Author Topic: Calligraphy: Share the Craft, Preserve the Trade  (Read 20898 times)

Offline Briana

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Re: Calligraphy: Share the Craft, Preserve the Trade
« Reply #15 on: August 21, 2015, 03:58:47 PM »
Probably Pinterest made it popular.


I am going to put that on a t-shirt, Amy!!!  ;Dh

I'll take one!

Great article, Erica. Written with thoughtfulness and genuine care!
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Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Calligraphy: Share the Craft, Preserve the Trade
« Reply #16 on: August 21, 2015, 04:46:15 PM »
Fascinating post Elisabeth!

I agree educating potential clients on what to look for in terms of hiring a calligrapher is helpful for a certain set of clients. But there is a really large segment who will just choose based on what they like or what they can afford (nothing wrong with either). I'm not sure it is so much about telling which calligraphers are "good" or "bad" either. It may be more about the saturation of the market and then the inability to find the good through all the bad and so you settle.

It's like buying a mattress... there are so many mattress stores around, you pick the first or second one that feels decent, not knowing there is a mattress store right around the corner selling the most comfortable mattress ever made.

You're still relatively happy because you don't know what you're missing and you like that mattress OK. But five mattress stores in a four corner neighborhood means none of them make a good living (or at least not the best they could if there were a couple less) and 3 or 4 out of 5 customers are getting mediocre mattresses.  ;D Do the customers suffer for it, maybe. But it's the store selling the awesome mattresses that suffers most.

Then we get into a competitive market and capitalism and ...  :)

But maybe instead, people get sick of their not great mattresses and decide they are going to start sleeping on hammocks.  ;D
Truly, Erica
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Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Calligraphy: Share the Craft, Preserve the Trade
« Reply #17 on: August 21, 2015, 04:47:00 PM »
Thank you Briana!  ;D

(See Amy, you should license that t-shirt...)  ;)
Truly, Erica
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Offline evjo

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Re: Calligraphy: Share the Craft, Preserve the Trade
« Reply #18 on: August 21, 2015, 10:29:25 PM »
What a great topic; thank you, Erica, for your post.  It helped me understand some of what I have experienced in the pointed pen community.

It's not just photography and calligraphy professionals that have seen a change since the digital age.  Recording engineers now have competition from everyone, for example.  This is great - people do not have to make it to the big time to share their music with others.  But there are fewer professionals able to survive.  I think there are similar concerns in that field about quality and quantity, too.

I agree with Dori who posted earlier.  My experience making art is that many people see what I do and immediately say, "Oh you could make so much money doing that!"  I don't have one money making brain cell.  Not one.   I don't create to make money.  Its for joy and solace and expression and fun.  There is pressure to turn all aspects of life into income sources.  That's sad to me.   Being 'amateur' shouldn't be such a negative.  Life is more fun when spent with the truly creative.  Whether we make money or not is another matter entirely.

The dictionary defines amateur[/ as:
    1.   a person who does something (such as a sport or hobby) for pleasure and not as a job
    2.   a person who does something poorly : a person who is not skillful at a job or other activity
Those two meanings get mushed together and the result is negative.  Artist is a better word; an artist can be earning money or not. 

Hmm. . . excuse me.  Seem to have gone off on a ranty tangent.  Ha!
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Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Calligraphy: Share the Craft, Preserve the Trade
« Reply #19 on: August 21, 2015, 10:54:03 PM »
Thank you and great points Evan! And you are so right about the definition of amateur. Sometimes I long for the time I just did calligraphy for fun. I miss the time I had to explore other things and just be creative like you said. Those moments are few and far between for me and my work has definitely suffered for it. Not just in the quality but in areas where I could be creating new things, learning new things, or expanding on it. I still try to do that but it is in small bits and pieces.

You made me laugh about the money making brain cell!  ;D
Truly, Erica
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Offline Elisabeth_M

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Re: Calligraphy: Share the Craft, Preserve the Trade
« Reply #20 on: August 21, 2015, 11:51:04 PM »
Fascinating post Elisabeth!

