact that he gets to go to garden parties at Buckingham Palace
- @uniqueobliques, because Brian is a genius in creating the most beautiful holders, and is about the nicest person ever
- and lastly, the obvious, @jakeweidman, because I have decided he isn't human with the vast amount of talent he has.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
This interview! The city where I'm from is fairly small (40,000) and I would love to be able to do cool things like write on gift cards for Louis Vuitton (dream assignment), but we're sort of a small hometown kind of place. I wouldn't want to live anywhere else though, it's my home and I think it's perfect.
How do you maintain proper balance between life/work/kids/etc?
Well, I'm not exactly sure I do! But I try not to overbook myself, and I don't ever book anything for the weekends so I can catch up if I get behind during the week.
Advice for beginners:
Get a decent holder, good ink, and good paper. Print off exemplars you want to try and whatever you do, don't give up. It just takes patience and practice (two things I need more of). And follow these amazing people I've listed because they are so forthcoming with all kinds of fabulous information.
Time saving tip for other calligraphers to try out:
- I have three time-saving tips that work great for me. First, is to use Windex instead of water to clean your nib. It works much better, especially on pesky inks like iron gall.
- Prepare your new nib by holding it over a flame for a few seconds and then put it in your mouth to coat it with saliva if you have trouble getting the ink to stay on it.
- As for big loopy flourishes, I count in my head every time I make a loop. Each loop is one count. This helps me stay steady and even with each loop.
What do you want your legacy for your business to be?
I would like for my legacy to be that I genuinely love writing and helping others with my calligraphy. That a quote, bible verse, or song lyric I penned made them smile and stop and think for a moment. I want people to know how much I truly love helping them with the special events in their life, and that I am completely honored when they want to use me.