By: Stephanie Jade Wong
In an era where we type more emails and text messages than send hand-written letters, the art of calligraphy may not seem as attainable. But that’s definitely not the case for modern calligrapher Danielle Rothman. Based in New York, Danielle is the artist behind our Yes You Can flowy muscle tee.
Danielle isn’t just an artist, she’s a teacher. She builds community through her artwork and shares her passion through workshops. We got a chance to sit down with Danielle to chat more about her work.
AM: What do you do and what do you love about it?
DR: In the past two years, I’ve taught 1,300+ students how to get started with calligraphy and watercolor.
I offer private lessons and sell handwritten journals, cards, and prints and offer custom design services.
I love seeing people light up when I personalize an item for them! While it’s been fun to explore my creativity and learn new skills, the best part is being able to help others discover new ways to relax and connect to their own creative energy.
AM: What inspired you to start your company, Rothbyrns Creative?
DR: A coloring book opened my eyes to all the ways you can be creative as an adult, I bought a set of markers for my growing collection, and it turned out that they were popular for brush lettering.
I remember watching my first lettering video thinking, “I have to do that!” After a few months of practicing, I was ready to share my new hobby on Facebook, which is how I got my first client.
Soon enough, I had a business! I realized when I started teaching, that calligraphy could combine all of the things I love to do, so I went full time. In many ways, I feel like I hit the reset button and had my first year of business all over again, but that’s what keeps it exciting.
My motto for this year is, “Level Up,” and it’s already been a time of tremendous growth.
AM: Who's your dream calligraphy student?
DR: Sometimes, students put a lot of pressure on themselves to do it “right” and are frustrated with themselves when their lettering doesn’t look polished right out of the gate.
Calligraphy, like any skill, takes time and practice to develop. My favorite students are the ones who lean into that and have fun with it, and then keep in touch to share their progress.
A bride took my class so she could do her own wedding invitations, and every few months she messages me with an updated picture of her practice. She just sent out her save-the-dates, and they’re gorgeous! I love building a lasting connection with my students.
AM: Do you have tips for women who want to start their own business?
DR: Find your people. I was very lucky that my family and close friends supported me from the beginning, and I know that not everyone has that.
Despite that support, no one in my circle had ever started a creative business. So much of my first year was about exploring different communities and building my board of trusted advisors. I have my crafty friends, my teacher friends, my fellow women entrepreneur friends, etc.
I’m only a few years into this art thing, so I had to start from scratch in a lot of ways. You can totally do it, but no one can do it alone.
AM: Where's your favorite place to shop for artwork supplies?
I’ve curated a list of my favorite supplies here.
I’ve been doing a lot of digital work over the past year, and I buy custom brushes and design assets from Creative Market, where I also have a shop.
AM: Where’s your favorite place to get creative?
DR: Home. I’m both a total extrovert and a homebody. Being cozy gives me the mental energy I need to really get to work. I live in my head a lot and being home allows me the time and space I need to go wherever I need to for a design concept to come together. Plus boredom is the ultimate mother of invention.
AM: How do you usually celebrate your wins?
DR: I call my mom and sister-in-law. We’re a close family, and we talk as often as we can. They know what I’ve been putting into all of this and appreciate when things are going well. We only see each other every few months. It’s a lot of video chats and calls while we’re in transit. When there’s good news, everyone cheers!
AM: Do you have any side hustles or passions?
DR: I discovered embroidery over the summer and I’m obsessed! I find it really relaxing. One of the things I loved about calligraphy and coloring when I first started is that it’s not on a screen, but that’s changed now that I’m doing mostly digital work.
With embroidery, it is what it is. I like the repetition of focusing on stitches and seeing it come to life. I recently bought all 489 colors of embroidery floss and now all bets are off because I have the whole rainbow to play with!
AM: What are three adjectives that best describe you?
DR: Loud, energetic, and curious.
AM: What motivates you?
DR: My family. My husband and cat are the absolute best and I couldn’t do any of this without them. Their love and support makes it possible for me to do what I love, and it’s my job to respect that by putting myself out there and making this business as successful as I can.
AM: What inspires you in work and in life?
DR: Interesting typography, artwork, flowers, packaging, buildings, and other things I see in my everyday life.
There’s so much to look at in NYC, and every neighborhood has its own distinct style. Sometimes I use these photos as references for pieces.
I also get inspired by other people. It’s so important to keep learning and growing.
AM: What's your proudest accomplishment of the past year?
DR: I taught a family workshop at the Guggenheim Museum last year and it was incredible. As a self-taught artist, it felt good to be recognized by such an important institution.
I teach mostly adults and it was cool to lead a workshop for kids — they picked up on the concepts so quickly and were very creative! I’ve been working with more families lately in my workshops and private lessons, and I love helping kids and parents learn a new skill together.
AM: What are your business goals for 2019?
DR: My two main goals are to work with more companies and participate in more pop-ups.
For corporate, I’m focusing on booking team-building workshops and personalization events, and working with companies on custom handwritten branding, swag, social media, and licensing.
AM: What are you celebrating in life, today?
DR: I taught a series of workshops at the National Stationery Show and I was able to connect with several great brands who agreed to sponsor my workshops.
AM: What's something we wouldn't know about you by looking at your social media profiles?
DR: I grew up singing and it will always be my first love. My dream was to be on Broadway, and I even went to musical theatre high school for a year. I sing every day, usually a song from The Last Five Years by Jason Robert Brown. It’s a core part of who I am, but I don’t talk about it a lot because social media is such a visual medium.
I sang a song from that show at a retreat I taught at over the summer and it was the first time I sang in front of an audience in four years (and probably over a decade since I performed a solo). Hearing my voice soar over the crowd was the most freeing feeling!
AM: Anything else you'd like to share?
DR: I’m currently scheduling private lessons and corporate events, and I’d love to put together something special for you and your guests.
I also have an online class on Skillshare that you can check out here. If you don’t have a Skillshare membership, you can use this link for two months’ free access to all of their thousands of classes.
Don’t be afraid to get in touch with your creative side. You can find Danielle’s website here, follow her on Instagram @rothbyrnscreative, give her a “like” on Facebook here, shop her products on Etsy here, and sign up for Danielle’s monthly newsletter here.
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