Letterlyn by Evelyn Cunningham

Letterlyn Blog

Keeping Up With My Business Values: Individuality | Hampton Roads Calligraphy

Do you ever catch yourself doing something just because someone else told you was a good idea? I know I have. And, since starting Letterlyn Studio, it's happened more often than I'd like to admit. Sometimes, it really is a good idea. I hadn't purchased my domain name when I posted about my website in a Facebook group for creatives. Someone told me to buy it quick because (although we want to think the best in people) someone might buy the domain to get money from you! (Isn't money such an evil thing sometimes?) Great idea. I am extremely grateful to the man who suggested it because it forced me to take a leap into the next step of my business.

Sometimes though, I catch myself nodding along to something that doesn't align with my business values, my heart or my business. I am a people pleaser, and it is SO hard to say no. Prime example: client shows image from Pinterest, "can you make a (sign, invitation, whatever) that looks like this." Well, no. I can't. Not only does it violate my business value of Individuality, but also, it is illegal for me to take someone else's work. That one is pretty black and white. But, sometimes it is a little more complex.

I told myself when I started Letterlyn that I would not do workshops until I felt like I was ready to teach Calligraphy really well. I've had multiple vendor friends (friendors) and strangers ask me to do workshops. I am so honored that they find me talented enough to give a workshop. They mean so well, and they are giving me the sweetest compliment. I have considered their suggestions time and again. I go back and forth. And, my dears, it almost pains me that I keep considering it; that I briefly (or not so briefly) entertain the thought. Sometimes, it's the desire to make more money. This happens to so many of us, doesn't it (we are running businesses after all). Sometimes, it's the desire for validation that can be so self-centered that I am embarrassed to admit it happens. It's so alluring to think I am skilled enough to offer a workshop. It's so easy to say that other calligraphers do it, and therefore it is fine for me to do the same.


And here is the thing: maybe I am skilled enough for some people's ideas of a calligraphy workshop, to meet some people's expectations or even exceed them. But, would I be sacrificing my individuality to do it? Would I be sacrificing my identity as a calligraphy student, as a learner, as a promoter of the craft of calligraphy? Yes. Because it wouldn't be true the business that I started. And I realize that I can't quite explain to you why. I'll try, but the feeling is so ingrained into who I am, it just feels wrong. It has a little something to do with from where I've come.

I studied poetry and art in college. Those two studies create deep feelings of perfectionism. Only a few make it to the big time, and you should revere them for their success, value their thoughts (even if you don't necessarily agree with them). Workshops are by the experts, the success stories. In the wedding industry, however, workshops tend to give you success. Many vendors have gained success as a result of their workshop. Workshops offer publicity, networking, etc. And so, it comes down to where I think that I stand. Am I a student of art, or am I a wedding vendor? I am both.

In this specific circumstance, I try to remember the advice I received from a blog post by Erica McPhee, the moderator of the Flourish Forum and calligrapher behind Paperwhite Studio: preserve the trade. If I don't act in a way that will preserve calligraphy as a trade, it will no longer have value as a wedding vendor. And, for me, one of the ways to do that is to keep the workshops to the people who have been doing this longer than I have; who have learned from the masters. In keeping with my original intentions for Letterlyn Studio, in preserving my individuality while respecting my trade, until I find that a workshop would preserve the trade of calligraphy, I will refrain from doing a calligraphy workshop. And, in that way, I will stay true to my business values, and to myself.