Interview with Lindsey Bugbee of The Postman's Knock

by Tona Bell May 27, 2021 29 min read

Lindsey Bugbee The Postman's Knock Calligraphy Blog

Lindsey Bugbee a.k.a: The Postman's Knock

 


The Paper Seahorse:

Hello Lindsey.  Thank you for inviting us into your home. Many, if not most of our readers will already be familiar with you, your work and your fabulous calligraphy blog, but for those who may not, can you please introduce yourself to our readers?

Lindsey Bugbee:

Sure. I'm Lindsey Bugbee. I have a website called The Postman’s Knock, which is about art, but also a lot about calligraphy, and I think it's just a place that people go to find tutorials and to learn new techniques, and it's really exploded over the past few years. I started in 2012. Just anybody who knows about calligraphy knows about The Postman’s Knock, which has been really neat. And yeah, so that's what I do, I guess. I'm a blogger, calligrapher, artist and entrepreneur.

 

Lindsey's Husband Hernán and their little boy

 

My husband is Carlos Hernán.... Who goes by Hernán... Because Carlos is a pretty common name. And he, like I said, has his PhD in aerospace engineering, but during the course of his PhD, he did a lot of coding, and particularly he coded our website, so he's really sort of the mechanic, I guess, behind the website, so if something isn't quite right with downloads or orders aren't going through or whatever, he really comes to the rescue with that and looks and sees what's wrong and he fixes it, and in fact, right now he's working on a new version of the website, but he's just really good aesthetically. Without him this business would not be a successful business because I think it presents very well online, and I certainly couldn't do that, but he is a WordPress genius, and it's just something he taught himself in his spare time, so... I guess I'm married to a rocket scientist.

The Paper Seahorse:

Can you please share with our readers where we are today?

Lindsey Bugbee:

Where we are right now? Yeah. Okay, okay, so we're in Boulder, Colorado, we are in my house... We live here in Boulder because I'm from Western Kansas, which is three and a half hours away.

Boulder, Colorado

 

This is actually the closest you can get to a metropolis if you're from Western Kansas, so it's a good compromise for us because my family is there, we can drive there and see them or we can hop on the bus just outside the house actually, and go to the airport and go to Lima, which is where our non-family is from, and we live here in Boulder for the geographical reasons, but also because my husband does this PhD here in aerospace engineering, and I guess we just kind of got used to the lifestyle. I don't love the winters, I'm more of a warm weather person, I think I'd be happy in Florida, but... I don't know. It's beautiful here. I love our house, this is where we work all day, and it's where we play too, we have a little one-year old, which is really fun, and so... Yeah, we're in beautiful Boulder, Colorado.

The Paper Seahorse:

So how do you even get started in the calligraphy business?

Lindsey Bugbee:

Well, I think that I was always under the impression that you cannot have art as a career. I remember going into university and I said to my mom: “I'd really like to major in Art,” and I had been doing art since I was in kindergarten. I had this amazing instructor who I had her from Kindergarten through senior year of high school, so I had been doing art forever, and I won international awards, just making different things like Batiques. For example, one of my batiques toured New York while I was in high school, and my mom said, Why would you major in that? You already know how to do art. I'm 17, so I'm going, Oh yeah, that's a good point. Okay, I'll study English. So I studied English and got out of college with this English degree... What do you do with an English degree? So I became an office manager down here on Pearl Street, and I hated that job, it wasn't a great office manager because it was sort of this 9 to 5 really depressing sort of sort of work, and I started thinking about quitting after two months, but one co-worker said to me and planted a seed by telling me that she actually would write on envelopes for people's weddings for extra money. And I thought, Oh God, how hard can that be? So as it turns out fairly hard, but I taught myself how to create calligraphy with a regular pen, and then that sort of segued into a calligraphy with a dip pen... So I started The Postman’s Knock with the idea that I would be creating these envelopes and people would get excited when they heard The Postman’s Knock because they'd be getting these beautiful envelopes. Of course, I only did commissions for two or three years, and then it evolved into more of like a teaching sort of website, but that's how I got started.

The Paper Seahorse:

So you evolved into teaching. Were you surprised? When was this, by the way?

