February 7, 2018

An Interview with Calligrapher Claire White

I have a confession to make. I can't write in cursive. When I was little, I couldn't wait to learn cursive writing - it seemed so grown up! I learned it, like all good third graders, but at some point I lost it and never got it back. I remember how to make cursive letters, but I don't remember how to join them. Don't believe me? Ask to see my signature sometime.

An inept aptitude for proper penmanship is my cross to bear, which is what led me to today's bitch. Claire is a calligrapher with one of the most beautiful Instagram feeds I've seen. As someone who can't even sign her name, I can't imagine being so good at handwriting that people will pay you for it. And I'm not just talking wedding invitations, I'm talking hand lettered Valentines for your galentine. Meet today's bitch, Claire White!

What do you do and what is the name of your business?

Hello there! I’m Claire White, the owner of White Ink Calligraphy. And (drum roll), I’m a calligrapher. I’m also an attorney, but that just isn’t as fun to talk about.

When did you first learn about this field of work? How did you know it was what you wanted to do?

Roughly four years ago, I took a calligraphy class from the oh-so-talented Meredith Bullock, to learn calligraphy for my wedding. This class was just an introduction to calligraphy, and I immediately fell in love with the art.

Not a lot of my followers know this - so this is a These My Bitches exclusive - I hit a not so great patch in my adult life recently... aka Divorce (shoutout to the little boy who felt threatened by a strong, independent woman) - and found therapy in my calligraphy practice. Practicing was a great tool for me to be able to clear my head, focus on myself and what I was doing in the moment - which was likely a mixture of long flourish lines and figuring out how the hell to mix the perfect gold ink consistency. I took back my maiden name “White” and, essentially, it was at this time that White Ink Calligraphy hit the ground running; basically out of girl power and saying to hell with everything else. And with this said, most of my close friends were worried about me working with engaged couples during this time in my life, as a good girlfriend should worry! However, I found that working with these engaged couples through the details of their wedding was a breath of fresh air - it gave me hope and truly brought my spirits higher. (Que Andra Day’s “Rise Up” in the background).

I threw together a logo and put myself out to the world as a calligrapher. This was SO HARD for me. How could I get a “calligraphy doctorate” or what made me good enough to call myself an actual calligrapher? In the creative industry, there aren’t fine lines or boxes that have to be checked off, which I love. Just do it. Go hard. Be a boss. Everything else will fall into place.

What is the best piece of business advice you’ve been given?

Enthusiasm above everything. Be enthusiastic about your skill or product. Be enthusiastic about the process. Geek out on your trade. Enthusiasm is infectious and trumps Instagram and Facebook algorithms any day. Show your audience your nerdiness about your craft and it will pay off. It always amazes me how my social media followers tell me how much they adore my behind the scene photos or Instagram Stories of me sitting on my living room floor, wearing the same sweatshirt I wore in my last story, nerding out over handmade silk, handmade paper, deckled edges, etc. WHICH IS SO NERDY! But my enthusiasm over my work shows my followers my love for the craft - allowing my clients to share my enthusiasm and story when others ask about their piece that I did for them.

Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned or that helped improve the way you work?

White Ink Calligraphy is my side hustle. So time management is everything. I’m always looking for ways to streamline my emails, canned responses, invoice tracking, etc.

Secondly, because I think this is so important: Comparison is truly a thief of honoring one’s success. In this super social media heavy world we all take part in, early on I found myself looking at other calligrapher’s work, wondering how my work stacked up to theirs. I quickly stopped doing that… it only drove me crazy and was a huge distraction.

What would you do with 2 more hours a day?

I mean... be a boss for 2 more hours. Right?!

What has been the biggest sacrifice you’ve made?

I’ve never considered my side hustle to include any sacrifices. The hustle keeps me happy. I’m a goal digger and genuinely get satisfaction out of setting goals and doing everything in my power to reach them; even if I fall short. If we want to talk about sacrifices - law school was a huge sacrifice (for my sanity!). I got about halfway through law school and wasn’t positive I wanted to even practice law... but, I’m not a quitter; so I pushed through, which was probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever been confronted with. Don’t be a quitter. Set goals and you will exceed your personal expectations.

What is your greatest success, or something you’re most proud of related to what you do?

I’m still a baby at this whole creative entrepreneur thing. I recently had my first publication in the Southern Bride Magazine, which was huge for me. I’ve compiled the most amazing photos of my work, thanks to my friend-ors in the wedding industry, and have put together a portfolio that shines. I’ve had the opportunity to teach a few calligraphy classes and watch my calligraphy travel the world (check out #whiteinktravels on IG).

White Ink Calligraphy just hit one year. If that’s not something to celebrate, I don’t know what is.

Do you have a morning ritual that helps you set the tone for the day?

Every single morning, I take a mug of coffee outside and throw the ball for my golden retriever. Rain or shine. It usually takes about 20 minutes with the “chuck-it” (this ball throwing contraption) before he is worn out. We go inside; while he is catching his breath and cooling off, tongue usually on the floor, I’m making myself breakfast.

How do you decompress at night?

Wine. Usually, always.

What helps when you’re stuck? Do you have a motto or quote that inspires/motivates you?

I tend to work best under time constraints or pressure (that’s the lawyer in me). So when I’m working for a styled shoot or some sort of thing that I know I’m on a deadline, I have no problem waiting until the last minute - because that is usually where my best work comes out. I know my capabilities and have trust in myself. “Waiting until the last minute” - It sounds awful, but it’s true - and for good reason, I suppose.

What does self care look like in your life?

My self care time is when I’m working out. I’m a huge fan of the barre method and have found a few spin instructors I’m obsessed with. Self care for me is sweating. Gross? Whatever; it helps me unwind, and being constantly reminded to relax my shoulders doesn’t hurt. I work out for my mental health just as much as I do for my physical health.

Are there any women who helped pave the way for your success?

I’m a junkie for keeping up with local businesses; what’s new, changes that are made, etc. So I’d have to say that all the fab ladies in East Nashville that are doing big things are true inspirations: my barre studio owner; the owner of the local boutiques that I shop at, the business that is the one woman show in the wedding industry - all are truly inspiring.

Lastly, and most important, what is your favorite TV show and what is your favorite snack?

I’m about to show you how basic I can be: Game of Thrones and boom-chicka-pop popcorn.

All photos courtesy of Claire White

P.S. Meet my last bitch:  Online Media Manager, Charlotte Weatherington!

P.P.S. Full list of My Bitches here.

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