The more technology advances, the more we worry about crafts that require a direct human touch. Here at M.I.S.S. we make it a point to bring “lost arts” to the foreground. Today’s Women Making History honoree is not only keeping the lost art of handwriting and calligraphy alive but she’s also adding a modern touch to it, making it easier for those lost in technology to embrace.
Bryn Chernoff, of Brooklyn-based Paperfinger, provides modern, hand-drawn calligraphy and illustration for everything from weddings and events to graphic design projects, keepsakes and custom work. Common services include save the date and invitation design; envelope addressing; monograms; logos; custom stamps; spot illustration; escort and place cards; table signs; love letter transcription and personalized gifts. A wide range of contemporary fonts and styles is available.
M.I.S.S.: What woman, besides your mom or grandmother, do you find inspirational?
These women inspire me: Etta, Nina, Ella, Dinah, Billie, Betty, Sarah, Aretha…the ladies of jazz, blues and soul. That is the music that gets me. Those ladies accompany, inspire and motivate me throughout all of my professional and personal journeys.
M.I.S.S.: How did you get your start?
As a kid, I would fill out every single form I could get my hands on. I’ve always loved writing by hand. It was only in recent years that I ever thought about practicing it professionally. Paperfinger opened its doors as a calligraphy and design studio in 2008 after I did a number of projects for friends’ weddings. Working on those first few projects, I realized how happy I was and decided to take calligraphy and illustration more seriously. I spent several months creating a portfolio and website and launched those in February 2009. I held onto a part-time position with a non-profit for the first year while getting Paperfinger established and have now been full-time with the business since Jan 1.
M.I.S.S.: What’s your favorite piece that you’ve created?
Before I even started Paperfinger, I created hand-drawn invitations on napkins for my own birthday dinner party. I love this piece because of its simplicity, the napkin concept, the sketch-like illustration style and the fact that it signifies a personal turning point.
I created the invites as my own creative exercise with no expectations or concerns for responses from recipients, blog readers, blog writers, etc. The feedback was thrilling and it was a catalyst for change in my professional life. I submitted the napkins as a contest entry soon after launching paperfinger.com (and won!) and it was a huge jump-start for my business with massive online exposure. I never would have thought, when drawing the designs originally, that so much would come of them!
M.I.S.S.: Who do you want to work with?
I’d love to do more collaborative projects with graphic designers who are looking to incorporate hand-drawn text and elements into product design, branding, children’s books, etc.
M.I.S.S.: What part of writing calligraphy is the most challenging and do you dislike the most?
As a calligrapher, I am entirely dependent on my physical body to execute my work and craft. Almost any other job I’ve had before has been computer-based work. This is very different. If I’m hungry, my hand gets shaky. If I’m sick, I can’t work from the couch. If I burn my hand while cooking, I might lose a day of work. It can be a source of anxiety to realize that so much of what I do relies on my one-and-only right hand!
M.I.S.S.: Any advice for ladies who are just starting out in a career path similar to yours?
I recommend trying projects out for friends. Test the water, push yourself to do something new, yet have the security of knowing you don’t have an angry, pushy client on the other end. It’s a way to offer your skills as a gift, while growing your portfolio and learning new things. I got so much out of the projects I worked on with friends and felt safer experimenting with my design work in that context.
The same goes for your own personal projects. The napkin invites I mentioned above are a great example. Those invitations were a lot of work but remain one of my strongest and most intriguing portfolio samples. Even if you create work that was never formally purchased or sold, it’s a valuable exercise on so many levels. I think I do some of my best work on personal projects because I practice listening to my own standards and ideas, rather than catering to someone else’s.
Lastly, stick with friends who are starting their own venture as well. I get so much from the regular conversations I have with friends who in a similar position, even if they are working in an entirely different industry. It can be hard to go it alone sometimes — but sitting down with another entrepreneur friend for a glass of wine and a brainstorming (or venting) session is a great way to make up for life with no colleagues. Through these friends and connections I find community, support and inspiration.
Thanks so much, Bryn!
For more info on Bryn, write her a lovely letter at:
Bryn Chernoff | Paperfinger
155 Water Street, Fl 6
Brooklyn, NY 11201
…or you can do the digital thing and contact her via any of the links below:
twitter : twitter.com/paperfinger
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