The Art of Calligraphy

with Danielle Tin

September 15, 2020
BY Kiersten

Calligraphist, calligraphic, calligrapher, however you manage to say it, Danielle Tin is a calligraphy artist and an expert of the craft. At the end of 2017, Danielle launched her own calligraphy design business under the name Tin & Type. Doing mostly signage, weddings, or other large events Danielle’s skill in brush stroke is what helped put her name and artwork on the map. This week Danielle shared her artwork with the Crescent community, read below her story on finding Crescent Foundation, finding calligraphy, and finding her calling in spreading joy however she can. 

Kiersten Adams: How have you learned about Sickle Cell

Danielle Tin: Through Ediomi. I work with her at American Express. We learned that she had sickle cell and throughout the past couple of months, and I’ve reached out and told her I want to get more involved. She gave me the down-low on Crescent Foundation and what you guys are doing in September. 

KA: How has working with an individual living with  individual living with SCD ll changed your outlook on this disease or the role of ableism in the workplace?

DT: I’m still learning about the disease itself, but she [Ediomi] comes in regularly which I think is really strong because I’m like, ‘I don’t want to do the commute and I don’t want to be outside’. So it’s a really great perspective to see that she still wants to be in person. But I think seeing her in a company and on a team that does value her work because she gets it done. As long as they have the resources and the flexibility it shouldn’t be a burden. It shouldn’t be that they feel obligated to be somewhere or to be online if they have to take care of something personally, I think we all kind of need to recognize that.

KA: Why should conversations on Sickle Cell and other chronic illnesses’ be brought up in the workplace? Why is it important for people outside the SCD community to know about this disease?

DT: I think it’s forgotten, but also invisible. You wouldn’t be able to tell someone had it unless someone tells you. It’s not something [a disease] that’s visible in the day to day. I think that’s really important because we need to understand how to work with our peers that do have sickle cell and support them in that sense. Other than Ediomi, I don’t know other people with sickle cell. Maybe I do, but I know many people with cancer and I’ve lost people with cancer. So I think that’s a big part of what she explained to me is that there just aren’t resources and that upsets me. There is a community out there and it’s not like they’re new, but they still don’t give you resources. So I think about the people I’ve lost with different diseases, they also didn’t have certain resources, but it’s still more than what sickle cell [patients] have. It just shows where there’s disproportion. It’s definitely something that needs a bigger voice. 

KA: Has talking with an SCD survivor changed your perspective on our current healthcare system?

DT: Not so much yet, but I think because we haven’t gotten down into the nitty gritty of what a hospital relationship looks like. My husband is in healthcare and I don’t think he knows about that, and he deals with cardiovascular patients. She [Ediomi] mentioned it’s like maybe a paragraph or two on it [Sickle Cell]; so I do think education has to be brought up. I’m sure that there are people in the healthcare industry who know about it and they just say, ‘oh, well my superior doesn’t invest too much in it. So I won’t’. More hospitals should really take notice and make their hospitals accessible because I can imagine that they would bounce patients back and forth. And I don’t know if that’s the case, but I can assume that that’s what happens.

KA: How did calligraphy come to be another calling? Were you someone, like me, who found themselves oddly relaxed by calligraphy youtube videos, or have you been practicing for a while?

DT: The best thing to say is that I’m self-taught. I always had an interest in the arts and like you said, watching videos. But it was sparked because I’m in the event marketing industry. I hired a calligrapher because I was interested in them for an event, and she would letter inspiring quotes for people. In-person she did it super quick on these beautiful black canvases that people could take home. I was just in awe, so I tried to practice on my own and it looked terrible, but then I just kept watching videos. And I was getting married that year, so I’m like, ‘I’m going to do this on my own wedding invitation’. I did the lettering on the envelopes, and I didn’t want to pay anybody but I was really into it, and it worked. I had major cramps and it took forever, but it worked, it looked beautiful. So I kept practicing and testing out new materials, not only paper, you could do it on glass and on different materials. So it’s really fun to play around with. But that’s how I kind of started. That’s also why I think that everybody who watches with me will get the basics. It’s really just understanding the strokes and how to put pressure on your pen or marker. And once you know those tips, it’s just practice after that. 

KA: How does the art of calligraphy relate to healing or therapy for you?

DT: It’s definitely my de-stressor, even though sometimes it could be frustrating because I have to do it again. It’s challenging and it’s not for everybody, but I think for most people it’s a way to challenge yourself. I do it on my time like I’m just going to hunker in my room and not talk to anybody. You’re just so focused, you’re trying to better yourself because you’re trying to do one version and then you’re like, you know what, let me try a different version. So there’s so much flexibility with being creative. It’s a mood booster, it keeps your brain running, and you’re calm during it. And you could find yourself doing it for hours and not think about anything else. And I think that’s really important for your health and trying to stay stable. It blocks out everything else that’s going on in the world. I think that’s great for people who need something, that’s going to keep them stable and kind of invigorates in that way.

