At long last, I finally have a new calligrapher to introduce to you! Meet Carrie Ellis, a calligrapher and educator from Weatherford, Texas. I first met Carrie on Instagram shortly after she had been featured in her local newspaper for bringing back the lost art of calligraphy. (Although, I don’t think this art has at all been lost!!) Carrie has a unique flair with her calligraphy, because she intermingles pointed pen and brush calligraphy with digital calligraphy and sign painting. Her Instagram feed @CarrieEllisCalligraphy is always full of positive messages and hope, beautifully written.

Carrie Ellis Calligraphy

I’m excited for you to get to know Carrie in this article, especially as she talks about balancing her calligraphy career with the demands of family, the challenges she has faced, how her business has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, and what she is doing to build her business in this economy. Let’s dig in!

Carrie, thank you for joining us for the Meet the Calligrapher series! Would you start by telling us about your family?

My husband, Clif, and I have been married 7 years now. We have two handsome and rugged little boys. Porter is 4 and is the smartest and kindest kiddo I know. Hayes is a year and a half and as wild as they come, but he gives the sweetest little smooches ever. The boys keep me busy for sure! We have the blessing of living in the country, where the boys are able to, within reason, roam free. On our 20 acres, we’ve got our pretty little one-eyed cow dog, Gemma, three kittens, one cow, and 5 chickens. We love spending time exploring the outdoors.

Carrie Ellis Calligraphy

This sounds like so much fun with the kids and animals filling your days! I remember when my kids were young, and how busy of a time it was. This must surely make it a challenge to keep up with your business. Is calligraphy your “day job” or do you have another career?

I am a stay-at-home mom with a calligraphy passion. I was an elementary school teacher for 7 years and, after having Hayes last year, decided that investing in my kiddos was paramount. I would say that the kiddos are my “day job”, though it only pays in the occasional hug and/or kiss, and I fit my calligraphy business in at night and during nap time. I so enjoy being able to create beautiful things for people and share my love of calligraphy through workshops. I’ve recently been hired to teach Chinese children to speak English online through VIPkid. I’m kind of all over the place right now, but I love it!

Wow, this is so inspiring! I also had many different jobs as a stay-at-home mom when my children were pre-school aged, and I remember how valuable those nap times and late nights were. Have you always planned to have a calligraphy business?

Actually, growing up, I never in a million years thought I would have a business that gave me a source of income through my lettering. Other things that were top of my list besides teaching were 1) Storm chaser (I’m obsessed with severe weather and am a certified storm spotter but never pursued more than that) 2) Dolphin trainer 3) Fighter jet pilot 4) Nascar driver. I had some pretty wild dreams, and, in hindsight, chose a super mild route!

Well I would say so! You sound like an adrenaline junkie!! This inner drive must be what fuels you to succeed in your business endeavors. So, if you didn’t always plan on being a calligrapher, did you already have good handwriting? And, how did you get your start with calligraphy specifically?

No, I didn’t. I became interested in calligraphy about 4-5 years ago through a curiosity fueled by Pinterest items and Instagram videos. I like DIY projects and felt like calligraphy might be a good avenue for me to channel some creativity. I quickly became obsessed!

I completely relate to this, as it quite echoes my experience as well. After you discovered calligraphy, how did you learn? Did you take classes?

I’m primarily self taught as a calligrapher. I did use some of the online materials from Kelly Klapstein when getting started and have utilized some Instagram TV teaching series from others such as Nina Tran and Sharisse from @piecescalligraphy.

I’ll tell you, Carrie. This Instagram calligraphy community has been a huge blessing to me. I’ve also learned a great deal from watching what others teach on the platform. What types of calligraphy do you do, and what is your favorite?

I do brush and pointed pen calligraphy for weddings, personal items, and occasionally businesses. I love doing envelope addressing and I also greatly enjoy creating signage.

Carrie Ellis Calligraphy

So tell me how you took this from being a creative outlet to creating a business.  What did you do to attract clients?

My calligraphy began as a hobby, turned into a side job while I was working full time as an elementary school teacher, and now that I’m staying home with my two sons, it’s morphing into my full time job! With teaching being such a passion of mine, I was most excited, early on, to begin teaching the skill of calligraphy and inspiring others to engage in their own creativity. The only workshop options available for learning calligraphy at the time were outside of my area. I took this need and just ran with it! I first began teaching workshops through the “Community Education” department of my school district. Once I found that each class was selling out, I decided to branch out on my own and offer classes more frequently and with different focuses. Facebook and Instagram have been incredibly helpful for sharing my work and announcements about classes, but word of mouth has been as well!

