I first started doing calligraphy when I lived in Japan. Another English teacher told me that an old man in town was offering Japanese calligraphy lessons, and being a new and kind of lonely expat, I jumped at the chance to get out and do something. I took Oishi-sensei’s class for about a year — the entire time I lived in Japan’s rural north. He had me keep a portfolio of all my best pieces, which is one of the few things I was adamant about bringing back to California with me. The piece below was one of the last ones I did in his class, and arguably my best, for both its complexity and style.
The little red stamp is something Oishi-sensei carved for me. In Japan, instead of using signatures on documents, everyone uses a red stamp with their name, called a “hanko.” To get my hanko, my name needed to be phonetically written in Japanese. My supervisor chose the characters for my name, 芽理沙, which would read “me-ri-sa,” the closest phonetic spelling to “Melyssa.” My calligraphy teacher used the first character, 芽, to create my calligraphy hanko, which you can see below. The English meaning is “bud” and I think it sums up so beautifully everything I feel about Japan.
It wasn’t for a couple more years that English calligraphy seemed to take off, and I noticed the calligraphy craze from a million miles abroad. As soon as I got back to the States at the end of last year, I began to dabble in all sorts of new mediums — and loved every moment of it.
I still have quite a lot to learn, but I’ve definitely improved since those first couple of months. I’ve also tried almost every medium and tool there is for the craft, beginning with traditional calligraphy (like the last image in this post) and also testing out pens, paint, watercolor, and a variety of brushes. I follow a lot of calligraphers on Instagram now, and at first would get frustrated by their work, because it was hard to figure out which tools, inks, and brushes they used to achieve the effects they did. Now, instead of feeling confused or stuck, I just try new ways of doing things and usually stumble upon something I love.
One of my favorite things to do after work is turn on some music, pour a glass of wine, and letter my little heart out. It’s fun, relaxing, and soul-lifting. I love it.
I also started a print shop a few months ago, where I sell some of my art. I’m still working on refining the shop — which I started before I really knew anything about running a store — but I’m enjoying the act of selling physical products. It’s amazing to think that something I created is sitting in someone’s house, as faraway as Australia.
Time to get back to work now. 🙂 I hope you enjoyed this little peek into some of my recent projects. Have a creative day, my friends!