Her work has been called “natural and imperfect,“ or “perfect imperfection“, but whatever it’s called, nationally recognized Charlottesville, Virginia artist, Stephanie Fishwick’s art is truly original when it comes to calligraphy and illustration. “I try to get inspiration from weirder places, so that reads in my work,” she says with a laugh. “It doesn’t look like something that you could recreate on a computer in a perfect way, and that’s what I think people like about. It doesn’t have to be perfect.”
Lauded and featured in many publications, such as Matchbook, Country Living, Brides Magazine, Lonny, as well as online press as, Oh So Beautiful Paper, Design Love Fest and more, one gets the impression of an artist who boldly follows her aesthetic path rather than stakes her career on the safety net of digital designing in front of a computer screen.
If you are not familiar with her work, you will be surprised to discover such a curious, unconventional, amazingly non-conforming artist. Images of her work showcase her incredible ability to combine beautiful technique with creativity and whimsy; her images seem to dance around the page.
Custom work is one of her specialties, most notably intricately detailed crests that draw on tradition, but speak to Stephanie’s whimsical side. Illustrations will reflect her perfect eye for composition and sometimes feature watercolor with animals and charmingly penned letters. Many talented calligraphers’ perfect traditional styles, while she creates new and unique ones, seems to be the antithesis of Stephanie Fishwick.
Stephanie’s journey toward artist, calligrapher, illustrator, and designer, began as soon as she could hold a pen. Inheriting her grandmother’s fine art supplies and portfolios at a young age, instilled a meticulous eye, and the highest standards for her craft.
We, at Rossi, were fortunate enough to grab a few minutes from Stephanie’s busy schedule and asked a few questions of our own:
Was graphic arts and design part of your schooling?
Yes. I started out taking fine art classes when I was in elementary school and junior high. In high school I took every art course my school offered, and was able to enroll in a graphic design class during my junior year of high school. I decided to study graphic design in college. (Stephanie earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Communication Arts & Design from Virginia Commonwealth University.) I think it was a combination of my fine art background, the digital design explosion of the 90’s and knowing that I could have a creative career as a designer.
When you left school/college, what did you first do?
I got an internship at a big marketing firm in the DC area. Then I worked for two different creative graphic design studios as a designer; the longest one being in Washington DC. I always did fine art on the side; drawings, paintings, hand-bound books and amateur calligraphy.
How did you first know you wanted to be a calligrapher?
I knew I wanted to be a calligrapher professionally during the fall of 2012. After years of dabbling in calligraphy with no formal instruction, I was finally taking private classes with a calligrapher in my town. I also joined the Washington Calligraphers’ Guild and signed up for workshops. The big one: A Copperplate intensive with Pat Blair the White House Chief Calligrapher. After that a light bulb went off; The ink, the way the nibs (the part of the dip pen which meets the writing surface and deposits the ink) scratch against the paper…it’s just so tactile. It was hard to not do it anymore. Making some small progress, I started doing small jobs for people I knew, and event envelopes, and quickly started incorporating calligraphy into my work with watercolor and other mediums. After that weekend I felt that I had a handle on copperplate fundamentals, I felt more confident in the style my hand naturally creates. I loved doing this so much that I transitioned away from graphic design to full-time lettering and design.
How did you begin your business? Who were your first customers, how did you find them and how did you progress from there?
After my son was born I had a few months of maternity leave. During that time I took some calligraphy classes in the evenings and a couple of weekend workshops. After I started taking classes, I realized that I wanted to transition to calligraphy as my full time job, and still use all of my skills as a designer too; combine the fine art with the design background. I built a website to show my portfolio of calligraphy work (what little I did have at the time), and I sent a few emails out to stationery stores and event planners in my area. At the same time I was doing all kinds of art with the calligraphy and experimenting. I began receiving small jobs, and it grew from there.
Who are your customers/clients currently?
I am commissioned by industry leaders in weddings and interior design, design firms, brides, families, small businesses, photographers, artists…
I see you have a lot of publicity…Do you market yourself or have an agency?
I am not actively marketing myself or paying for advertising. I do a lot of wedding industry collaborations which puts my name out there and I was lucky enough to be featured online early-on in my calligraphy career after I sent some samples to a few people. I don’t have an agency (yet) but I do hope that one day I might.
How do you determine what medium to work with?
I love using high end papers, special inks, interesting pens and nibs, paint, marbling techniques, found paper, and experimenting. I just bought a huge lot of vintage calligraphy pens and rare nibs on EBAY that I cannot wait to play with. I often let the materials I’m drawn to speak to me and inspire different pieces.
Where did you first find Rossi?
I’ve used Rossi paper for a few years. I originally found them at a local shop in Charlottesville and have loved them ever since.
Your thoughts about the paper?
It’s lovely, high quality and wrapped so beautifully. I love all of the cotton and handmade papers. I love all of the Florentine papers, patterns and elegant designs. As a calligrapher it is important to use papers that work well with calligraphic inks to avoid ink bleeding and feathering.
Will you use any for your classes?
I will be bringing some of my favorite double deckled cards for students to use.
What music do you love that inspires you?
I love so many different types of music. This week in my studio I am especially loving Scott Walker, Ride, Pale Saints, The Cure, Slowdive and Cocteau Twins.
If you were not doing this, what would you be doing?
There are a few things I would love to know more about and intend to learn about in the years to come. I would love to make paper, learn more classic marbling techniques, and I would love to incorporate my love of interior design and styling into my work a bit more. I am having my first gallery show in the spring, so I would love to focus more on my sumi ink work and experimental calligraphy too!
“I mean, its perfect imperfection, right?”
Today Stephanie has over a decade of experience working in graphic design and studio arts, plus a history of happy clients. Stephanie lives and works in Charlottesville, Va., where she also teaches calligraphy classes. ( How lucky if one happens to live in that area ..) She is a member of the Washington Calligraphers Guild. She is inspired by music and most of all, her husband and son.
For custom work:
Calligraphy, Lettering & Illustration