Lindsey Bugbee:

When it started evolving into a teaching website, it would have been probably about 2014 or 2015, because that's when I became very serious about the blog on the website, because when I had studied at University of Kansas, my internship had actually been in editing, so I was doing blogging for Mother Earth News, which is based in Topeka, Kansas. So I had experience with blogging and I noticed that every time I blogged about calligraphy, there would be this big response, you would see a spike and views on the website, people would be commenting on these blog posts, and so then eventually my husband Hernán, who grew up in Peru, told me about this little booklet they have in Peru called... Oh no, I can't remember what it was called, but it was, you know, some booklet to teach you cursive and you said, You know, it would have examples and stuff, I think maybe you should make a printable so people can learn calligraphy. So I started by making a free little printable, and then I made a bigger printable that was like 20 pages and sold it for five bucks per PDF. And that's kind of how it all evolved.

The Postman's Knock Calligraphy Blog

The Postman's Knock Blog

 

The Paper Seahorse:

And The Postman’s Knock has become one of the most visited calligraphy blogs in the world...

Lindsey Bugbee:

So yeah, the response I got to the website and to the instruction on the website, it's just been overwhelmingly kind... I guess I was pretty hesitant to put myself out there at first because you're always afraid that... Especially with the internet, you have people that feel like they can say anything. And I guess I initially felt like I would get people attacking me saying, “Oh, you know, your art isn't that good, your calligraphy is not that good, I can do it better.” But what I actually found is the response has been overwhelmingly kind, and I'm not sure if I've just been profoundly lucky with that, but I have gotten emails from people all over the world and... Because our number one viewership is the US, but that's only 60% of people to visit the website, the other two biggies are Canada, in the United Kingdom. And then, of course, we have a lot of people from India who also enjoy the website, but I have just gotten a lot of emails from... For example, there was a woman that said her mother had cancer and she was at the hospital with her a lot, and she just   needed something to distract her, and so she would come out in the waiting room and do calligraphy with worksheets from The Postman’s Knock.

There have been other people, just a lot of people that need, whether it's physically or mentally, to get their mind off of these issues… they'll create calligraphy and it makes them feel good, and they'll send me these emails saying thank you because you know this is something that really sort of saved my life. And so I think it's been amazing to know that the website has that kind of impact, and it's been surprising for me to see how wonderful people can actually be.  I feel like it's a very special kind of website because even if we mess up on an order, because we just started shipping out tangible things that aren't downloads, and once in a while, my employee might forget to put an ink in there or whatever, and I feel like with other businesses, you might write and say, What is going on here? We always get the nicest emails, Hey, just to let you know, and you know, this was so sweet, people are so nice. Really, it's been pretty awesome.

I actually have a book from a woman who was inspired by our website, Kestrel Montez, who just wrote a practice workbook on modern calligraphy. It was pretty cool with my website because I was hugely inspired by Molly Suber Thorpe’s book, Modern Calligraphy, and I loved that book. And it was one of the reasons I got into calligraphy, and then she reached out to me, she's reached out to me twice now to review her books, which is so neat because when I started, I was a nobody and I wouldn't have been on her radar at all but now she's asking me to review her books.

Calligraphy Class at the Paper Seahorse in Tampa

Calligraphy Class at the Paper Seahorse in Tampa

 

The Paper Seahorse:

What kind of audience do you have and where do you see it going?

Lindsey Bugbee:

Yeah, that's actually kind of an interesting question because we think about that a lot, being a couple where I'm from the United States and my husband's from Peru, which is a disadvantage country, my audience is largely women, but specifically women that are in their 30s to 60s, they have some disposable income because they can create calligraphy, so that's interesting to ponder because my in-laws in Peru never really saw the postman knock as a valid business because to them it was, you're trying to meet your basic needs. How could you possibly make money teaching people how to write... So needless to say, I don't have a huge audience in Peru, just a couple of Peruvians. But yeah, it's mostly women that are older than 30.

The Paper Seahorse:

What kind of numbers of people are you're reaching? Where do you think it could go?

Lindsey Bugbee:

Oh man, I haven’t looked at Google Analytics in a while. That would be something. My husband knows, I think. We get about 300,000 page views per month. I think that's right. And as far as where I see it going, I really don't know. I mean, because if you would have asked me in 2011, well 2012, I guess is when I officially started, what is this business about, I would say, “Yeah, I'm just going to make custom wedding envelopes. That's what I want to do.” Now, if you ask me what I want to do, yeah, I want to ship stuff out, I would love to get into watercolor a little bit more, I love watercolor, so I'd love to have some resources teaching people how to create watercolors, or not watercolor specifically, but watercolor paintings. I really don't know, I'm just going to go wherever it takes me...