I agree educating potential clients on what to look for in terms of hiring a calligrapher is helpful for a certain set of clients. But there is a really large segment who will just choose based on what they like or what they can afford (nothing wrong with either). I'm not sure it is so much about telling which calligraphers are "good" or "bad" either. It may be more about the saturation of the market and then the inability to find the good through all the bad and so you settle.

......


But maybe instead, people get sick of their not great mattresses and decide they are going to start sleeping on hammocks.  ;D

The thing is, I think people do a lot more research before purchasing goods than they used to do before the internet.  That research may be as simple as looking at yelp reviews but it may also be looking for local calligraphers and checking their websites.  Personally, if I'm looking for a particular (and expensive) item, I will immediately disregard any independent store that doesn't have a website.  Furthermore, if it is a service, I will almost always go with the one that has their prices on the website (as long they don't have a lot of negative reviews), probably because I am an introvert and even having a phone conversation with people I don't know and know nothing about is uncomfortable to me.  I like to know what I'm getting into before I make first contact, so I don't comparison shop if I have to call and ask for prices.  I might email, but I hate getting follow up emails so I'd rather not even do that.

Now, probably most people aren't that loathe to actually speak to a person.  I know a lot of people who have no problem calling and emailing businesses and getting lots of quotes and comparison shopping.  However, those people also start out with the same research process that I do, they look online for reviews and websites.  And, if you have a website for your business, you have a space that can be used for a little education via a blog or a FAQ or a downloadable pdf or whatever.  It doesn't cost you anymore unless your website traffic goes up so much you start crashing the server (which means you're getting a lot of exposure at the very least) and once you write the article or post or whatever there's no effort to maintain it as long as you don't allow comments.

Your hammock comment reminds me of a thread Ken Fraser started about family trees being a possible new source of clients if the wedding calligraphy business becomes oversaturated.  His point, though, was not about the customer pursuing other options, but that calligraphers might consider branching (haha) out into other markets that might need calligraphers, such as family trees.  I think that idea has some merit and certainly requires a calligrapher with some real skill in order to plan and execute such a large piece.
Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge.  --Carl Sagan

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Offline tintenfuchs

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Re: Calligraphy: Share the Craft, Preserve the Trade
« Reply #21 on: August 22, 2015, 04:18:23 AM »
I believe that so many people being interested in this is actually a good thing because they keep the craft alive and they also make it possible for people to make it their profession. I believe the "hype" helped create a market. And even if this market is flooded, it's still better than there being no market at all, that's what I believe. And I think that the ones who are really into it will prevail in the long run.
Furthermore, if a client can't distinguish between the styles of someone who doesn't have the basics down and someone who put a lot of practice in and is, objectively seen, good at what they do: Do you really WANT that kind of client, with no aesthetic sense whatsoever? ::)

Also, if 200 people start doing calligraphy, modern-style, and 5 of them become members of IAMPETH, and 2 of them really get into historical styles, and 1 of them comes to the convention ... I say it's a win for all hardcore calligranerds because yay, new friend!
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Offline Milonguera

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Re: Calligraphy: Share the Craft, Preserve the Trade
« Reply #22 on: August 22, 2015, 10:53:01 AM »
I subscribe to your blog, Erica your post arrived in my mailbox.  It was very powerful, especially on the heels of Iampeth.  The contributions to this thread have also been very thoughtful and affirming.  I hope my thoughts don't throw a fox in the chicken house. 

The one thing nobody has mentioned and the thing that keeps coming to mind is that the established calligraphers of today, the ones doing quality work and being paid for it, all started somewhere. I doubt the quality of their work 'then' was what it is today. Though I can't always do what I know, I'm learning real quality when I see it  ;), and feel just a little depressed when I see work for sale that is clearly inferior, or worse yet, used as an example for fee based classes taught by people who mistakenly believe they "have this thing."  But again, everyone starts somewhere.  Hopefully, those who begin to make money before it is justified, continue to hone their craft and continue to learn.  As for teaching, I'm sure we've all heard the adage, 'teach what you want to learn.' 