 

I am also a part of a wonderful group of wedding vendors in my area, DFW Weddings West, that are the definition of community. They help promote local businesses like mine to brides in the area. We meet once a month to discuss upcoming events and to socialize with one another. We regularly collaborate for styled shoots and I have been blessed to participate several times, showcasing my lettering in the wedding world. The community found in that group is irreplaceable. I credit most of my wedding orders to the recommendations given by photographers, planners, and even bakers found in that group.

This is a tremendous opportunity, Carrie! I’m excited just thinking about how fun it must be to be a part of such a group. Would you do anything differently with your business if you could go back and start from scratch?

I think grace for yourself and your mistakes is important in a new and growing business. I wouldn’t necessarily change anything because, without mistakes, I would not have the knowledge that I do now! Every day is a new day and I am continually growing and learning in my business.

Oh, this so true. I learn something new in every single client project, whether it is through calligraphy or through my web design business. I truly continue to shape my businesses with every client experience.

Carrie Ellis Calligraphy

So this is a pretty historic time we are living through right now, especially as small business owners. How has the covid-19 pandemic affected your business and your day-to-day life?

Unfortunately, I have had to cancel a workshop that was scheduled in April and a vendor event in May. A styled shoot scheduled in April was rescheduled as well. It’s heartbreaking, but we’re staying home and staying safe. Even though I am a “stay-at-home mom”, my “stay-at-home” ability is typically low. We’re always on the go and are having to adjust to the new normal. My 4-year-old has to remind himself we can’t go in to eat at restaurants or go to the zoo or park because of the “sick mess, I mean, sickness”. We are making memories and I am creating more than ever!

🙂 Funny guy. I’m so sorry that you’ve lost some business events. I know that was hard to do, for you and for the clients. This is such a difficult time, but it’s also bittersweet, because like you said, we’re making more memories and even having time to create more art. I do think this experience is going to have a lasting impact on all of us.

Does calligraphy itself have any special meaning or purpose to you? Describe this.

I had poor handwriting growing up. I was always jealous of a friend’s cursive and always wanted mine to look as pretty as hers. I had to work hard to get my muscles to memorize the right movements. Later, teaching cursive even when cursive was thrown out of the curriculum, I felt strongly about sharing it with my elementary students. Learning something like cursive requires the brain and causes you to focus on detail. As I began to grow my interest to calligraphy, I also found that I enjoyed teaching it and my students enjoyed learning it. It allowed them to express themselves creatively while taking notes or within their school work. Slowing down, taking time to focus, and taking time to fuel creativity and construct something beautiful is therapeutic and can be so inspiring. Teaching in-person workshops also helps me fulfill my passion for teaching!

I love hearing that you taught your students cursive writing in school. It is so sad to me that cursive is no longer being taught in schools. I agree with you, that there is something very therapeutic about slowing down and focusing on constructing beautiful writing. It sounds like you have really found a sweet spot of where your skills and passions intersect, and even more so that you can use it to produce income as well!

So tell me, besides the basics, what is one supply/tool you can’t live without?

Phantom liner 100% changed my envelope addressing game!

I have heard this from multiple people, yet still I haven’t tried it. I want to ask about some more favorites. What is your favorite script/style to write?

I like a slightly more loose, slightly more modern copperplate style.

Favorite Nib:

Nikko G and Brause “blue pumpkin”

Favorite Ink:

Dr Ph Martins Bleed Proof White

Favorite Practice Paper:

HP premium 32 lb copy paper or spare cards/envelopes from Michaels

Ah, these are all on my top 10 list as well. I also find that every calligrapher is always studying something. What are you learning now?

Continuing to refine my copperplate.

Carrie Ellis Calligraphy

{Big smile} I think Copperplate will always be on my refining list. So tell us about your workspace.

I share a small sun room in our little house with my two toddlers’ playroom. It’s not ideal but it’s sufficient and has a great view of our 20-acre property. We’re in the process of building my very own workshop in a side building and I’m beyond excited for my own space!

Oh my gosh, what a dream come true!! I can’t wait to see this space when it’s finished!! How do you set the atmosphere for doing calligraphy?

Comfy is key!

🙂 Agreed! So what are your top 5 favorite tools at the moment?

  1. Phantom Liner
  2. Metal ruler
  3. Painter’s tape
  4. Sakura Pen-touch Paint Marker (for signs)
  5. Pentel Fude Touch Sign Pen

Oh, speaking of sign pens, I just got a hold of the new colors and they are soooo nice.

Carrie Ellis Calligraphy

Do you have any other hobbies?