The Paper Seahorse:

You have a friend that makes watercolor paints, right?

Lindsey Bugbee:

Yeah, yeah, Jessica, she has Greenleaf and Blueberry, and they're the best watercolors, I do use them for calligraphy and of course for painting, but she is a pretty amazing artist.

Calligraphy Class at The Paper Seahorse

Calligraphy Class at The Paper Seahorse

 

The Paper Seahorse:

Why do you think that people are gravitating towards writing by hand?

Lindsey Bugbee:

I think that people are gravitating towards the analog writing by hand because we are just so inundated every day with technology, and I think technology is an amazing thing, my family has a group chat where we'll all say what we're doing, which is great, because they're in Kansas,  I'm in Colorado, but I think it can also be very exhausting. Every time I get on the iPad to create lettering and procreate, these notifications will pop up of emails I'm getting or text I'm getting, and I think that it's just kind of overwhelming because as humans, you hear a ding or see a notification and it's like... Oh, I better check that. Even if the email or message is of little consequence, I think that that can be really overwhelming, and so for me, especially when I became a mom and things were super stressful, it was amazing to just sit down... put on a podcast and write. And it's just so relaxing. So I think that that's why we're sort of returning to that because it's relaxing, it's intentional. You have to really think about what you're writing. Whereas if you're sending a text message, there's a lot of auto-correct or whatever, and you might write and send it and then think, Oh, I could have said that better, or whatever. So I just think it kind of is returning us to a slower way of life, and I do think technology is amazing, like I mentioned to you earlier, that's how we even arranged this interview is through text messages... I mean, it's a necessary thing. But I think that to go with that, you also have to have some balance, and that's where the hand lettering comes in.

Lindsey Bugbee Writing at Her Desk

Lindsey Bugbee Writing at Her Desk

 

The Paper Seahorse:

What does it feel like when you're writing?

Lindsey Bugbee:

Just relaxing, I guess. I'm not thinking about anything. It's just... I imagine it would be like somebody who loves yoga, it's a lot of up and down, and no pressure and pressure and re-dip and wipe off.  I could see how it wouldn't be for everybody, because it is just so dum-de-dum-de-dum... But I think that it's certainly my way of meditating and relaxing, and I think that that's true for a lot of people. Like in the workshops I teach, there might be a couple of people in there who will say, “Yeah, I'm here so I can learn to make money with my calligraphy,” but mostly it's people that are there saying, “I just need a way to learn how to relax, I need something meditative to do, and I think this is it for me.”

The Paper Seahorse:

What do you hear from your... what do you call them? Students? Fans?

Lindsey Bugbee:

I would call them learners. Yeah, people are always emailing really nice things, which I feel bad about because just yesterday I got this email that was so, so long and sweet, like really sweet telling me about how happy this woman was, she found my website and what she had learned with it, and she attached examples of her work, and then I feel bad because I just... I can't sufficiently express how that email made me feel and certainly not matched the kindness of her email when I write back, but yeah, people will send me these really impressive things that they've done, and I really encourage learners to take a picture before - try doing calligraphy for a day, take a picture, see what it looks like, and then two months from now, after you've been practicing a couple of times a week, compare... Because it's really hard to see it. It's kind of like losing weight or whatever, when it's your every day you don't see the results. But if you take a picture two months ago, and then now you'll see that you've really improved, so I've gotten a lot of photos of people's improvements and it's like, wow, that's amazing that you use the resources on my website to teach yourself how to do this, that's so cool!

The Paper Seahorse:

It must be very gratifying

Lindsey Bugbee:

Absolutely, it's gratifying.

The Paper Seahorse:

Calligraphy is a special kind of handwriting, right? Explain what calligraphy is compared to plain writing.