I have been studying, practicing and going to classes for 2 years and as others have mentioned, the question of money has arisen more than I can remember and from one friend in particular, find it really annoying.  Going into business to try and earn a living is definitely not something I want to do.  Like EVJO, I don't have much of a penchant for business and the thought of deadlines and demanding mothers-of-the-bride are not something I relish the thought of dealing with.  However, at this point, my interest in calligraphy is still keen and since it's a possible option, with trepidation, I'm considering 'selling' minimal services in order to help pay for my classes (even though a pebble or two in the jar is all I'd hope to achieve) , supplies and next year's Iampeth--or any other convention I might like to attend--and all the while, allowing practice with more purpose.  Am I wrong to think that many of the professionals of today started this same way?   
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Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Calligraphy: Share the Craft, Preserve the Trade
« Reply #23 on: August 22, 2015, 11:18:02 AM »
I believe that so many people being interested in this is actually a good thing because they keep the craft alive and they also make it possible for people to make it their profession. I believe the "hype" helped create a market.

This may be true for other countries, but the market has been alive and well in the US for a couple decades. And it's not 200, it's in the thousands. Yes, more the merrier for learning the craft, not more the merrier for those talking about starting a business before they have even learned how to do calligraphy.  ;)
Truly, Erica
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Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Calligraphy: Share the Craft, Preserve the Trade
« Reply #24 on: August 22, 2015, 11:23:19 AM »
...
The one thing nobody has mentioned and the thing that keeps coming to mind is that the established calligraphers of today, the ones doing quality work and being paid for it, all started somewhere. I doubt the quality of their work 'then' was what it is today...  Am I wrong to think that many of the professionals of today started this same way?   

Thank you Debbie! Someone posted something similar as a response on the blog. It's definitely how many established calligraphers started. And there is nothing wrong with that. The intention of the post was entirely about the crowd (and it's a LARGE crowd), flocking to classes in the hopes to start a business before they have even learned how to do calligraphy. Or the ones who just barely learned and are already putting up a website.

THIS exactly...

Quote
feel just a little depressed when I see work for sale that is clearly inferior, or worse yet, used as an example for fee based classes taught by people who mistakenly believe they "have this thing."

I'm not saying others shouldn't pursue it, (and I'm pretty sure that came across in the post). This isn't about that at all. If I thought it was, I wouldn't have dedicated the past two years, countless dollars, and more hours to running Flourish for free and creating a magazine to promote other calligraphers' business.  ;)
Truly, Erica
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Offline MH

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Re: Calligraphy: Share the Craft, Preserve the Trade
« Reply #25 on: August 23, 2015, 03:52:24 AM »
What a thoughtful and timely post Erica.

I'm a beginner who started a couple of years ago with an in person copperplate class. Sometimes friends have commented or asked if I am planning on doing it as a business and the answer is definitely not. I don't have anywhere near the skill that I would need to sell calligraphy services but they can't really tell as I don't think they've seen work as good as yours or some of the other pros who post here. Also I'm so slow that doing those hundreds of pieces would kill me.

I hope that the popularity of modern calligraphy means easier access to supplies and an over all greater appreciation for calligraphy. I do cringe  when I see photos from classes on instagram or blogs where it looks like people are holding pens in a way that would be hard to not destroy a pointed nib. It's definitely being pitched as a way to make money too. A friend sent me a link to modern calligraphy seminars where part of the early sign up pitch was learn more calligraphy so you can make money / have a career. I don't know if the classes are just on modern calligraphy or if there are sessions about running a business or not but I don't recall seeing other classes advertised this way.

