An Interview with Leila of Calligraphistic
Leila, or better known as Calligraphistic, oozes delicate calligraphy perfection. Her thin hairlines, and soft close-up shots of her work make you feel like you're looking at a tiny masterpiece, and you are! I think her style and ability really showcases and embodies the beautiful nature of the art of calligraphy. Her work makes you stop and appreciate the thought and care that went into each letterform, and keeps you in awe of every down stroke, squared end, perfectly balanced flourish. Take some time and soak in all the wisdom and inspiration she has to offer!
5 adjectives that describe Calligraphistic:
Passionate, distinctive, delicate, neat and authentic.
Favorite tools of the trade:
I’ve gathered some stuff here and there but for some strange reason, I keep always using the same tools. Concerning the pen holders, my favorite is an Hourglass Oblique holder, offered to me by a generous and talented lady and the second one is a Unique Oblique pen holder, made of black and purple tones. It looks so graceful and elegant. I simply love it as much as the kind soul who sent it to me!
My favorite go-to nib is, without any doubt, the Nikko G nib. I hated it at first because I didn’t find it flexible enough but now, it perfectly suits to my writing. The Leonardt Principal nib is also a good alternative for me, as well as the Ef66 and the Vintage Hunt 22 nib. I have lots of other nibs, in my drawers, patiently waiting for me to use them.
Concerning the choice of the ink, it depends on the task at hand. I feel very comfortable with walnut ink when it comes to practice. I also love McCaffery’s ink. When I miss glitter, I use colors from the Finetec Gold Palette, Arabic Gold is my favorite one!
Dr Martin’s Bleed Proof White is also amazing especially on dark-colored envelopes.
Let’s finish with the Oxford paper pads, French equivalents of Rhodia pads. The paper is so smooth, ideal for practicing!
Oh, I forgot! I also appreciate using Winsor and Newton Designers gouache.
How did you get started in calligraphy and how did you turn it into a thriving business?
My calligraphy journey followed a deep love for writing. I precisely remember the first time I decided to start. It was on February 2014. I was in a library, looking for new books to read and I came across this particular book called “the Calligrapher’s Bible” that taught how to do different types of calligraphy. So, I took it home and thought that I would give it a try. First obstacle: I quickly realized that finding the tools listed in the book was going to be a challenge. I’ve been to a lot of local craft stores but the answer was always the same: “Sorry but we don’t sell calligraphy tools.” I’ve finally come across a shop where I found a calligraphy set, made up of a wood straight pen holder, 3 Brause nibs and a tiny bottle of ink.
My first steps in calligraphy were epic. I’ve made so many mistakes! Here are some of them: not prepare the nibs before using them and spend weeks to wonder why they don’t work, dip nibs in permanent inks and ruin all of them, spill whole bottles of ink on my desk, erase guidelines while the ink is still wet... and there are lots of other mistakes that I’m ashamed to tell you. So, let’s stop here! I would probably have avoided all these misadventures if I had the possibility to take a class but it wasn’t the case. So, I had to find other ways to learn.
Now, things are getting better. I’ve learnt from my mistakes and I’m still learning, by watching videos, reading books and practicing as much as I can. That’s the magic of calligraphy: you learn something new every day. There are so many scripts, such a variety of colors, of textures, of nibs. I’m fascinated by this art, the symphony of the nib slowly gliding across the paper, the smell of the fresh ink, the smooth movement of the arm while drawing each letter... For me, calligraphy is pure poetry.
What has been the biggest hurdle to overcome in regards to learning calligraphy & starting a business?
Not to give up! That was the real challenge for me. I’m a determined person and I don’t give up easily but when I started calligraphy, I quickly realized that I got interested in a passion little-known here in France. During the first months, I practised alone, in my office, without any feedback, except the one of my family but I know that they are biased. So, I’m not going to lie, I wanted to give up a couple of times and then, I discovered Instagram and its amazing calligraphy community: lovely people always ready to answer your questions and share what they know, generous people ready to send you stuff from the other part of the world, sincere friendships as well and that’s definitely what I’m the most grateful for.
Second challenge: Learn self-discipline! Let’s be honest, I’m a very bad calligraphy student... Let me confess something: I hate drills! For me, the ideal would be to become a good calligrapher but without doing drills, do you think that it’s possible? “Ok, stop dreaming Leila and roll your sleeves up!”
About the business, I’ve focused my practice on Copperplate style. I’m obsessed with this script and that’s precisely the style of calligraphy wanted here for weddings. So, I’m sometimes asked to write envelopes, wedding cards and poems. I should admit that I didn’t really think about going into business. My only goal was to learn more about this art, make progress and develop my personal style. But a couple of months ago, a wedding planner from Paris sent me an email, after seeing my work on Instagram and asked me if I could work on the wedding invitation envelopes of her customers. I said yes without really knowing where I was going but I did it. I just promised myself to do my best and they were satisfied with the result. That’s how it started.
Even if I’m really honored to collaborate with people on different projects, my secret wish is to organize workshops, in France. I don’t claim to teach anything to anybody because I’m a calligraphy student myself. My only goal is to share something I’m passionate about with other people, introduce them to calligraphy and why not initiate children as well.
How have you utilized social media to grow your business?
I created my website a few months ago. It makes collaborations easier. I love using Instagram as well but rather to get feedback on my work or to interact with people who love calligraphy and lettering as much as I do. I’m impressed and motivated by the amazing talents I’ve found there. I also love the idea of sharing what I do and learning from people. This is, by the way, the occasion for me to say a huge thank you to all those who decide to follow me on my calligraphy journey, take the time to like and comment on my posts. This support goes straight to my heart.
What are your favorite Instagram accounts?
For calligraphy, @bienfaitcalligraphy is the first that comes to my mind. I love her work! She was also one of the first to support me on Instagram, always ready to help and she probably has no idea what it means to me...
There are also other accounts that I call “coups de coeur” accounts like: @cecilia.boschi, @handmadeletters, @inxpensieve and @jmshinhira: Cécilia, Janice, Ria and Jae, four talented people! If it’s not already done, go and check out their great galleries.
For lettering: @casaltxavier, a French guy whose work is amazing.
Last one which has nothing to do with calligraphy, but rather with food, another of my obsessions: @passionforbaking. I love the world of this talented lady and her cakes are to die for!
Time saving tip for other calligraphers to try out:
I’m not sure that it’s a time-saving tip but I apply it to myself each time I pick up a pen and it works for me:
Put heart and soul into your calligraphy. I mean, it’s not just about getting technical skills, it’s also about putting passion and emotion into it. It’s about inviting people to come into your world.
What do you want your legacy for Calligraphistic to be?
Her work was passionate, distinctive, delicate, neat and authentic. That’s what I hope people would think when they think about Calligraphistic and the lady behind it.
Let me finish by a huge “Merci” to you Ashley for proposing me this interview and for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts about calligraphy!