Lindsey Bugbee:

I think everybody has a different definition for calligraphy... When I say calligraphy, I'm talking about dip pen calligraphy. But online, you'll see a lot of people refer to brush pen calligraphy as calligraphy. That's a little bit more popular, I would say, than the dip pen because it only requires a marker to create, and then still others would argue that calligraphy is just pretty penmanship. So I guess if I had to give you a definition, I would say that calligraphy is writing with intention, it's writing with the intention of making beautiful letters, it's the art of letters... It's writing pretty. But I guess specifically, writing pretty and connected, you know, I guess you wouldn't look at beautiful block lettering, which means the letters aren't connected and say, Oh, that's some great calligraphy, it's more like it needs to be connected, at least in my mind.

Nikko G "Manga" Nib
Nikko G "Manga" Nib

 

The Paper Seahorse:

Okay, so the story of the famous Nikko G nib… Do you want to take it from the beginning?

Lindsey Bugbee:
You know, when I first decided I was going to learn calligraphy, like I told you, it was, okay, I'm going to make these wedding invitation envelopes. So I went to a local craft store and I found a Speedball kit, and I didn't know anything about calligraphy, so I thought, “Okay, well, these things -I didn't know what a nib was - look like they all work.” I got them home and they were just awful. I just couldn't figure it out. Now, I realized the problem was they were too flexible, which means that the tines of the Nib were just a little finicky, and if I would have been better at calligraphy and known I was doing I could have used them, but I wasn't, and I didn't. So I had been creating calligraphy for a while and sort of blogging about it and using these speedball nibs, and this man named Roger Mayeda from Albuquerque, New Mexico reached out to me and he said, “First of all, hey, I think maybe you would find success with the Nikko-G nib, have you thought about using that needs sort of medium flex? I think it's pretty great for beginners, and then B, I've been making these oblique pens, would you like to try one? I'm retired, I'm just making them in my spare time.”

 

Rodger Mayeda Examining His Hand-made Pen

Rodger Mayeda Examining His Hand-made Pen

 

So I tried the Nikko G and I tried the pens, and I realized the Nikko was great for beginners. The Nikko G isn’t a calligraphy nib, it's for Manga which is Japanese illustration, and it’s made out of steel, and it's a fairly large nib, so it can hold a lot of ink, and it's just really great for beginners because it's not incredibly responsive, so if you are making a downstroke you have to press really hard for the times of the nip to split open and make that down stroke, which is really good, because as a beginner, you don't want an incredibly responsive nib, It can be fine for downstrokes, but for upstrokes, you just have to learn to regulate your pressure, and if the nib is too flexible, then you're going to get tines that play a little bit and you're going to get your ink spitting, so it's good to start off with a medium flex nib.

I wasn't having ink battering issues anymore, and it was kind of like having a bike with training wheels.  In calligraphy, dip pen calligraphy specifically, pressure is very important. When you go up to make an upstroke, you don't apply pressure to your nib, which is why you get a very thin stroke, when you go down, you do apply pressure and the tines split open and give you a thick stroke, so that's where you get that contrast. Well, with the Nikko G, it’s quite easy to achieve that contrast as a beginner, and if you apply a little too much pressure on the upstroke, it doesn't catch... I'm getting pretty nerdy about this, so anyway, it's just been interesting to see that domino effect: I made the recommendation of them on my blog, and I said, “Hey, you beginners should try using this nib,” and after that, I noticed that both in books and online, either credited to The Postman’s Knock website or not, all the calligraphy teachers say, Start with an Nikko G it’s the best beginner’s nib.  So it looks like the popularity of the Nikko G nib is coming from me, but really, it's all coming from... you know,  this guy in Roger Mayeda in Albuquerque!  Luckily for me, he still continues to help me and teach me a lot of things pertaining to calligraphy, which sort of trickles down into the website.

The Paper Seahorse:

That's so fun. So, okay, you have a lot of people that pay attention to what you do.   So, that funny term, Insta-famous really applies to you. What do you think about all that?