KA: Why should other artists consider partnering with Crescent or other Sickle Cell organizations if they didn’t know this was a market for them? Why did you?

DT: It’s just hitting people’s interests in a way that’s subtle, but in the back end, it’s things we never thought about. I’ve been seeing with COVID a lot of the retirement homes where everybody has been stuck and they haven’t been able to have visitors, so they do art, and they’re posting it online and that is really fantastic. And I think it’s something that we just haven’t thought of before. There’s just a lot that can really resonate with people. For my community, I definitely want more awareness. That’s flat out. I really don’t think my network knows. I didn’t really know much before working with Ediomi, so that’s something I would work on. I think with social media and through shareable content, that’s the best way. People are willing to learn about that and share and it could be as simple as doing a beautiful post that resonates. Then I think people will organically start to learn more, but they just have to have that one connection. I want to bring joy, and I think that’s what I can contribute in terms of pulling that out of people and really making sure that it’s empowering them and inspiring them in a fun and simple way. 

KA: How has pivoting for an online platform for this event affected you?

DT: Even before COVID, I was turning more virtual. I’ve been starting to do more stuff on my iPad and doing digital lettering which was really cool. It would be more graphic design and learning some tips there versus pen and paper or whatever material I’m able to do. And then I’m also able to print it, I have a special printer. So once I digitize it, I can print it, put it on vinyl, put it on your own Tumblr, and like customize it with your name which is really awesome. So I was already starting to go into that, but because everything is digital I thrive on social events, weddings, and signage and place cards and things like that. But that fell on the wayside. So I had to think about how can I pivot in that sense? It was more of digital creation, just making sure that I’m still relevant on social, trying to learn new skills. Even graphics, cartooning, just expanding that skillset. You take it slow, you just simplify the process and it’s just learning what really resonates with people like behind a screen. The format is just different, it sucks but that’s the world we’re in. And I think it totally could work. So I’m still excited to bring that to life.

KA: Can you possibly walk me through a virtual calligraphy class? What do you intend to do?

DT: Yeah, so it’s going to be kind of step by step where I’m already going to have pre-made samples ready. So that’s the first chunk of time, I describe what calligraphy is. It’s a pure intro 101 of how I got into it. And then also some samples so that they could see that it can be a Crayola marker, a Sharpie, professional calligraphy, ink pen, there’s just so many different mediums. So I would want to have a bunch of samples set up so that people can see and understand everybody’s is going to look different and that’s totally fine. Then we’ll go through a breakdown of strokes. I think like going through the strokes, then having people practice then calling out to see who’s brave enough to share their samples. I want to make it as interactive as possible versus people just watching me. The purpose is to get people to practice on their own and to really understand what goes into it. 

KA: When did you decide to make this a business rather than just a hobby? 

DT: It was officially at the end of 2017, after my wedding, right after I started doing those invitations because I practiced hard. I had some time, so I was just doing it a lot. And that’s the only way that you get better. Maybe I’ll bring up in some of the samples my first takes on stuff [calligraphy] so people can see the transition. I started practicing on different materials with just a couple of items. I really made sure that whatever I was like posting, I started promoting within my friends and trying to get referrals. The traction hit, I think a lot of it was for weddings or signage, and a lot of it was friends in the beginning, but I was willing. Let me just pump all this stuff out so that I have samples to show so I could have referrals. Obviously this year, it’s been a little bit light, but constantly trying to think of new ways to monetize. So it’s been about three years and still technically on the side, but it is a business that I have to constantly think about. How to price myself, how to promote while doing everything else. 

KA: How long can a wedding invitation or another form of this work take? How long are you perfecting brush strokes?  

DT: Everything is different. I would say if it was just like place cards, and I had to write the names and it was pretty simple, that could take me a couple of hours for like a hundred or more. For signage, the actual doing of it could take half an hour to an hour, but there’s always mistakes, soI have to redo. A lot more goes into it on the back end. Even though I’m actually writing for an hour or two, it probably takes half a day or eight hours total.

KA: What does it mean to be a Crescent Foundation Partner

DT: I love it.. I want to spread that love, that joy, and then just be a part of what you guys are growing. Really making sure that I’m not just the superficial business. For me, it’s great. I could monetize off of it, but that’s not always what I care about. When I can get passion projects, if I could get charitable components and tie myself to that, it’s not to show it off, it’s because I truly care and want to help. 

The art of calligraphy is not to be taken lightly. It is mastery of pen, paper, brush, and stroke, and it is not for the weak-willed or weak wristed. To discover more calligraphy follow Danielle’s Tin & Type page on Instagram and continue to check back throughout the week for other stories from artists, innovators, and creatives doing the work of spreading joy.

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