Instagram is full of many amazing lettering artists and calligraphers which I believe includes Silver Fox Calligraphy & Design. The work by the owner, Ciarra Rouwhorst, has a contemporary swing and a light touch. Her letters are a natural match with the papers and inks she uses. I was the lucky one to talk with Silver Fox Calligraphy & Design about her work and personal story.
Your name(s) and title/business name? City and country location?
Ciarra Rouwhorst, I own Silver Fox Calligraphy & Design. It is a fine art inspired lettering and illustration studio based out of Petoskey, in Northern Michigan.
How did you meet and get started?
Well, I have always been drawn to writing. I had a pen pal and used wax seals when I was in middle school. But it wasn’t until about a year ago that I found pointed pen calligraphy. I was looking for a new creative career and it seemed like a natural fit. I am now able to combine purely analog designs with digital skills to produce a wide range of work.
Photo: Ashley Slater Photography
Do you have a sign or design specialty or special style that makes you relatively unique? If so, what?
I work mostly with pointed pen calligraphy and watercolor illustration. I am heavily influenced by the past. I will always be learning about the cultural and historical influence that calligraphy has had, and allow this to influence my work. I am inspired by old letters and antique book covers. I also highly esteem modern fine art aesthetics and use this to create a more contemporary look for my work. I work mostly with weddings, bespoke invitation suites and envelope addressing as well as branding and logo design for creative businesses.
Preferred tool(s) and medium?
I use dip pens with pointed nibs. I am currently using vintage nibs that I love but also use the Brause Blue Pumpkin, and Leonardt Principal EF. I love mixing custom ink colors, and metallics, but I also really love working with walnut and iron gall inks that have been in use for centuries. I also use watercolor and gouache for painting and illustrating. I really love using handmade papers with naturally deckled edges. I am left handed but I use a right handed oblique pen holder.
Photo: Diana Frohmueller Photography
What’s your educational background, i.e., college, professional school, high school, apprenticeship, etc.?
I actually have no formal training. I am entirely self taught and have taken online classes and workshops. But I have never taken an in person workshop. I think this goes to show that formal education is not alway the only option. However, I do value education, and I believe that extensive learning is necessary to develop any new skill. I simply took the responsibility upon myself to become educated, not only in pen arts but also in such skills as color theory and mixing, layout and digital design principles.
Where or how do you “recharge your creative battery,” i.e., books, blogs, music, art, exercise, meditation, prayer, hobbies, interests, etc.?
I like this question. For me, I need quiet time to recharge. Away from Instagram and emails. I love classic literature and find that reading a short story or poem can help to ground me, and then I can come at my projects from a different perspective. Also, in all honesty, sometimes I just need a little nap. Or a walk outside. Whatever it is, mostly I just need something to turn off the noise inside of my mind so that I can regain focus and get a fresh view of things.
Tell us something about you that might surprise or delight us.
Oh gosh! Ok, no pressure. Let’s see. This first time I ever used a dip pen was in about 2nd or 3rd grade. I spilled an entire jar of india ink on my brand new out fit. I was so upset that my mother had to come pick me up from school because I couldn’t stop crying. My entire torso was stained bluish black, and my new favorite outfit was ruined. It was a long time until I tried calligraphy again, and only until about a year ago that I used dip pens. To this day, I am very fastidious about putting the tops on my ink whenever they are not necessary.
Photo: Beth Joy Photography