Outside the Lines with Jennifer Bianca Calligraphy
For those that know me well, you know my obsession with design and stationery. I remember stumbling upon Jennifer Bianca Calligraphy while I was working on the launch of Host Winnipeg in the fall of 2015 and I knew it was only a matter of time before I would be seeing some gorgeous wedding stationery and invitations flying out of her studio. Fast forward to this past Monday and Jen released her first line of semi-custom hand calligraphed stationery styled and photographed by Brittany Mahood. What wedding stationery dreams are made of folks! I couldn't resist sharing her gorgeous work and entrepreneurial journey with you. Enjoy!
You know I absolutely love your work, Jen! Tell us about your design business, where your career started and what led you to stationery design… You’re so kind, Jaclyn! It’s been a crazy journey with many changes in direction. Since starting my business in 2015, it’s taken some time for me to find my stride and I’ve learned so much along the way. I started out by offering hand lettered prints on Etsy but quickly realized I was drowning in a sea of businesses offering similar products. I switched to selling hand lettered downloadable pieces on my website, and that didn’t quite click either. At the beginning of 2016, I switched completely away from hand lettering to calligraphy and began to move closer to the direction I am headed today. I began with offering calligraphy services for weddings including place cards, seating charts, program signage, etc. and near the end of the year I made the leap into the field of stationery design and worked toward creating my latest endeavour- my semi-custom wedding stationery line you're seeing here today.
Have you always had a knack for the creative? Yes and no. I grew up feeling like there was something creative within me, but I wasn’t sure what it was or where it was hiding. Art classes throughout school never seemed to pull out the creative side of me that would thrive, and didn’t show me all the possible creative avenues the world has to offer. I started my creative journey in junior high by hand lettering quotes all over my bedroom walls in pencil because I was bored of all the white. Those wall quotes turned into notebooks and pencils turned into nibs, and suddenly I’d found my creativity in calligraphy. Discovering this path has opened me up to new ideas and hobbies like watercolour painting and I’m dying to try out weaving on a loom!
Tell us about your new line of gorgeous semi-custom invitation suites… What was your inspiration? As I began dreaming up these suites and brainstorming I did a lot of calligraphy practice, experimentation, and playing. I played around with different styles and letter formations until I came up with a few I thought I could base an invitation suite on. From there, I based the rest of the design on the feeling that came from the flow and shape of the letters. So, I guess you could say I was inspired by my own work!
My line of semi-custom suites feels like custom for a smaller budget. I calligraph every couples name by hand and then add it to the suite, and personalize every colour and detail to their specifications. I flat print everything myself, address the envelopes, assemble and add wax seals if requested, and mail out the suites for my couples. My goal is to make the invitation process as easy as possible.
What does a typical day look like for Jennifer Bianca Calligraphy? When you run a business on your own, you wear all the hats. I’m my own web designer, my own strategist, my own bookkeeper, my own social media coordinator, my own teacher, my own everything. That being said, all my days look different depending on the season and the needs of my business and my clients. The past months have been all about planning and dreaming for the future. Creating designs, designing my website for new suites and products, preparing the systems I use as a business to run smoothly for the year ahead. The next months will change dramatically as wedding season approaches and I begin designing wedding invitations and day-of details for all the weddings coming up this summer. I’m looking forward to this change of pace and I thoroughly enjoy every different season that comes along.
What’s the best advice you would give to someone looking to start their own business? Be ready to never be done. Be ready to never quit. Be ready to keep learning. Be ready to feel completely incapable some days and completely empowered other days. It’s not easy, but it is rewarding and worth it.
Also learn what the value of your work is, and price it accordingly. Don’t undercut yourself or others in the industry. Don't price according to your feelings. Sometimes, you might be shocked how high your invoice is for a client and wonder if you are worth it. You are. Your client is paying you to do something they can’t do themselves, and you need to price it according to the value your services bring.
Tell us something about you that would surprise us… My whole life, I’ve felt a calling to teach. I thought it meant I had to become a school teacher but after one semester of university, I ditched that idea and started my business. Though I do still believe teaching is in my future. Calligraphy workshops, anyone?! For real though. Also, I got married at 18. That usually has some shock factor, ha!
Where does your inspiration for your designs come from? For custom stationery, the details about the couple and the wedding inspire me. The lace details on the brides wedding dress that were recycled from her grandmother’s dress, the stonework at the venue, or the flowers that will surround them. I want to create paper goods that tie the whole event together.
How would you like to see your business evolve in the next five years? As I hinted at earlier, one of my biggest dreams is to begin teaching calligraphy to others and my hopes for that may be realized sooner rather than later! I'll be sharing more information on that very soon!
Another goal of mine is to restore an old letterpress, begin my own letterpress printing studio, and print my own designs on my own press for my own clients. It’s amazing to see how far my business has come in the last two years, and I honestly can’t imagine what the next five will bring.
What is the best business advice you have ever received? Done is better than perfect. It's easy to get lost in the creative process and I have learned to stop myself from chasing perfection. I am the professional. If something isn’t exactly how I pictured it, or exactly perfect, I’ll be the only one who notices and my clients will still be beyond thrilled with the work I’ve created just for them.