Brenna Jordan has nice handwriting. But she doesn’t just get complimented on it, she gets paid for it. And she’s a member of the International Association of Master Penmen, Engrossers, and Teachers of Handwriting. This week, Brenna fills us in on the art of calligraphy and how she works a very analog art into the digital world.
“I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions.”
BJ: When I’m not out enjoying Duluth’s many natural wonders, I work as a calligrapher/hand lettering artist in my home studio that officially opened in 2014. I use an assortment of inks, gouache, watercolors, chalk and colored pencils, and have lettered on all kinds of surfaces, including wood, rock, pressed leaves, canvas, walls, and even boats! I have been in love with letters and great quotes for as long as I can remember, and started learning traditional calligraphy as a teenager. Teachers and coaches hired me to do lettering on certificates and awards, which gave me a lot of practice. While I didn’t formally study art in college, I continued doing calligraphy for events on campus, along with wedding calligraphy for family and friends. For many years, calligraphy was more of a hobby, with occasional commissioned projects.
Several years ago, I became a member of the Colleagues of Calligraphy (Minneapolis guild) and IAMPETH (International Association of Master Penmen, Engrossers, and Teachers of Handwriting). These organizations provided the boost I needed to pursue art more intentionally, and receive professional instruction at conferences around the nation. My favorite class so far has been spending three days learning from Pat Blair, the chief calligrapher at the White House, who is an expert in the traditional Copperplate hand. The pointed pen and broad edged pen require completely different techniques, and there’s always more to learn! I continue to attend as many in-person workshops as possible, and also enjoy the convenience of online classes. I’ve discovered that the most invaluable key to serving the diverse needs of my clients and keeping my own passion ignited has been investing in training from master calligraphers.
The rewards of pursuing a career in calligraphy have been many, primarily the joy of working in a field that I believe is vital in this age of technology, and having a flexible schedule that allows me to work around the needs of a busy household. Calligraphy transforms functional language into something extraordinary and expressive, and I love seeing the excitement of customers when a design comes to life. It’s a very personal connection between an artist and client, and the project often evokes stories that I feel honored to hear. I also love getting to know other calligraphers around the world at conferences and meeting up online.
Being active on social media has helped me bridge the gap between traditional and modern styles of lettering. I love blending them together! I think that being willing to explore the beauty and benefits of both classic and modern calligraphy has given my work more flexibility and appeal to a wider audience. Posting on Instagram has provided visibility for my business to clients outside of Minnesota, and has allowed me to team up with companies to showcase their products through video posts. Through social media, I’ve discovered that I really enjoy video posting and how people seem to connect with the movement of the creative process taking place before their eyes. I hope to pursue this area of advertising more, even for companies that are not art-related, using the allure of hand lettered video content to increase their customer engagement.
As far as challenges, I have so many files of designs I would like to develop into products, and I just need to take the leap and go for it, instead of overthinking the process. Art and business are such separate entities and it’s always a conundrum for me to know which to focus on when!
The best place to see current work is on Instagram @calligraphybybrenna. I also have a website calligraphybybrenna.com, and a Facebook page, Calligraphy by Brenna.
I’m currently preparing for an upcoming presentation and exhibit in Minneapolis in May for the Colleagues of Calligraphy. I will be presenting a progression of my work since receiving the Jo White Scholarship, in which I was awarded a year mentorship with a calligrapher of renown. I studied with Timothy Botts, Chicago calligrapher and author of several books.
I will be attending the IAMPETH conference for a week in August in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My course of studies will be the pointed pen Spencerian hand, advanced flourishing, and signature design.
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