Chasing toddlers

LOL. I don’t know how you get ANYTHING done. Okay confession time. Have you ever had any calligraphy disasters you would be willing to share?

I was so excited about my new calligraphy inks when I first began pointed pen. It was the end of the school year and we had an art day planned so I told some of my more interested students (3rd grade) that I’d bring my pens and ink for them to try out. I had everything laid out on my desk and everyone was doing a great job. I had to check on a situation across the room and told them to be careful and that I’d be right back after dealing with another student. (Famous last words). The next thing I knew, one of my little girls was walking up to me looking like she’d lost a limb because the RED calligraphy ink had spilled ALL over her. Her new sparkly shoes were ruined, it was all over her shorts, and the carpet…oh the school carpet. It looked like a murder scene and I was mortified. We cleaned it all the best we could but there was a little faint red spot left on the carpet after I left the school that year. Needless to say, I never brought tubs of ink for my kiddos again!

Oh my word!! I can’t even imagine this. I think every calligrapher has an ink spill story, but this!! I can’t even imagine explaining that one to the mom or the school administrator. On a more serious note, would you share about a challenge you have faced in your life and/or business and how you overcame that challenge?

I am constantly trying to overcome my battle with comparison to others. There are so many GREAT artists out there and I often feel like my work isn’t up to their level of greatness. I am overcoming that by focusing on progress over perfection and recognizing that my work is making both me and my clients happy! I create because I find joy in it. One of the biggest things to help me lately was in a post I saw on Instagram. I don’t remember who posted it but it basically said that you should create BEFORE you scroll through your Instagram or any social media platform so that you are more original, more independently creative, and more satisfied with what you make. It hit home hard and is something I am absolutely working on!

I love this idea, and I have to say that I think it is a struggle for ALL of us. There is always going to be someone out there we admire and aspire to emulate in our work, but the true joy in art is the actual doing of it. The enrichment of seeing that piece come to life with the tools in your own hand. I do think that we have to work hard to be intentional about this with so much beautiful content from others at our fingertips. Thank you for being honest about your struggle with this, because I think it allows us to all recognize that we are not alone in this challenge.

Carrie Ellis Calligraphy

Who has had the biggest influence on your life, and would you tell us a little about why?

My grandmother, I call her Mimi, has had a huge influence on my life. She has always had wild and creative ideas and an eye for all things beautiful. I am proud to have inherited some of her creativity. She inspires me to this day. Her love for the Lord and her family are so strong. My niece slips up and calls me Mimi sometimes and I take it as the highest compliment.

Oh this is so precious. I bet Mimi is so proud of you! What are some future hopes and dreams you have for your life and/or business?

I hope to elevate my workshop experiences and branch out to farther reaching areas for teaching! I’ve recently begun playing with floral drawings and have quickly become obsessed with them. I also hope to refine those skills and continue creating with florals!

I was just attempting some watercolor florals yesterday. I have to say, it didn’t go so well. I am in definite need of some floral education. I know it’s time to wrap things up. Do you have a favorite quote or scripture to share with us?

I do. “No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:39‬ ‭NLT

This is absolutely perfect, Carrie. Especially during this time that we are going through this pandemic that has absolutely shattered our culture. To know that in the midst of a global disaster, while we are stuck being isolated from everyone but our household–social distancing, PPE or lack thereof, loss of jobs, or even death cannot separate us from God’s love. Thank you for this reminder.

Carrie Ellis Calligraphy

As we close, what advice would you give to other calligraphers?

Don’t give up on calligraphy if it doesn’t work out for you the first time you try it or even the second. It’s not the same as handwriting. Those with “bad” handwriting can still be successful if you’re patient with yourself and give yourself the GRACE that a beginner should give in every circumstance.

I love this advice, Carrie. It does take time to develop those writing skills. And as we mentioned earlier about comparison, we never see what time and effort others have put into their craft to develop their skills. I like this word “grace”. I think I’m going to focus on that for a while.

Carrie, thank you for taking the time to participate in this interview. I look forward to sharing it with others, as I know they will be inspired by you. May your business and family be blessed!


You can find Carrie on Facebook at Carrie Ellis Calligraphy, and on Instagram @CarrieEllisCalligraphy as well as her website CarrieEllisCalligraphy.com. I hope you will follow her in each of those places and reach out to her and let her know you met her here!

This article is part of my Meet the Calligrapher series, where I interview calligraphers and artists about once a month. If you would like to hear when the next article launches, follow me on Instagram and subscribe to my newsletter. I will send you some free calligraphy worksheets when you subscribe.

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