Offline Jamie

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Re: Calligraphy: Share the Craft, Preserve the Trade
« Reply #26 on: August 23, 2015, 05:04:25 AM »
While I agree with the thought behind this I can't help but feel that 'good enough to make money off it' is a very subjective concept, and while it may all be well and good to use that in this kind of a post, it isn't really helpful to say that. It communicates nothing in the way of what is good enough, so how can any one person really know whether they've reached that point? And given that typically in artistic endeavors like calligraphy, an artist is trained to always see the bad in their work, causing them to consider their work less worthy than it actually is, a calligrapher could go on forever considering their work not good enough to sell.

And it's generally my opinion that if people are willing to spend money on you, then you should be allowed to sell. That's not to say one might feel they shouldn't anyway, but that doesn't mean that someone else should be telling them they can't sell their calligraphy. I get why it bothers you Erica, from the perspective of someone whose been in the field far before it's current rising trend, and I can appreciate that, I just don't whole-heartedly agree with you.

Teaching is an entirely different matter though. Teacher's are passing on knowledge and practices, so they really should be fairly well-trained, and the idea of people coming out of 2-hour classes and thinking they can turn around and teach it to someone else is cringe-worthy.

Offline Milonguera

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Re: Calligraphy: Share the Craft, Preserve the Trade
« Reply #27 on: August 23, 2015, 08:25:27 AM »
While I agree with the thought behind this I can't help but feel that 'good enough to make money off it' is a very subjective concept, and while it may all be well and good to use that in this kind of a post, it isn't really helpful to say that. It communicates nothing in the way of what is good enough, so how can any one person really know whether they've reached that point? And given that typically in artistic endeavors like calligraphy, an artist is trained to always see the bad in their work, causing them to consider their work less worthy than it actually is, a calligrapher could go on forever considering their work not good enough to sell.

And it's generally my opinion that if people are willing to spend money on you, then you should be allowed to sell. That's not to say one might feel they shouldn't anyway, but that doesn't mean that someone else should be telling them they can't sell their calligraphy. I get why it bothers you Erica, from the perspective of someone whose been in the field far before it's current rising trend, and I can appreciate that, I just don't whole-heartedly agree with you.

Teaching is an entirely different matter though. Teacher's are passing on knowledge and practices, so they really should be fairly well-trained, and the idea of people coming out of 2-hour classes and thinking they can turn around and teach it to someone else is cringe-worthy.

CRINGE worthy, indeed!  I've seen it and it's very upsetting. 
Debbie

Offline Blotbot

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Re: Calligraphy: Share the Craft, Preserve the Trade
« Reply #28 on: August 23, 2015, 10:41:38 AM »
I am sorry there is so much pain among the professional calligraphers.  Loss of business and revenue is a serious matter.   But do you know that less experienced calligraphers are getting your customers, vs laser printers, for example? 

The internet has given amateur artists a forum to show and sell their work that wasn't  there before.  Handmade cards that used to be sold at local craft fairs and church bazaars are now being sold on the internet through Etsy and personal websites.  I dont know that the customers of these businesses were ever the same customers as the professional calligraphers.  If anything, the internet improves the appreciation of fine work because now we can see it and compare.  20 years ago you would have a hard time even finding a professional calligrapher.

I dont think this issue is specific to calligraphy.  Probably many crafts and services are seeing the same thing. Do amateur watercolorists ruin the market for the well trained professionals?

Offline Milonguera

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Re: Calligraphy: Share the Craft, Preserve the Trade
« Reply #29 on: August 23, 2015, 11:15:17 AM »
Ellen, you're right and I think at the heart of the matter is that some people are willing to spend a little extra for something that is crafted by hand and by someone they have had an interaction with.  That is one of the reasons I LOVE going to art festivals.  The items that I've bought at these events over the years have become the very things that I keep.  I've moved a LOT over the years and those things are the first to be preserved and certain to make the move with me. There is something truly precious about something that someone made by hand, especially by the hand of someone you've had a conversation with, regardless of its value in the eyes of critics.  And I think there may well be a growing, not diminishing, desire for things that are not mass produced.  For you accomplished pro's, maybe we are just in an uncomfortable place in the swing of the pendulum. 
Debbie