Senior Forest Richardson has always been interested in handwriting, but after buying her first set of watercolors two years ago, she has practiced the art of calligraphy. While she enjoys making special pieces for friends, she has also grown her work into a business and donates the proceeds to a different charity each month.
When did you first start calligraphy?
I bought my first set of watercolors as a sophomore in college. One of my friends picked up a small watercolor set in a store in Asheville and said, “Hey, you should get these!” I started painting with them for fun, but then realized that my favorite part was writing words and quotes.
I spent my free time that summer practicing my calligraphy alphabet and playing around with different color combinations.
What made you interested in learning the skill and continuing the practice?
I have always been infatuated with handwriting. I have also always loved opening the mailbox to a beautifully addressed envelope.
For as long as I can remember, I have scripted the titles of my notes in classes. Handwriting has always been a love of mine.
Calligraphy is more complex than many people think it is — can you describe some of the intricacies?
Calligraphy is really quite beautiful. Watching the movements of the brushes is mesmerizing, especially as the colors are changed between strokes. It takes a steady hand and an image of what the end goal is for each letter.
My process involves flourishing letters from the beginning and then adding pops of various colors throughout the design. My favorite colors to combine are blues and greens.
As a busy college student, is it hard to find time to practice calligraphy?
Calligraphy began as a way for me to unwind amidst the stress of college. I would sit on the floor, turn on soft music and get lost in the flow of each letter. It still acts as a sort of escape, and I find that certain weeks I can do it more than others.
I now do a lot of my calligraphy digitally, which is more on-the-go than opening a (wonderfully) messy watercolor set. This also allows me to do it more often — I always prefer using paint and brushes though.
What do you normally write when practicing calligraphy? And do your friends ever ask for something special?
I love writing quotes and Bible verses. My friends are my biggest supporters. Ask anyone who I am close with and they will show you a wall of calligraphy pieces, ranging in various sizes, colors and words.
I like to give special verses and quotes for my friends’ birthdays; I always write a personalized note on the back of my artwork.
I love adding that special touch to each piece. When I’m not near my watercolor set, I often write people’s names in script.
We’ve heard that you sell calligraphy and donate the proceeds to a different charity each month — can you tell us a little about how that started?
Yes! It started recently, actually. In December, I donated all of my proceeds to a charity in my hometown of Hilton Head Island.
I decided after doing it that it was such a sweet concept to create for the purpose of giving and donating, so I am now donating all profits to various charities. I’m always taking suggestions. Although these donations are just a drop in the bucket, I like to say they’re a drop in the right bucket.
How do you sell your calligraphy?
I sell my calligraphy on Etsy. I can do nearly any size and any color combination, I just ask that people submit their quote, colors and size online while placing their order. I typically have them ready within a few days.
How do you decide which charity to donate to each month? What causes do you feel are the most important?
I have recently been passionate about hunger and homelessness, especially in Winston-Salem. Outside of our Wake Forest bubble, there are many people who need our love and help. Because of this, I have been donating to causes like the Winston-Salem Food Bank and local shelters.
This is only my third month donating, but it feels good to know that I have a small impact in the community that I call home. I highly recommend everyone to read Kathy Izard’s novel, Hundred Story Home, about her personal journey fighting homelessness in Charlotte, NC. She is my inspiration.
Will you continue to practice calligraphy after you graduate and as you embark on the next chapter of your life?
Oh, yes. Someday, I would love to end up doing part-time calligraphy work such as wedding invitations and special pieces. I have done some invitations and t-shirts digitally, which has been fun. I love designing and creating and hope to do it throughout my life.
I never plan to stop giving away calligraphy pieces to my friends. I’m a big lover of thoughtful gifts and find that a personalized piece always makes people feel good.
Do you believe that you have to have good handwriting to be able take up calligraphy?
No, I don’t think so, although my friends may disagree with me on this. I think it just takes focus, dedication and patience. If you were to look at some of my early calligraphy lettering compared to what I do now, I have seriously improved over the past two years.
It takes time. I have been thinking about doing some open classes for people to learn the art.
What advice do you have for anyone who wants to learn this skill?
I think you just need to buy a watercolor set, sit down and start. It’s the first stroke that is the hardest, but every time you pick up the brush it gets easier. Best of luck to all!