Office Tours  /  

May 16, 2016

Eliza Gwendalyn’s Calligraphy Studio Tour

  • Name: Eliza Shkolnik
  • Company: Eliza Gwendalyn
  • Title: Founder, Calligrapher, Graphic Designer
  • City: Long Island, New York
From a new line of fonts, to a studio designed to a T, Eliza Shkolnik is at the helm of her dream career, taking on every new project with passion & finesse. We may be touring her calligraphy studio, but we’re also taking a peek into her everyday life as a young entrepreneur. Read on for her tidbits of advice and more on what’s next for the Eliza Gwendalyn brand.

NO. 01

Tell us a bit about how you got into calligraphy and graphic design?

I have been working with the adobe even before it became a creative suite! I think the first programs I used were back when they were called quark and pages. My grandpa was one of the founders of the yellow-pages. The finger logo was his drawing! My mother worked for his company up until I was in high school so I got a taste of design at a young age. I always knew I wanted to be in the design industry but I wasn’t sure where. I LOVED stationery and all things type. I think my first real obsession with calligraphy spawned from my mothers obsession with calligraphy and type, but it really struck me when we were picking out my bat mitzvah invitations. I fell in love with the style Pendragon wrote in — the designer who created my invitations. They were the most delicate things I had ever seen — later on I learned she wrote mine in a spencerian hand – something I am currently trying to teach myself today — but back then I was just a little pre-teen in awe of her ‘script.’
Eliza Gwendalyn's Calligraphy Studio Tour - Inspired by This Eliza Gwendalyn's Calligraphy Studio Tour - Inspired by This Eliza Gwendalyn's Calligraphy Studio Tour - Inspired by This

NO. 02

What does a typical day in the studio look like?

I will be honest no two days are alike for me which is the nature of the game for most artist/entrepreneurs, but some days are similar. I have 3 different types of typical work days:
Day 1) working at home in the studio, I usually wake up anywhere between 6-8:30am and lay in bed answering all my emails for about 2 hours. Then finally get up to make coffee and get on some calls. By 10/11am I am at my desk warming up my hand for whatever calligraphy or illustration project for the day. Clients hire me to do a number of things: calligraphy mirrors, wood, paper, envelopes, place cards etc; design their invitation suite; design their logo; the list goes on. So I work on this for about an hour or two and then I go to the gym/grab lunch with whoever is around! Then I finally come back and do some more work, which can go until dinner and sometimes until midnight! I am coming out with my own font line and also just launched a jewelry line so when I am not working on a client project I am sitting at my desk designing those pieces.
Typical day 2) are my on site days; often clients hire me to come on site to work an event or just to work on a large scale project like the four 8 foot mirror calligraphy panels I recently did for Ovando, which were too big to ship to my studio. These types of days start super early and I am usually on site from anywhere to 7-14 hours. They are grueling but exciting because I get to socialize and show others my craft. I try to treat each day on site as if it’s the first day of school or work. The client hires you to get the job done, not to play. Money is time and time is money; I try to be conscious of that on both ends. I usually arrive on site between 10am-12pm depending on the scope of project and I stay until it is finished. For the Ovando panels I came back four days in a row due to the size of the project. The first day I spent 4 hours just setting up!

Typical Day 3) I call my errand days; I wake up whatever time I want and hit the gym and then I spend 3-6 hours running errands: post office, supply stores, meet clients, etc. for the most part plan 1&3 mentioned above get combined often.

Eliza Gwendalyn's Calligraphy Studio Tour - Inspired by This Eliza Gwendalyn's Calligraphy Studio Tour - Inspired by This Eliza Gwendalyn's Calligraphy Studio Tour - Inspired by This

NO. 03

Your space is so cute! Did you hire a designer or decorate it on your own? What is your favorite part about your office?

Thank you! I did it all on my own. The cabinet woman wanted to murder me at the end. Since I have a graphics background I actually asked for her CAD blueprints so I could go in and fine tune it myself. I must have edited her layouts 15 times even up until the last second before she sent it to the manufacture. It took 8 weeks for them to hand craft the wood and during that time I was on a hunt for the perfect knobs. I ended up finding my knobs at Anthropologie on sale a few days before completion of the installation – they were such a steal! I also adore the fact that they are plated in such a vibrant gold.

