We have loved finding and following different wedding vendors here in Idaho and we have fallen in love with the work of Claire with Inkling Calligraphy. Her work is beautiful and fills our Instagram feed with pretty pictures of her work!! As you are planning your wedding, keep in mind that you can totally have that beautiful calligraphy custom invitation suite like the ones you’ve seen on Pinterest! If you have fallen in love with the look of those pretty chalkboards and signs, but don’t know where to turn, Claire is your person. We hope you fall in love with her work and business, like we have, with today’s interview!
My name is Claire Free, and I’m originally from Lubbock, Texas. My husband and I moved to Idaho almost three years ago, and we love it here! I run a calligraphy and design business that specializes in bespoke invitations, custom logos, and organic calligraphy. I do a lot of work in Idaho and Texas, but I have clients all over the country as well. That’s the great thing about calligraphy and paper–you can ship it just about anywhere!
How did you get started with your business?
My story is very similar to a lot of other modern calligraphers–I got started around the time I was planning my own wedding. I saw all of these gorgeous chalkboard signs and invitations with calligraphy (probably on Pinterest), and I knew that was something I wanted to try to create on my own. One of the reasons why calligraphy sings to me is that it’s a mix of being precise and creative; I think that feeds the way my brain works! I’ve never really considered myself an artist in the traditional sense, but I always remember experimenting with my handwriting and lettering from the time I learned cursive in kindergarten. I started my business in February 2015 a little bit by accident! I had been doing some small projects here and there for friends and family and decided to try building a website. I asked my husband what he thought, and he ended up getting so excited that he shared it on Facebook with everyone we know! In hindsight, I’m so glad that he did; I tend to be bit of a perfectionist, and I’m not sure if that website would have ever been “finished” enough to show anyone without some unintentional help from him.
What types of pieces/work can you create for brides?
I do just about anything! Addressing envelopes and creating invitation suites are probably the first thing that most people think of, but I create a lot of menus, place cards, and wedding programs as well. Then there’s all the different kinds of signage–chalkboards, mirrors, wood… The possibilities are really endless.
How long do different designs and pieces take?
This is a great question! I really don’t think people realize how much time and energy goes into creating these pieces. Typically, I start with pencil sketches of several ideas and send those to the bride to get an idea of the style she’s looking for. After that, there’s the actual ink-and-pen aspect, then you scan and digitize, pick paper and ink colors, and send it off to get printed. It’s a lot of work, but I think the end result is unlike anything you can buy at a stationery store.
What is your favorite kind of project?
I really love designing custom invitation suites! It’s such an honor for me to create something that gives the very first impression of what the wedding will be like–the invitations set the tone for the entire event. And there are so many possibilities with the invitations–you can have them letterpressed, or printed with metallic foil, or screenprinted onto fabric. And when you add all of that with calligraphy on the envelopes, it really does make a big impression on your guests. People don’t write letters anymore, so to get a beautiful hand-addressed envelope in the mail can feel almost like Christmas.
How do you find inspiration?
I always tell people that when to create calligraphy, you have to think of each letter as a series of shapes, not as an actual letter. It’s much more closely related to drawing and sketching than it is to cursive, believe it or not. So, most of my inspiration comes from things that are not necessarily related to calligraphy–I love film photography and light, airy tones and organic floral design. Music is also really inspiring to me, and I find my style can change based on the kinds of music I listen to–I’m a musician, and music speaks to me more deeply than almost anything else!
What kind of information or ideas should a bride bring to you to get unique pieces created for a wedding?
I tend to steer brides away from just bringing a lot of examples of stationery–a couple of examples are good, but what’s more helpful for me is seeing other kinds of images and examples that inspire them and illustrate the vision for their wedding day as a whole. I never want to try to copy or recreate the designs of someone else, so I really try to get brides to help me understand the feeling and style they’re trying to convey. My favorite brides are the ones who really trust my expertise and let me get creative!
Do you prefer to work in person, via email, skype, etc?
Calligraphy and paper elements are really easy to mail, which is great! I don’t have to be physically present like a photographer or a florist does. I do a lot of work outside of Idaho–which means a lot of emailing–but I always try to schedule a meeting via Skype before I begin a wedding project or meet the bride for coffee if she’s local. Getting to actually talk to the bride helps me so much when trying to really learn about her style and personality. I’ve found that projects go more smoothly when I’ve had a chance to have a great conversation with my bride and learn more about how she met her fiance, what their relationship is like, and how we can translate that into her wedding invitation suite.
Do you have any advice for brides?
When working with a calligrapher, planning ahead is the best thing you can do! I typically try to make sure that I don’t overlap too much on projects to give each bride the attention she deserves, but that also means that my schedule books quickly. It takes a lot of time to address those envelopes and create custom designs, so the more time you can give your calligrapher, the better the end result will be.
One final thought from Claire- I know I’m a little bit biased, but I really think that being intentional about your invitation suite and day-of details is one of the best ways to make your wedding day unique! It can really be so special to have your names hand-written just for you–I’ve had several brides frame their invitations in their houses, and they all say it’s still one of their favorite things to look at and remember their wedding day.
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