Elsa B Duncan of Mint Tea Calligraphy
I'm so excited to post this interview with Elsa of Mint Tea Calligraphy! Not only is her gorgeous modern calligraphy reason enough to give her a follow, but she'll also fill your feed with hilarious banter, and this interview does not disappoint! Her feed has a refreshing, light-hearted narrative that keeps me anticipating her next batch of hilarity, coupled with amazing lettering skills that will leave you envious and inspired all at the same time! I mean seriously, have you seen her majuscules?! Capital letters are the worst, can I get an Amen?! And she makes them look effortless! Mmm, especially her T's... I'm in love! And you most definitely will be too! (Did that paragraph have enough exclamation points?? Can you tell I'm excited??)
5 adjectives that describe Mint Tea Calligraphy:
Modern, Lively, Whimsical, Accessible, Elegant. That last one is more of what I want it to be than what it actually is, but if I say it enough, it will magically become true. Mint Tea Calligraphy is sooooo elegant. I can feel it working already.
Favorite tools of the trade:
- Speedball straight holders
- Fancy pants Unique Oblique that I won in an Instagram giveaway (Thank you Dr Vitolo and Brian Smith!!!)
- Hoping to add a fancy pants Bush holder. I'm in deep love with all those painted beauties I've been seeing on Instagram!
- I literally have over 30 different nibs in rotation, and I really use them all. If I had to choose a favorite it would probably be the vintage Blanzy 2552.
- Walnut: There is just nothing better for practice
- Dr Martin's Bleedproof White
- Noodler's Black
- PearlEx: Oh man, I have a love affair with PearlEx. It's inexpensive, gorgeous, flows like a river of liquid butter, and you can mix it into basically everything...which I definitely do!
- Razor blade for scraping off mistakes on envelopes. I would not be in business without this guy, because mistakes are kind of my jam.
- 1/4 oz plastic containers with lids. I use these for all of my inksperimentation (or as normal people call it: experiments with ink)
- Black & Decker laser level for keeping my lines on envelopes somewhere in the vicinity of straight.
How did you get started in calligraphy and how did you turn it into a thriving business?
I saw some rad envelopes on Pinterest, and I was like "Hey, I have good handwriting, I can totally do that!" So I went to the local craft store and bought myself the fanciest $7 calligraphy fountain pen set you can dream of. They were definitely broad nibs. I definitely spent a month trying to recreate pointed pen styles with a $7 broad nib fountain pen. Perplexed by my inability to get the look I was going for, I googled my heart out and discovered I may need a dip pen which really put a prickle in my pickle. So inconvenient to be dipping all the time! Nevertheless, I returned to the craft store and bought the only pointed pen they had. It was definitely a crow quill. I don't suggest that a beginner with a hand as heavy as an elephant start out with a crow quill. Alas, it really didn't matter that I splattered ink 5 times per word and that half my downstrokes had no shade. I was in ink splattered love and I didn't care who knew it!
As for how I turned it into a business...well I practiced my tush off. My tush disagrees with that statement. I just looked back there and apparently I still have tush to spare...so I guess what I meant was that I practiced a REAL LOT. Then made a bunch of sample envelopes in various styles, took some photos, opened up my Etsy shop and held my breath. But not really holding my breath, because it was 2 months before I got my first order (of 10 envelopes), and I'm not that good at holding my breath. I max out at like 45 seconds.
What's been the hardest thing about owning your own business & how are you working to overcome it?
Dang, there are so many things that have been harder than I expected, but I guess I'd say the hardest is time management. As for overcoming it, well I still suck at it, but I just learn a little bit with every job, and apply that to pricing, and turnaround estimates and my overall business approach.
Your modern style is so beautiful, how did you develop your personal style?
Thank you so much! I'd say it's a bit of a frankenscript. The bones of my modern style started out as my regular cursive handwriting, then I applied rules of good letter forms, and I picked up bits and pieces from everywhere and everyone. Like if I was perusing Instagram and saw a G that was the mother of all good looking G's I would try to replicate it. If things went well then I would invite said G to join the family. Through countless hours of trial and error (super heavy on the error) my style has taken shape. It's still a work in progress.
What are your favorite Instagram accounts?
I feel like I have hundreds of favorites, but in the interest of not listing every single person I follow, I'll just list a few...
Each of these artists has distinctive, skillful, and tush kicking style.
How have you utilized social media to grow your business?
I love Instagram! It rocks my socks off to the point that I am continually barefoot. I'm not sure how much business has been generated from social media, as most of my followers are fellow wielders of the pen; however Instagram has been super instrumental in my growth as an artist. The constant stream of inspiration has helped mold my skills in a way that would not have been otherwise possible. It has also created an environment in which I get to know wedding planners and other calligraphers who will refer clients my way from time to time. Mostly I just like to use social media to get feedback on my work from someone other that my husband who either says "That looks nice." or "What does that say? It's hard to read." Shout out to the Flourish Forum where I have learned oodles of valuable information about everything calligraphy related (including running a business), plus gotten to know loads of fantastic people.
Time saving tip for other calligraphers to try out:
2 words: Laser Level. I use a $12 black & decker laser level to project guidelines for envelopes (thank you @marcardincalligraphy)
I am not qualified to offer any other time saving tips because as noted above time management is my kryptonite. Time management, and cheetos. And cheesecake. And tacos. Basically my kryptonite is time management and anything which is delicious.
What's one of your 'big/scary' goals you'd like to attain for your business in the next couple years?
- Digitizing (just saying it sent chills down my spine!) I'm an analog girl, but boy I sure do live in a digital world and I'm going to have to reconcile those at some point.
- Also I need to put on my big girl business pants, complete with branding, and website, and various other things I'm currently neglecting.
- Lastly I want to expand my horizons beyond pointed pen, but it kind of sucks and it's kind of scary because I'll have to begin at the beginning.
Those read more like my 3 wishes if I had a genie in a bottle, but I shall call them goals anyhow.
What do you want your legacy for Mint Tea Calligraphy to be?
I suppose that I want the legacy to be that I created something both beautiful and distinctly mine, and that I never approached any of it with undue seriousness.