Meet our latest Artist of the Month...Uliana Popa. A background in hospitality meant Uliana had a very busy work life and was unable to dedicate the time to calligraphy. However, in 2018 whilst designing her own wedding invitations calligraphy came back into her life. Read on to find out more...
What is your background and when did your passion for Calligraphy and Lettering begin?
I have a work background in catering and hospitality. I remember I loved writing beautifully since school with various pens, trying out different handwriting styles and even used to emulate my teachers’ signatures. I was also involved in all the school projects that involved lettering, but pointed pen calligraphy came into my life much later. At the end of 2016, I discovered pointed pen calligraphy to find a creative hobby outside my exhausting work schedule as a hotel receptionist in London. It was only in 2018 when designing my wedding invitations, I started to practice more frequently and consciously, getting more curious to learn more styles and take lots of courses to improve my skills. With the time, it was a natural transition into a full-time small business.
Who / Where do you take your inspiration from?
In the beginning especially when I started to share my journey on social media in 2018, I was mostly inspired to learn Copperplate and get better at it by following a few calligraphers’ work that I admire:
Suzanne Cunningham @suzcunningham
Younghae Chung @logoscalligraphy
Varvara Panteleeva @nikolietta_calligraphy
Nowadays, I try to find inspiration in so many ways. I love collecting old books on various calligraphy styles, flourishing, ornamental, drawing books, and spending hours searching for the perfect flourish, decoration, or letter variation. I also love getting inspired by the surrounding nature. When travelling, I enjoy collecting photographs with architectural details, calligraphic shop signage, fancy wine labels, old book covers and vintage dinnerware. There is so much inspiration around us.
What in your opinion is the hardest and the most rewarding parts of working in a creative industry?
I believe the hardest part of working in a creative business is pricing and charging our worth. Also, having the courage to say ‘no’ to some projects and find the desire to do the boring stuff like admin!
Apart from doing what I love most every day, the most rewarding part is when working with that ideal client that is absolutely in love with your work, values it and never question the price for it. And on top of that, it gives you the most positive testimonial.
Do you have a favourite style?
Even though I started with Modern Calligraphy, I was so frustrated at times not seeing improvements because I couldn’t understand why letters looked different in size.
I then became curious to explore more about traditional calligraphy styles and wanted to learn scripts like Copperplate. With time, I also learned Spencerian, Italic and Italian hand and even tried brush lettering. Without too much thinking, I can now say that Copperplate will always have my heart. Learning classic Copperplate has helped me understand better how letterforms are executed, analyse and critique my work. With time it also helped develop my Copperplate variations and even some various modern calligraphy styles.
I adore the timeless and elegant look of Copperplate that is suitable for so many projects. Unfortunately, it is not so well yet appreciated here in the UK amongst weddings, events, workshops etc. I do believe this will change.
What are the most exciting projects you have worked on and what are you working on at the moment?
The most exciting projects I’ve worked in-studio are long calligraphy commissions like wedding vows, readings, or poems. But I’ve been fortunate to have opportunities to do live calligraphy events in store for various brands that involved personalising brand products and packaging for their customers. The interaction and curiosity from people stopping by were priceless. I loved doing these.
Now, I’m intensely working behind the scenes on a project that I started at the end of last year. As I mentioned that Copperplate is my favourite calligraphy style, I plan to create a comprehensive digital workbook of learning and practising Copperplate. I hope it will follow with a physical kit that will include the printed workbook, plus my favourite supplies needed to practice Copperplate calligraphy.
How does your work relate to your everyday life?
I am so grateful that my passion for calligraphy evolved over the years and became my full-time job, and I do what I love most each day. I sometimes believe that being a calligrapher is so suited for an introverted person like me. I love being in my home studio and accompanied by the scratchy sounds of the nib on paper.
Even though running a small business involves lots of uninteresting but essential stuff, a quick calligraphy practice helps me immensely whenever I feel anxious or stressed.
What are your favourite tools to use?
This list can get a bit long because I use various nibs and papers depending on the project.
My favourite nibs are the Leonardt Principal EF, Hunt 22B, Hunt 101, Gillot 404 and some vintage ones like Blanzy 2552 and Baignol & Farjon 2230.
For holders, I use both straight and obliques depending on the project.
My favourite inks include black Moon Palace Sumi Ink and walnut ink for practicising. For commissions and other projects I love using metallic colours from the Finetec range and gouache. For specific projects like envelope addressing where I need permanent ink, I love using the Manuscript white acrylic ink.
My favourite practising paper is ColorCopy that comes in big blocks, but for commission artworks I use premium cold pressed acid free watercolour paper by Arches or Fabriano.
Other tools I use are the light pad, mechanical pencil and a kneaded eraser.
What would your advice be to people new to the creative industry and any tips on how to get started?
As a beginner is so easy to compare yourself with someone else’s five year journey and feel discouraged. My best advice is to focus on YOU and your work. Embrace patience, create as much as you can, be curious to try different styles, mediums and find what you love most. Then, invest time, practice, and study on that chosen style. If you can, try from early stages to invest in courses either in-person or online with your favourite calligraphy teacher. Finally, don’t forget to have fun, share your journey with the wonderful calligraphy community on social media and celebrate every progress you make each day.