Dancing on paper

STEP into the intricate world of calligraphy, where each stroke tells a story and every curve is a dance of elegance on paper. KLigraphy co-founder Inez Tan provided a fascinating glimpse into this artistic world in an exclusive interview with theSun.

Tan’s odyssey into the world of calligraphy began at a crossroads in her career. Armed with a diploma in graphic design and advertising, she stumbled upon the mesmerising art of calligraphy while browsing the internet during a hiatus between jobs.

“I saw a GIF of someone writing in gold ink and that moment sparked a journey of self-discovery,” recalled Tan. With a thirst for creative expression, she embarked on a path of self-study, navigating the intricacies of calligraphy through trial and error.

As Tan honed her skills, traditional scripts, especially copperplate calligraphy, became her muse. “Learning classic scripts like Spencerian and Italic calligraphy has broadened my perspective,” she shared.

Her artistic approach draws inspiration from acclaimed penmen, both international and domestic, including Nina Tran, Eleanor Winters and Master Penman Michael Sull, weaving a rich tapestry of influences into her distinctive style.

Running a calligraphy business in an unexplored local market posed initial challenges for Tan. “Teaching calligraphy workshops since 2015 has helped showcase the value of calligraphy arts to the public,” she reflected.

The early days were marked by perseverance, but through dedication and a commitment to educating the community, Tan’s one-person show evolved, with her mother joining to provide operational support — a pivotal moment in her entrepreneurial journey.

Productive collaborations

KLigraphy’s foray into collaborations has not only showcased Tan’s artistic prowess but also contributed to the growth and appreciation of calligraphy within the broader community.

Collaborations with organisations such as KL Pooch Rescue and Yayasan Sime Darby Arts Festival stand out as highlights.

“Teaching calligraphy for charity and connecting with diverse communities has been incredibly rewarding,” Tan expressed. “These collaborations serve as a testament to the transformative power of calligraphy beyond its aesthetic appeal.”

Looking towards the future, Tan aims to introduce the beauty of calligraphy to the younger generation. She advocates for a revival of cursive writing in school curricula, emphasising the significance of this art form.

More than a partnership, KLigraphy embodies a sense of community that Tan actively fosters. “I believe in community over competition,” she affirmed.

The calligraphy community in Malaysia, although small, shares tips, jobs and supplies, creating a collaborative and supportive environment within the larger artistic landscape. As a teacher of calligraphy, Tan finds joy in witnessing students embark on their calligraphy journey. “It’s always fun to hear students comment about how easy it looks to write calligraphy, but when they try it, it’s pretty hard,” she remarked.

Beyond the initial challenges, she finds reward in students mastering the art and discovering the therapeutic nature of calligraphy, offering a serene escape from the digital world. “It’s fun to see students try out calligraphy in a short 10-minute class,” she said.

Adding a personal touch

Reflecting on memorable projects, Tan recalled a recent collaboration with a luggage brand. Conducting mini workshops for the store opening and personalising luggage tags, were intense, but the end result was immensely satisfying.

Providing on-site calligraphy services for events adds another layer to KLigraphy’s offerings. Tan recounted an event in 2022 where she engraved cologne bottles and calligraphed gift boxes for a perfume brand.

“Customising items for customers, especially for special occasions, adds a personal touch that brings joy to recipients,” she shared. Amid her myriad projects, Tan has developed a preference for specific tools — a testament to the artistry involved.

“An oblique pen holder with nibs. I use that for almost 80% of the projects done so far,” she revealed. This versatile tool allows Tan to explore a spectrum of colours and metallic inks, contributing to the unique charm of her creations.

For those aspiring to embark on a calligraphy journey, Tan offered valuable advice. “Joining a class is a great way to start,” she recommended.

Additionally, online resources like the International Association of Master Penmen and Teachers of Handwriting can provide a wealth of knowledge. Tan also suggests exploring Czip Lee, Stickerrific and Art Friend for purchasing quality calligraphy supplies.

Spreading goodwill through calligraphy

As the Chinese New Year approaches, Tan finds herself immersed in a flurry of activity, utilising her remarkable calligraphy skills to craft exquisite greeting cards for various brands. Her artistry takes centre stage as she meticulously writes the names for these special cards, adding a personalised touch that elevates the gifting experience for guests.

In the spirit of the festive season, Tan embraces the opportunity to extend warm wishes for a joyous Chinese New Year to everyone celebrating.

This harmonious blend of creativity and cultural celebration showcases the versatility of her craft, not only as a form of artistic expression but also as a means of spreading goodwill during this auspicious time.

Tan’s journey with KLigraphy is about fostering a sense of community, inspiring the next generation, and weaving the art of calligraphy into the fabric of modern life.

As her artistic journey continues to unfold, Tan’s commitment to community, creativity and the transformative power of calligraphy shines as a beacon in Malaysia’s vibrant artistic landscape.

Instagram: @inezcalligraphy