Heather Tyler became passionate about calligraphy after watching videos on Instagram, but she never dreamed her passion would turn into a business. The opportunity kind of fell in her lap, says Tyler, the owner of Heather Lynette Calligraphy, a Portage-based company that specializes in art, stationery and calligraphy.
“I would make (handwritten) signs for my own home, and people would come over and be like, ‘Oh, do you sell stuff?’” says the 25-year-old Tyler.
So she decided to give it a shot. Tyler created handwritten and calligraphic invitations, welcome signs and items for weddings, including guest lists written on mirrors and name tags for tables. In 2018, she posted images of her work on Instagram.
Did it take long to generate interest? Tyler laughs, shakes her head and gives an emphatic “no.” The response was enthusiastic. Tyler shrugs and says she remembers thinking, “I guess this (calligraphy) is a thing … .”
More than a thing actually: It keeps Tyler extremely busy, and demand for it continues trending upward. “It’s getting bigger, and I’m super excited about it,” says Tyler, who also studies graphic design and business marketing at Kalamazoo Valley Community College.
Given the ease of online ordering — not to mention that cursive isn’t taught in most schools these days — the demand for calligraphy and handwritten invitations might seem surprising. But, in fact, the customization is a sought-after specialty, says Kristina Scobie, graphic designer and manager of Noteworthy Invitations by Design, a store at 8801 N. 32nd St. in Richland that specializes in special event, party and wedding invitations.
“There are brides who want that on their primary invitation, but there are also brides who want each envelope specifically created,” Scobie says.
It’s not only calligraphy and handwritten invitations that customers seek. They want the script created on signage, table toppers and other items. Both Scobie and Tyler identify one item in particular as trending right now: calligraphy on acrylic signage. These signs are used for seating charts and parking directions, among other things, including an “acrylic sign to show specialty drinks that might sit on your bar that’s custom to your bride and your groom,” says Scobie.
Recently Tyler outfitted an acrylic seating chart that featured the swirls and curls of her expressive writing with a hand-cut copper stand.
“I made it out of copper piping and cut it down to the right dimensions,” she says.
Seeking something special
What’s behind this old-school trend of flowery script and pretty penmanship? Scobie compares it to the farm-to-table movement occurring with restaurants. Just as people want something special to eat, they also desire special items for their weddings and events. In the digital age, when people have access “to so much,” she says, a bit of a “backlash” is taking place. Customers are wanting personalized products unique to them.
“It’s more intimate,” Scobie says. “That’s our bottom line. We really feel strongly that to create invitations in this way is a lot more special than going online and ordering something that everybody can order.”
Along with the resurgence of handwritten and modern calligraphy, Scobie sees clients requesting matte materials, ribbon wraps and wax seals.
“A lot of people like ‘surprise and delight’ elements,” she says, “where when you receive the invitation (and) as you open it, maybe the inner flap has a pop of color or a really beautiful pattern. And then on each piece of the invitation there might be a little custom painting or hand lettering.”
Another trend is for spot calligraphy, “where names or the location (of the event) on your invitation is in calligraphy and then everything else is done in print,” Tyler explains.
Sometime after the holidays — because during the holidays customers keep Noteworthy staff busy creating personalized party invitations and holiday cards — Scobie’s store plans to offer workshops, including classes on calligraphy. Depending on the class topic, Scobie says, there is room for about 30 to 35 people.
“I was thinking we could do custom-painted gift tags,” Scobie says. “We would bring in a calligrapher to teach how to write (things like) “For You” or “Thank You” on little wooden gift tags. I’ve (also) been thinking about those globes that people paint and put a little quote on.”
Scobie came from a corporate management position in graphic design to manage Noteworthy and enjoys experiencing a more personal relationship with clients.
“I really wanted to be more involved with the actual customer or client,” she says, “to sit one-on-one and really speak to them and find out what they’re looking for and be able to work with them on that level.”
The market for personalized invitations and products also brings her back to her roots: design. Scobie likes developing invitations at Noteworthy, whether for weddings, ugly sweater parties or summer barbecues.
“I love that we can turn off our computers and we’re doing a lot of hand painting and calligraphy,” she says.