You've Been Asking, Here's My Story

Updated: Dec 2, 2019


The #1 question I get asked everywhere I go is "So, how did you become a calligrapher?". At this point in the conversation, I often wish my life was more adventurous and exciting than it actually is, so I could tell a really thrilling story. It's only recently that I've realized that everyone has an interesting story, no matter how action-packed it is. So here's mine.

Photo by Maggie Zepada

I have loved the written word for my entire life. Even as a small child, I loved books, and I loved to write. But not just writing...I loved the act of writing. I was constantly changing my handwriting to try different styles of letters. I owned the Speedball calligraphy markers & instructional booklet when I was 10. My chosen souvenir from London was a feather quill & bottle of ink (I was 16 at the time). I owned black notebooks and hordes of gel pens. Even in college, I preferred to take well-organized, lovingly hand-written notes rather than bring my laptop to class.

Unfortunately for me, I had absolutely no idea that calligraphy was a thing. I never knew you could study it. I didn't have a clue that people actually made a living doing this thing. I grew up in a small town in northwest Wisconsin, and I just didn't get exposed to as many things as I might have in a city. So as I grew older, my artistic pursuits turned to music, my other passion. I studied voice, piano, and flute. I was in choir, band (marching, pep, and concert all in one), and jazz band. Eventually I decided to pursue a music degree. Even though I loved it all, there was always this little twinge of sadness in the back of my mind that I wasn't better at visual arts, like painting or drawing. I loved being creative, and studying music wasn't enough to satisfy all the creativity I had bouncing around inside of me.

Thankfully, God had a plan and was already way ahead of me. Shortly after graduating college, I found myself living a good, but entirely un-creative daily life. My music was too loud for the apartment where I lived and for my poor husband trying to study for a Master's, and I was in desperate need of a less obtrusive creative outlet.

Enter calligraphy! I did what any millennial would do - I searched Google for an answer to my dilemma. I found a website link discussing the art of calligraphy, and I was instantly sucked down the rabbit hole of hand-lettered art, calligraphy scripts, hand-bound books, illumination, and all the wonderful world of calligraphy and lettering arts. I was instantly in love (an art based around handwriting? I'm in!). I started off by buying a new calligraphy marker, a notebook, and watching tons of youtube videos.

Now, I hear this from my students frequently, and I understand completely -- trying to learn calligraphy off the internet is HARD. I mean, really really hard. I quickly got frustrated with my terrible attempts, and started looking for a class where I could properly learn my newly chosen hobby. Happily, there was one starting soon in my area, and I signed up immediately. From the minute I met my teacher, Anne Elser, and heard her story, I knew I was in the right place. She was a free-spirited, kind, and caring person; an extraordinarily talented calligrapher and artist; and one amazing teacher. I was truly blessed to be able to take my first calligraphy classes with her.

{I spent a LOT of time lettering Harry Potter-related quotes in the beginning!}

I remember thinking early on that calligraphy was the perfect hobby for me. I also vividly remember thinking that it would be cool to gain enough experience and talent to be able to sell my work. The realist in me stuffed that thought away immediately, because at this point I had taken one class, I was mediocre (at best), and turning this into anything but a hobby was definitely not realistic. Still, that little dream settled comfortably in the back of my mind and waited.

Eventually, after lots of hard work, determination, and encouragement from loved ones, I opened DeBord Studios and turned my quiet dream into a full-time reality. I was able to incorporate my musical training as well by offering private lessons and stepping into a director role with a community flute choir. Now, I look back and can't believe how it all started with a quiet restlessness, and a desire to be constantly creating. Now, I love teaching and passing on what I've learned to new calligraphers in hopes that my story will inspire them to continue creating and dreaming.


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