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Meet Afshawn Chakamian

Today we’d like to introduce you to Afshawn Chakamian.

Hi Afshawn, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
Growing up, I enjoyed arts and crafts (my mom is an artist herself) but also always enjoyed making my own fake businesses. After college, I tried a lot of different hobbies to nurture that creative side, but nothing really stuck. I got an introduction to calligraphy kit and really enjoyed it but didn’t spend a ton of time on it. In 2016, I had to take three months off from work for medical reasons, so it was during that time I really got into calligraphy and practiced it regularly. I loved being able to create with my hands and especially loved being able to create a physical product in this increasingly digital world.

In 2018, I created a separate Instagram to post my calligraphy work and track my progress without bugging my friends and family and slowly, things grew from there. I took some online calligraphy courses to refine my technique but mostly developed my talent through regular practice and trial and error. Plus, being a lefty, calligraphy brings on different challenges so I don’t smear my work!

I’ve always found beauty in quotes (I was the kid that scribbled song lyrics all over my school notebooks), and writing them in calligraphy seemed to resonate with people. I also enjoyed addressing envelopes and creating place cards or signs for parties as that was the perfect union of function and art. My friends and family loved everything I was doing so, in November 2019, I took the plunge and created an Etsy shop and then took two days off from my day job in clinical research to create my website. My Etsy focused on quote art and my website focused on wedding and event calligraphy. I honestly had no idea what I was doing with either of those but did as much internet research as I could and hoped my passion and enthusiasm would help with the rest!

Then the pandemic hit and 2020 derailed my plans with AC Letters Calligraphy! I wasn’t able to do much work for weddings or events, so I focused on making samples of place cards, envelopes, signs, further refining my calligraphy skills, and working on my marketing, Etsy listings, and website SEO. I think with the pandemic, people wanted to make the small moments special, so I was still able to do envelope addressing for things like Mother’s Day cards or four-person Christmas dinners. Thankfully people still wanted art for their homes, so I was able to spend 2020 focusing on selling quote art as well.

Now in 2021, weddings are booming again, and it’s really exciting to be working with couples to bring flair to their wedding day with calligraphy. As I say on my website, I’m more than just a calligrapher – I’m a biographer. And I love being able to tell people’s stories with calligraphy.

We all face challenges, but looking back, would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
The pandemic hit as soon as I was truly launching my business. This caused me to pivot and focus more on quote art as opposed to being able to do calligraphy for events. This was disheartening at times, but I also knew it would be temporary, and I used that time to better my skills and my business.

We sometimes forget that there is more to owning a small business than the product you sell. Learning how to properly and effectively use Etsy, build a successful website, post interesting content onto social media, take great photos of your work, etc., is a lot of hard work and makes it quickly apparent why companies hire other people! I feel lucky that my mom is also an artist, so I can talk through these challenges with her, and I have found a great online community of fellow calligraphers where we support each other as well.

However, the biggest struggle has been the fact I have a day job and trying to balance that alongside AC Letters Calligraphy, plus all the other responsibilities of life! I’m a Project Director in clinical research, meaning I help pharmaceutical and biotech companies run their clinical drug trials. It’s stressful but rewarding work, but it also means I work about 7 am – 4 pm every day, spending a lot of time on the phone and all day on the computer. Plus I think we all felt the effects of being home all the time during the pandemic. It was mentally tough to spend all day at my desk working, then switching gears and sit at that same desk to try and work on calligraphy projects or client admin work for a few hours in the evening.

I’m driven by nature, but I also do like my rest, so trying to balance a day job and AC Letters Calligraphy while still finding time to exercise, cook, do chores, and spend time with my boyfriend is tough!

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I specialize in calligraphy for custom calligraphy for weddings, events, and the everyday. This means quote art (song lyrics, wedding vows, etc.) but also calligraphy address envelopes, place cards, welcome signs, menus, seating charts, gift tags, small table signs, and more.

Calligraphy is typically done on paper, but when you get into the event space, you can see calligraphy on a wide variety of materials. I enjoy getting creative with materials such as acrylic, wood, mirrors, and even things like canvas and growlers. I also love working with embellishments like wax seals – a truly old-school touch that everyone loves!

It may be old-fashioned, but I believe in the power of handmade. It’s something physical in this digital world and helps us connect to a person or event. Putting ink on paper transforms a joke between friends into the perfect birthday gift. Calligraphy addressed envelopes, surprises and delights loved ones by receiving a piece of art in the mail. Calligraphy signs and day-of details like place cards show of your unique style while also providing key information for your event.

One of the most important parts of my tagline – custom calligraphy for events and the everyday – is “the everyday.” While calligraphy details are perfect for weddings – and I love working with couples to bring their wedding vision to life – I also love bringing the beauty of calligraphy into everyday moments and smaller events.

I’ve made place cards for clients’ holiday dinners such as Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. I made a set of place cards for an entire family – parents, children, grandchildren – so they can use them whenever they get together, no matter the reason. I just addressed envelopes for graduation announcements and have addressed envelopes for Mother’s Day cards, Just Because Cards, and Anniversary cards.

The best part is when every single person comments on how special that little sprinkle of calligraphy was. That little jolt of joy their guests felt upon seeing this unexpected detail. Because that’s what makes life great, right? Finding joy in the little moments, finding ways to make our loved ones feel loved, and finding reasons to make everyday special. I truly believe in the power of calligraphy to do all that.

All of this is precisely why I don’t have order minimums. Maybe that’s not the best from a business sense, but it aligns with my belief that everyone can enjoy calligraphy. Whether it’s just one calligraphy addressed envelope for a birthday card or six place cards for a baby shower, I love creating calligraphy for everyone.

So, before we go, how can our readers or others connect or collaborate with you? How can they support you?
I encourage anyone who may be interested in calligraphy to inquire with me, as part of my job is to help them figure out how to bring ideas to reality. Even if you don’t know exactly what you want, we can work together to determine what calligraphy is right for you. The beauty is in the details (paper color, ink color, wax seals, vintage stamps) and I enjoy collaborating on those ideas with my clients.

Also – if you have an idea but don’t see examples of it on my website or Instagram, I still encourage people to inquire! I recently did the lettering on a yoga mat for Zildome, a company promoting their new plastic-free yoga mats and created both the food and coffee menu for Bound Coffee Co in Oceanside. I love working with other small businesses, especially local ones! Lastly, one of the best forms of support these days is word-of-mouth and a follow/sharing on Instagram!

Pricing:

  • Envelope Addressing – starts at $3 per envelope
  • Place Cards – start at $1.50 per card
  • Signage – starts at $10 per sign (price varies based on size and material)
  • Quote Art – starts at $30
  • Wedding Vows – $0.60 per word

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Personal photo – Photo credit Ash Chakamian Photo of me writing calligraphy – Photo credit Ash Chakamian Table Number sign – Photo credit Easton Studios Teal places cards on plates – Photo credit Easton Studios

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