Lindsey Bugbee:
Yeah, okay. So I guess... Well, I'm not sure that I would even call myself into famous, I've got 100,000 or so followers on Instagram, which really isn't much compared to a lot of people, and I think as far as people paying attention to what I do, it's nice for me because they mostly just pay attention to the art and calligraphy aspect. So if people reach out to me, it's always about art or calligraphy, which is something that I so profoundly enjoy that it's almost like, “Oh, these are my people!” I don't feel scrutinized like other people might, I don't feel pressure to make sure that my nails are perfectly manicured, if I'm posting pictures of my hands, I don't feel pressure to put on make-up... If I'm putting a picture on Instagram, because for me, it's about the art and it's about the calligraphy, I think really the Insta-famous thing, which again, I'm not even sure I would classify me as that, I would just say that it's been good because I'm finding these super nice people who are into the same thing that I'm into, whereas I have a great group of friends in my everyday life, but they're all aerospace engineers, are working on wind farms or whatever, nobody is really into calligraphy, and one of my aerospace friends did take a workshop for me, and that was fine, but you know, they're just not into it, like some people around the world are that are writing to me. So I think it's just been a really good way for me to find my people.

The Paper Seahorse:

Could you describe the growth of a calligraphy and of handwriting and why you think it's happening and what it gives to people?

Lindsey Bugbee:

So I think that calligraphy and handwriting has become hugely popular, and I think that it is in direct response to all of the technology that we're surrounded by, and I'm not going to sit here and tell you that technology is bad and we need to get back to our roots and just communicate via analog, but I do think that technology can be very overwhelming, it's really tough to be plugged in all the time, so it would be really easy for people, for example, to open up a Google Doc and keep a diary there, but I think that it is hugely more satisfying to open up your tangible notebook, hand letter, keep a bullet journal, keep a regular journal or sketchbook. And then you know, you have to think about to what the form that something is taking communicates. So if I text you happy birthday, that doesn't really say much. It didn't take much effort. But if I sit down for two hours and I make you this beautiful handmade card and I write calligraphy and send it to you, it says is Happy birthday, it's the same message, but it's a completely different form of communicating, which makes it a completely different message. So I just think it's different modes of communicating, it's getting back to... Just to the days where you could just sit and not have anything going on and not have people able to just reach you immediately, it's refreshing

The Paper Seahorse:

Going back to when you write, when you send someone a hand-written note, aren't you also giving a piece of you?

Lindsey Bugbee:

Yeah, I think that when you give somebody something hand-written, it's time, and time is the most precious commodity that we have, so if I send you an envelope that's beautifully calligraphed, what that says to you, first of all - I mean, besides being a visual treat - it's saying that I gave you some of the most precious thing that I have. So I think that that makes the medium and the message that much more special because it takes effort, and for me to take the time to make something like that, not only is it 15 minutes to make that envelope, but it's hours and hours and hours of practice before that, to be able to make that envelope, so I think it's something really special.

 

The Paper Seahorse:

Let’s take a moment to think about that. Those hours are spent focusing, single-task focusing on exclusively on that person...

 Lindsey Bugbee (left) and Tona Bell  - Founder of The Paper Seahorse (right)

Lindsey Bugbee (left) and Tona Bell  - Founder of The Paper Seahorse (right)

 

Lindsey Bugbee:

For me, it's nice to be able to show my affection in that way, for example, I had taught a calligraphy workshop at The Paper Seahorse, your great little retreat in Tampa, and I wanted to express my gratitude to Tona, the owner afterwards that she had let me take that space for a while, and so what do you do? Of course, I'm going to give her a hand-made note and in an envelope, and it's nice because even a year later, I'll see that she'll make Instagram posts with that envelope in there, so it's hugely gratifying and it's nice too.  I guess, really think about the person and for me, I think about the reaction that the person is going to have receiving the envelope, it's just such a treat to get things in the mail, there's just an incredible difference between getting an email from someone and getting a hand-written note, especially when it comes in a calligraphed envelope really, that's why we have cool book covers. You pick up books that look great, so why wouldn't it be the same when you're sending a greeting card or whatever you want to build up anticipation, and that's why brides and grooms want envelopes that are beautiful because what's inside is important, but the outside is what really sets the tone.

 Calligraphy on Envelope

Lindsey's Calligraphy on an Envelope

 

The Paper Seahorse:

Do you feel like you are helping to create some good in the world?

Lindsey Bugbee:

Yeah, absolutely. I think everybody feels that way. Right, but as far as I'm concerned, I think that... I hope that I'm helping people to express themselves artistically, and I know that there are a lot of people that read the blog and they'll say, “I'm not an artist, but I made this,” or “I'm not an artist, but I learned calligraphy, and here's what I have” and you know, I think it's sad when people have this label that they're not an artist because everybody is an artist in their own way, so I know that the website has encouraged some people who have reached out specifically to me, and I hope that others who haven't reached out, I've been impacted too. So yeah, I like to think that I'm doing some good, maybe a little...

