Today we’d like to introduce you to Wendy Xu.
Wendy, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
After a typography class sparked my interest in letters, I went on to study type design where I learned how to draw letters digitally and create typefaces. During the course, students were asked to try calligraphy and writing with different tools as a way to understand letterforms. There was something about putting pen to paper and making letters stroke by stroke that really appealed to me. After the course, I moved from New York to Los Angeles and found freelance work doing graphic design, but I wasn’t happy with the work I was producing. I remembered how much I enjoyed calligraphy, so I started taking workshops and practiced diligently, which eventually led me to wedding calligraphy jobs. Although I enjoyed working as a wedding calligrapher, I knew I wanted to have more variety in the type of work I do in the future. Early last year, I decided to make a change. I created a promotional postcard showcasing my work and mailed them out to potential clients (I hand addressed all the envelopes with my calligraphy for a little extra pizzaz!). Since then, I have been doing lettering and illustration work for magazines and book publishers. Now my work utilizes both my analog and digital skills, where lettering and illustrations are often fused together.
Has it been a smooth road?
One of the struggles I had was finding my own voice. In the beginning, I was very anxious about coming up with one distinctive style and it often got in the way of allowing myself to just create. It wasn’t until I started learning calligraphy that I stopped worrying about styles because I had to focus on mastering the tool and getting the basic letterforms right first. As they say, you have to know the rules before you can break them. A good grasp on foundations gave me freedom to be expressive. As I did more work, my skills improved; my experiences, interests, and how I interpret and solve problems all became part of my personal style. I realized that developing a style is not something to be rushed. It takes time, it comes from both your techniques and the way you think, and it will keep on evolving as you grow. Instead of worrying about having a style, you should focus on doing good work and your voice will come through.
What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?
When I first saw my work printed in a magazine.
Were there moments when you had to struggle?
Sometimes I get overwhelmed with client work and sometimes there would be weeks where I don’t have any projects. In the beginning, I had a hard time with the downtime and I would get sad and think I’m not good enough to keep busy. But now I know that’s pretty normal and I try to keep myself motivated by filling that time with personal projects that interest me or explore new tools.
Is our city a good place to do what you do?
A lot of my clients are in New York because that’s where a lot of book publishers and magazines are based in. But for my profession, I can pretty much work anywhere that’s internet friendly and because of social media, it’s possible to connect with clients even if you can’t meet them in person.
In general, I think LA is a great city for freelancers. For me, the city provides endless inspirations with its diverse cultures. And every corner you turn, whether it’s a new mural on the side of a street or architectural details on an old art deco building, there is always something to feast your eyes on. I also find LA a very encouraging place. You meet a lot of passionate people who are chasing after their dreams and no one’s judging you if you are not successful yet. People here have a lot of tenacity, and everyone’s always trying. It’s very inspiring and motivating to be around that energy. And of course, it also helps when it’s sunny most days of the year, makes it a very happy place to live and work.
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