Each shelf is sized specifically for the items that lay on them. I had to have a special area to display my calligraphy pen collection and it was also very important to me to have a pin board I could show off past projects and pin inspiration pieces to. I am constantly replacing pieces on it.Lastly, the lighting and the big window was EVERYTHING and so CRUCIAL to me. We do almost all of the photoshoots on my site and social media in my studio so the lighting needs to be on point – plus who doesn’t feel inspired with a big bay window over looking beautiful foliage and the water — even when it is a cold winter day I can look outside and be inspired.

Eliza Gwendalyn's Calligraphy Studio Tour - Inspired by This

NO. 04

Your designs are so creative, what inspires you on a daily basis?

A lot inspires me, I think throughout the years what inspires me has changed but I am constantly inspired by things: people, peers, other artist like Jamie Reardin, fashion, the foliage in nature, specifically flowers & vines and patterns surrounding me. The most consistent form of inspiration would be the pattern flow in nature & design and my love for childhood books such as Dr Seuss’ stories & Alice in wonderland. I pull from both medias to create my whimsical flourished strokes.

I was told in the beginning of my career, by an artist & peer, who to this day still inspires me, that their are two types of calligraphy artists: the master penman of the world who devotes their time to perfecting their letterforms to a degree most people can never achieve OR the one who creates her own style which we refer to as a modern calligrapher. To create your own style you study others and you dig deep into your own thoughts and think about what speaks to you and for you. I am a modern calligrapher but what is unique to my style is that I still study the hand styles from the past; I believe this process is very in tune to my personality. I am very bubbly, outgoing and girlie yet structured and corporate, and I think you see this through my most popular style. I mix copperplate with a modern technique which I have worked on for years and will continue to work on it. That’s the beauty of calligraphy, you constantly have to practice and learn and through that you develop and broaden your craft. Another unique attribute to my business is that I am not just a hand lettering artist but a graphic artist which is what I studied at in college, (I went to Savannah College of Art & Design.) I often combine my calligraphy skills with my graphic skills for projects.

Eliza Gwendalyn's Calligraphy Studio Tour - Inspired by This Eliza Gwendalyn's Calligraphy Studio Tour - Inspired by This Eliza Gwendalyn's Calligraphy Studio Tour - Inspired by This

NO. 05

You're coming out with your own line of fonts - how exciting! Can you tell us more about them?

This is my ultimate dream project, combining calligraphy and graphics! My first font will be a suite that includes my everyday style the modern copperplate plus a handwritten sans serif, serif, some flourished ornaments and monograms! I call her ‘Alice’ to pay tribute to Alice in wonderland falling down the rabbit whole; I like to think my flourishes mimic that scene. My second font line to follow will be called ‘petunia’ which is one of my parents nicknames for me. It’s a very simple style.

NO. 06

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs out there looking to start their own business?

So much to say, but where to start? First and foremost, I can’t stress enough that you must crawl before you walk. When I first started out I never said ‘no’ to anything and I ended up biting off more than I could chew. In my case it was a good thing in the beginning because even when I had never done something that was presented to me I would tell my clients YES I can do it for you and through that I gained more experience and added more skills and services to my company’s list BUT there is a certain extent that one should go before you are saying yes to everyone and not having time for things that matter.

It is important to make sure your business comes first but not before your friends, family and sanity! I am on my fifth year as an entrepreneur and it is still a constant battle for me to find a balance between work + play, but it really is important to work on this balance. Make sure as hard as you work to make time to play hard too, even if your form of ‘playing hard’ is curling up on the couch with a good glass of vino and your family. Make sure you take time to do that or you won’t be happy being your own boss. It isn’t a 9-5 gig, you have to be ready to give 150% even if that means pulling all nighters that you thought you would never have to do after leaving college or taking a call at 3am. You are basically having a baby, this is for life — there are pros and cons but man do the PROS outweigh the cons. It will be one of the scariest adventures you go on but a fun ride if you don’t give up. Lastly don’t forget, time management is everything — buy a planner or five!

Eliza Gwendalyn's Calligraphy Studio Tour - Inspired by This Eliza Gwendalyn's Calligraphy Studio Tour - Inspired by This

Quick ?'s

What Gets You Going on Monday Morning:  

My poodle Amy jumping on me with kisses.

Secret talent:  

I can photoshop like no other!

Words to live by:  

Rose all day

Dream Collab:  

To provide my calligraphy for opening credits on a box office film!

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