The Paper Seahorse:

What do you hope for the future?

Lindsey Bugbee:

With calligraphy specifically? In general? Or for myself?

The Paper Seahorse:

Both, I suppose. Where do you think it's going with people returning to handwriting?

Lindsey Bugbee:

I really don't know where it's going with handwriting. I think that people have always been interested in calligraphy and handwriting, it just has gotten bigger as technology has gotten bigger, which is ironic, but I see that technology is getting so much bigger, so that it makes sense to me that a return to the analog, like hand lettering and drawing and things like that, would get bigger as well as a reaction. I don't think that the two things, digital and analog are mutually exclusive, I think that they actually help each other to grow. And as far as what I see for The Postman’s Knock specifically, I would just like to be able to share more of what I know with people. So I know how to paint with watercolors, I know a little bit about how to create things in procreate, which is an iPad app. I'd like to share that. So we'll see where it goes. I'm not sure.

The Paper Seahorse:

I know we talked about this before, but can you share with us some more stories about the impact that you had on some people in their life.

Lindsey Bugbee:

Yeah, let me think for just a second… Yes!  Even today, it was yesterday actually, I received an email from a woman who... I mean, it was like a novel - if I printed it, it would have been three pages, just talking about how glad she was, she found my website, and it's funny because usually somebody's searching for one thing because we have a whole bunch of different tutorials, you know, there might be something about crayons or colored pencils or water color, but then there's a lot about calligraphy, so you sort of go down this rabbit hole, so a lot of emails will start off and say, I was looking for this, but then I also found this on your website. And now I'm into calligraphy and nothing could stop me, and it'll just be emails of people who... I've had a lot of cancer patients who, this is just a way to get their mind off of things and relax, because in the end, calligraphy is a very relaxing activity, it's not something that you do fast, so it's really something you should sit down and do with intention and quite slowly. Let's see, I've had the fun ones - people who say, I made my own wedding invitations and I calligraphed all the envelopes... Those are really fun. I've gotten a few of those. I don't know. Just people use it for different things. One woman I know is working on a piece right now for her daughter.  Her daughter's husband was recently killed in this horrible accident, he was working on a movie, he'd actually worked on The Shape of Water, but he was working on a new movie and a stunt went wrong, and so this woman is writing out of love for her daughter to sort of encourage her because they have small children, and so for this woman, she took one of my in-person workshops, it's a way of showing love and encouragement and giving her daughter something to look at every day to remind her that her mom is there for her as she's raising these kids alone.

 Nikko G Nib and Calligraphy Drill Sheet

Nikko G Nib and Calligraphy Drill Sheet

 

The Paper Seahorse:

It does look intimidating, the strange looking pens and the nibs and ink, but what would you say to someone that feels intimidated?

Lindsey Bugbee:

I would say that calligraphy looks very intimidating. And it's not the easiest thing in the world to do. I'm not going to lie and say, Yeah, you could learn - I don't know, just in a day. But I think anything is intimidating when you first start. And if you asked me if anyone can create calligraphy... Yeah, I really think as long as they want to... Anybody can create calligraphy. Absolutely, there's really no handicap for that, you know how to create letters, so why can't you do it beautifully?

It's just one of those things that you have to take one step at a time, so it's not a difficult thing. It's just you have to understand how to break it down, which is why I have courses on the website explaining how to do that, but I would say first you need to figure out the relationship between the strokes. So what is the difference between an upstroke and a downstroke. Second, you need to familiarize yourself with the instrument, which in my case would be a dip pen. So how does the dip pen work? How do you make those strokes that you familiarize yourself with? And then third, it's just a lot of practice, and I think practice really has this negative connotation where you're going to sit there for hours, not enjoying what you're doing. Now, it has to be really enjoyable, so you need to be making things that ignite your passion for this art, so whether you're making mail art, your sketch-booking, you're working on a bullet journal, you just need to make your practice fun because practice is mostly where your higher skill level is going to come from.

