MOLLY SUBER THORPE INTERVIEW

Molly Suber Thorpe Interview Besotted BlogI always feel so fortunate when I ask a lettering artist/calligrapher to participate in these interviews and they actually agree to them. Everyone I have interviewed is the creme de la creme of lettering and are busy with multiple projects at once and to even get an email back seems like impossibly good fortune. I was able to get the very busy Molly Suber Thorpe to stop for a few moments and answer some of the pressing questions many of you may have on your beginning or continued journey into lettering.

If you enjoy this interview and it has been of assistance to you please do leave a comment and let Molly know! These interviews are not easy to secure and it sure does help to get more of them for the future when you show your support + appreciation in the comments.  Without further ado…

//MOLLY SUBER THORPE INTERVIEW//

Where are you located?

Los Angeles, California

How did you get started in lettering?

When I was in design school I took a Gothic calligraphy course as an art elective. It was love at first letter! Calligraphy perfectly combines my passions for typography and handmade crafts, and as someone who meticulously practiced her handwriting since I could first hold a pencil, I was hooked right away. From there, I experimented with script calligraphy styles, and after awhile I developed the styles I’m known for today.

What are some of your favorite supplies (inks, brushes, nibs, paper)?

I do all of my calligraphy using traditional steel nibs inserted in straight pen holders. My all-time favorite nib is the Brause EF66, a very fine point nib which is flexible enough to create a sizeable contrast between the up and down strokes. When it comes to inks, I’m a big fan of Old World Iron Gall— a rich, black ink — and Dr. Martin’s Pen White ink. When I mix custom colors, I normally use gouache, and occasionally even watercolor. My favorite paper is white Bristol in plate finish because it’s heavy and perfectly smooth.

Can you name some of your inspirations?

I have a serious weakness for vintage lettering, from turn-of-the-century French packaging (e.g. soaps, cigarettes, shaving cream) to kitschy, mid-century American signage (think diners and old car garages). I’ve actually been known to turn my car around for another look at especially appealing signs! In addition to visual sources, I also seek inspiration from my favorite books, some of which are The Waves by Virginia Woolf, A Death in The Family by James Agee, and Magenta Soul Whip by poet Lisa Robertson.

Can you go a little into your process of how you work on a digitized calligraphy project? 

A large part of my job involves doing calligraphy that will ultimately be digitized, such as designing tattoos, rubber stamps, letterpress plates, and logos. If the design is especially intricate or large, I sometimes start with a few pencil sketches, which I often refine a few times before settling on a layout. When it comes times for the calligraphy itself, I always work with black ink on crisp white paper. Then I scan the finished design, clean it up in Photoshop, and, when necessary, vectored it in Illustrator.

Any tips for newbies on how to develop their own style? 

As a beginner calligrapher, you should experiment with as wide a range of styles as possible. Challenge yourself to try letterforms outside your comfort zone, and do exercises like seeing how many different ways you can write the same letter or word (like your own name). Once you get better at an array of letterforms, I find that a unique style usually evolves naturally, just from natural selection of the letters you like best.

Any advice on what ‘not’ to do? 

Don’t get so frustrated and discouraged that you lose your motivation to practice! The basic principles of calligraphy are relatively simple to learn but much harder to master. Once you get past the technical hump of learning how to hold your pen and make marks without splatters or pen snags, all the rest is just practice, patience, and, well, more practice. I know full well how easy it is to feel discouraged when looking at the portfolios of more accomplished artists (it still happens to me!) but try to remember that you are looking at the result of years of practice and can’t see all the mistakes that still make it into their recycling bins….

Name one random talent you have that people may not know.

Since I was in third grade I have been an avid baker. I love making everything from fancy cakes to fruit tarts to bread. If I do say so myself, I’ve gotten pretty good at it over the years!

 Thank you Molly!  If you want to explore more of Molly’s work you can visit her here and be sure to add her new book Modern Calligraphy to your collection.

P.S. How amazing is that script for the shoe above? I would have assumed it was vintage, Molly did an amazing job!

Author / Miss Tristan B

Miss Tristan B. is the proprietress of Besotted Brand and the writer of this delightful blog. She recently re-located to sunny Seattle with her handsome husband and two pups, they are expecting a baby girl in December. Her lofty goal here is to make this a creative resource repository and to inspire you to fall truly, madly, deeply in love with your life.

16 thoughts on “MOLLY SUBER THORPE INTERVIEW

    1. I agree Karolina, Molly is a star and I LOVE getting the behind the scenes too! I know from experience inks and nibs react differently with each person, but it’s SO nice to have even a beginning direction to go to since it’s all so new!

  1. What a wonderful person to snag an interview with! Calligraphy is one of those talents I dream of having, and Molly’s words are quite inspiring.
    Thank you for sharing!

    1. Danielle no more need to dream, pick up her book and start practicing! If I can have even a modicum of success ANYONE can.

  2. I love that she mentioned doing tattoos! If you’re reading this Molly, how many have you done? I would love to hear the stories behind that. It’s not what you would expect when you hear “calligrapher”. And I dig the unexpected!

    1. Hi Mel! Designing tattoos is a huge honor for me. It’s such an immense compliment to have someone tell you they want your work on their body for the rest of their lives. Since tattoos are so personal, though, clients are sometimes (understandably!) hesitant for me to publicize photos of them. Nonetheless, I do have a number of tat photos (and the stories behind them) that I’m permitted to share, and I plan to add them to my site and blog soon. Stay tuned!

      Best,
      Molly

  3. these types of interviews, ESPECIALLY with people as extremely talented as Molly, are price.less!! for someone so talented and in demand to take the time to answer questions on supplies and process really goes a long way for the art of calligraphy – to make sure the skill does not become extinct. it makes us newbies feel like the skill is attainable and worth the effort when you’ve got pros like Molly who are willing to reach out and be a resource by sharing their knowledge and secrets to help us along! thanks, Molly!! and thanks, Tristan for being the vessel by which we can obtain this invaluable info!!

  4. I’m fortunate in that I work for a book distribution company specializing in art & craft titles so I receive advance sample copies of new books. I fell in love with Molly’s book a few weeks ago. Molly’s book reimported me to follow my love of calligraphy. I have since invested in pen nibs, ink and paper (which I’ve always swooned over!) and I’m practicing everyday. I also draw and paint so I am inspired to incorporate all of these skills to create stationary products and wedding invitations. Thank you Molly for sharing your craft and for the inspiration! Your work is AMAZING! xoxox

  5. What a fun interview! I really enjoy Molly’s original, whimsical style and the way her letters dance across the page. Thanks, Miss Tristan!

    Molly, your love of vintage lettering and your francophilia really resonate with me, too! ;) Thanks for giving this interview, and thanks for all the good juicy content on your site. I’ve been admiring it for quite a while. <3

  6. Thank you for putting together this interview, Tristan. I can’t really say anything about her work beyond what’s been said already. I admire it immensely and will be following her business and art avidly.

  7. thank you so much for every interview and insight into these wonderful, inspiring artists. it’s like finding a rare friend who shares a deep affection for type, etc-and there’s not too many of us. oh, and the technical q n a’s are very helpful whether you are new to the study or not!

    best,
    gina

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