As far as I'm concerned, and I think this is a big reason that people are attracted to the postman knock blog, there is no hierarchy for being good at calligraphy, it's all kind of a personal journey, and I know that there are some people out there that would like to really impose rigid rules and say, Well, this person isn't as good as this person because they just are not as disciplined to me. It really is an art. And the nature of art is that people have different styles, so I think that what one person is into is going to be completely different from what someone else is into

The Paper Seahorse:

You mentioned bullet journals, there's all of these ways people are using writing, calligraphy and writing. Can you share some examples of the variety of ways to incorporate calligraphy?

Lindsey Bugbee:

Yeah, I think that some of the coolest utilizations I've seen have been in public... On chalkboards, for example, if you go to a coffee shop, those are neat to see, a lot of people are doing bullet journals right now. I'm actually planning my son's birthday party and it's a lot of Ethiopian food, a lot of people don't know what's the difference between this dish or this dish, so I'm making place cards so people can know, you know what they're actually eating.  Of course, calligraphy is a huge part of weddings, you've got invitations, envelopes, place cards, seating charts, all sorts of things. For Thanksgiving, we usually put brown paper on our table and then we'll create calligraphy on there... directly onto the table that you're eating on. Sketch-booking is big. The difference between a sketchbook and a bullet journal would be that sketch-booking is more general, whereas the themes of my bullet journals pages are more specific - either specific to a  day or keeping track of goals. But you can use calligraphy for anything, for sure.-

The Paper Seahorse:

Mindfulness is a big topic these days. And how does penmanship and calligraphy relate to mindfulness?

Lindsey Bugbee:I would say that calligraphy and penmanship relate to mindfulness because you really have to be intentional and present with what you're doing in calligraphy. It's very easy if your mind isn't really in, it to skip a letter or mess up on the letter you're making, so you really have to concentrate on what you're doing. And I think that that sort of pulls you into the present moment. And that's a curious thing because you're very in the moment, but then time also speeds up because you're doing something that you really enjoy and that's relaxing you. So I think that calligraphy is a great way for people to really get into this mindfulness thing, but also create something beautiful and be productive. So that's a good feeling.

The Paper Seahorse:

How is the experience of writing by hand different from when you're writing on a computer or an iPad or a phone?

Lindsey Bugbee:

I would never trash talk technology because I love technology, I use it every day. Obviously, if you find The Postman’s Knock, you're on a computer, you're on an iPad, you're on an iPhone, I love the potential for communication with technology; that said, I don't think that technology for me and for a lot of people is a good way to relax. If anything, it sort of keys me up a little bit when you get on Instagram and you're looking at people's pictures, or you get on your computer and you think, Hey, I'll just check Facebook or Pinterest for one second, in one second turns into 30 minutes. It's just different, and I notice I do have Procreate on my iPad, which is an app or you can write, but to me, it's a great practice tool because it doesn't require a lot of supplies, but it's just not the same as that tactile quality of sitting down with paper and dipping your pen into ink, and writing with it until it runs out. It goes back to the mindfulness thing, technology, just... It's so fast and it gives us the potential to communicate so quickly, and I think that we're inundated with so much technology that you almost overlook when you're being communicated with that way, it's very easy to ignore a text, or even when you open up your mailbox and you see that you've gotten an envelope where your name is printed on it, I think you automatically give that less importance than the envelope where something's written out. I've noticed in marketing that companies have started sending out things that have scans of handwritten notes, just to catch your eye.

 So yeah, I think that technology is amazing and it makes our lives better, yada yada,.. but it can certainly be overwhelming and it's very fast. I think that calligraphy, once you get the hang of it, is not overwhelming, it's something that you can do with intention and it's not incredibly fast, so it just sort of counteracts what we're experiencing with technology.

 

Modern Calligraphy Class at The Paper Seahorse

The Paper Seahorse Studios

 

The Paper Seahorse:

When you are sitting at your desk and you're making calligraphy how does it feel? What's going through your mind?

Lindsey Bugbee:

To me, when I sit down to create calligraphy, in my ideal situation, I'm really interested in people and stories, so I mostly listen to podcasts, specifically true true-crime podcast while I'm creating calligraphy. So to me, I guess half of my mind is on the story that I'm listening to, and then the other half of my mind is, I guess just paying attention to what I'm doing, so I'm drawing out guidelines, I'm making slant lines to guide my slant, I'm dipping the pen into the ink, making sure that it's at an appropriate level.  I'm writing, and I suppose I just feel completely relaxed at that point, and then also excited because if you're writing something, 95% of the time, it's because someone is going to see it, so even the place cards that I'm working on today, as I'm creating them, I'm thinking about the reaction that people are going to have to them, it's going to elevate the gathering that we're having from just to gathering in the home to something truly elegant. So I think it's just a mixture of being completely engaged with my writing and with this podcast, and then also feeling anticipation.

The Paper Seahorse:

Who are some of the other calligraphers that you admire?

Lindsey Bugbee:

I think Molly Suber Thorpe did a great job with her Modern Calligraphy book, and I think that got a lot of people into calligraphy initially.  As far as people whose work I admire, Phyllis Macaluso is a Canadian calligrapher who just makes these gorgeous floral motifs and flourishes and she sent me a couple of things that are just beautiful. So that's been a treat, Jodean Cooper is a calligrapher in Arizona, she makes gorgeous thing, she can write great Spencerian, which is a traditional script, and you know Kate Watson, she actually, I think got started with calligraphy because of the TPK blog - I could be wrong about that - but she recently did an event for Guy Ritchie, which I thought was fun. But really, since I'm not on social media a lot, I haven't connected with a ton of people that I really should connect with, and those are the people that just come to mind, but there are many, many more who create gorgeous things that are worth mentioning.

The Paper Seahorse:

What are some of the most surprising things that have happened to you related to calligraphy or writing?

Lindsey Bugbee:

So in 2015, I was really not that great at calligraphy, certainly you could have done a Google search and found a lot of calligraphers that were much, much higher skill level than me, but there was this woman who read my blog, and she reached out to me and said like, Look, I'd really like you to do my daughter's wedding invitation, she wants me to handwrite them, but I really can't because I have arthritis in my hands, and so I said, Well, the timeline is a little tight, but... Okay, she sounded just really sweet, and so she said, great, but you just need to talk to one before you can take on this project going. Okay, so the person called me and it was a Hollywood agent wanting me to sign a non-disclosure agreement, and I'm going, Oh my gosh, when I saw the names on that agreement because I definitely knew those names. So I took on the project and it was so cool because I'm handwriting these wedding invitations, and as I'm writing the wedding invitations, I was watching this actor in this actress on screen on Netflix as I'm creating their wedding invitations. And it was really neat to get to hand-write all of those. They wanted handwritten components for a couple of reasons, first they didn't want any information leaking to the press, which is easier to control if it's just one person, and then second, they didn't want to print things for that same reason, it would have been 10 people working on a printing company. Then when I got done, it was really cool because the tabloids were speculating, you know about this wedding, and the bride’s mom sent me all these pictures of this venue and of the wedding, and it was really neat to get to be a part of that.  Now when I see this actor or actress in movies, I think how I created their wedding materials, and I know that when they go home and in the evening, they have this invitation framed in their home, so that's a really cool feeling. And then I've gotten to work on a couple of books. That's been cool. I've been featured in my favorite magazine ever, Flow Magazine, which is a magazine that is published out of the Netherlands and super cool, and it gives me opportunities to do interviews like this one, which is just...really neat. So yeah, it's opened up a lot of really cool doors for me.

The Paper Seahorse:

So the last question is, what do you think people should really know about calligraphy and writing pretty that they may not already know?

The Postman's Knock Class at The Paper Seahorse
The Postman's Knock Class at The Paper Seahorse

 

Lindsey Bugbee:

Well, I really think that anyone can do it because you can write already - you know how to write a letter. So why can't you do it beautifully? But the trick is you have to want to do it, just like anything. So I don't think that you can necessarily force somebody to learn, but if you're motivated and you want to learn it, you can.  Second, you don't need really expensive materials to learn calligraphy, really all you need is the Nikko G nib, a straight pen, some Sumi ink, and then some 32-pound laser jet paper, specifically HP premium brand, I would say, and some exemplars wouldn't hurt.

The Paper Seahorse:

Thank you so much Lindsey. We appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts with all of us.Lindsey Bugbee:

You are very welcome. I just want people to know how relaxing of an activity it is, because I think that it can be really great for your mental health.

 

Creative Classes at The Paper Seahorse for Mindfulness and Creativity

Creative Classes at The Paper Seahorse for Mindfulness and Creativity

 


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