Lydia Robins Hendrix
We have spent the last few months deeply immersed in lettering, even more so than usual. We currently are experiencing what I can only describe as a lettering high, our class made it to the #2 spot in trending classes on Skillshare and we are not ready to let go of our current euphoria. Many lettering artists have written to us that our site had an impact on them, that they were able to find resources, insight and inspiration for their own lettering journey, those types of notes warm our hearts to no end. To celebrate we are doing a week of lettering artists, we wanted to showcase some up and coming talent with hopes that their stories will inspire you in your own lettering or inspire you to put nib and ink to paper.
Our first lettering artist is Lydia Robins Hendrix. I believe I first spotted her work on Instagram, I was immediately hooked. It’s so hard to develop a distinct hand and I feel that Lydia has done just that seamlessly. It is casual, yet elegant, feminine but not girly–just lovely. We thoroughly enjoyed getting to know her a little better, we hope you do to!
Where are you located?
Columbia, South Carolina, USA
How did you get started in lettering?
It’s all my parents’ fault, really. My dad picked up lettering in architecture school and had various pens and even some books around his study while I was growing up. I was really curious and played around with it as a kid. This was mostly broad-edged calligraphy, not pointed pen, but when I was getting married I was certain I could just pick up where I left off. Cue roaring laughter. It took me forever to find my way to a pointed pen (even just four years ago in 2011, you could not find information the way you can now!) – it was trial and error messing with the tools in my mom’s art supplies (she died when I was 5 months old – that’s not to elicit sympathy, I just would have asked her if I could have!) to come across a pointed pen and finally make the connection between the tool I needed to use and the style I wanted to achieve. It then was a matter of getting a book from the library and studying the contemporary styles of people whose work I really admired, trying to find my own way to sort of blend the two. I pulled out a lot of my hair that year.
What are some of your favorite supplies?
My bread and butter are a Zebra G, a regular ‘ol Speedball oblique pen holder, Sumi ink, and Canson marker paper. I do a lot of lettering for scanned purposes, so that is what I’ve found to be my favorite combination for that end. I also still love a Brause Steno nib – it’s what I used when I really started figuring out what I was doing, and it seems to play nicer with thicker inks like gouache and metallic, as well as also having a smoother, broader edge that doesn’t catch as badly on cotton papers with those little fibers who like to jump out and ruin your day.
Can you name some of your inspirations?
As far as other calligraphers, Elizabeth Porcher Jones, Paperfinger (Bryn Chernoff), and Fat Orange Cat Studio (Li Ward) are whose work I obsessed over when I was getting started and still drool over to this day. I actually do now try to keep my head in the sand, if you will; I appreciate the work of so many people, but I have found it’s so much easier to avoid the temptation to compare and belittle my own work if I just stop looking at everyone else’s.
In general, as an artist? This may sound strange, but I am really inspired by the culinary world. If I’m not in the studio, I’m thinking about food, I’m reading about food, I’m watching food documentaries or food shows. Okay, and being smothered by my dog (though he will crawl all 65 pounds into my lap in the studio, as well). I have been thinking a lot lately about how chefs work in cycles – they very frequently will work very intensely on a project and then take time away to learn or get inspired by something new. That’s something that I think is likely extremely important to develop oneself and grow as an artist, but it seems really scary. Knowing that there’s another profession where it is occasionally necessary to walk away from everything that you’ve set up that is starting to feel stable, that is really comforting to me. In particular, I’m crazy about Francis Mallmann, an Argentine chef who is about as free-spirited as it gets, as well as the insight of Dan Barber. Dan Barber lost his mother, as well, and he very frankly admits that his work is in all likelihood some sort of attempt to heal that wound. That resonates with me intensely. I think there are likely many parallels between people who are drawn to the culinary world and people who are in the fine arts. Needless to say, I highly recommend the Netflix series “Chef’s Table”…
Can you go a little into your process of how you work on a project?
My process is pretty no-frills – I am committed to being as easy to work with as possible, so my goal is to produce excellent work efficiently. I try to get as much information as I can up front (and I’ve gotten better at figuring out what information I need over the years), and just run with it. Especially being in the wedding industry where there is so much stress, I try to leave as few open ends as possible so there’s less anxiety for all parties involved!
Any tips for newbies on how to develop their own style?
I think learning fundamentals (i.e. traditional lettering) alongside gathering inspiration from people you admire and really pulling from a broad range of others is a good way to really find your own style. If you have a solid foundation in traditional lettering, you’re going to find it easier to play around with those structures rather than just copy someone else’s style.
Any recommendations of books or classes for lettering enthusiasts to further their studies?
Oh gosh, the book that I used when I started is probably not the best out there, but I know that John Neal Books has some incredible resources. I have taught modern calligraphy workshops, but I really do strongly suggest pressing into Copperplate either before or simultaneously to working on more modern styles. JNB has some great books and tools for that!
Do you have some favorite projects you would like me to mention?
Eeks! I recently finished up some invitations that I lettered and then screen-printed myself on Silk and Willow’s handmade cotton paper – it’s a suite I’m really, really proud of, but the wedding isn’t until June 24th, so it will be a while before any decent images of it emerge!
Any advice on what ‘not’ to do?
Nope! In fact, I am really not a rules girl. I strongly believe that if it works for you, it doesn’t matter if it’s the “right” way to do something. I am to this day not sure if other people do things the same way I do them, and I’m okay with that!
Name one random talent you have that people may not know?
I’m fluent in Spanish? My bachelor’s degree is actually in Spanish, so I get really excited if I get to use it even just a little bit. Ironically, my husband is a German teacher, and I have found I’ve been addressing things to Germany and Austria a lot lately. Go figure!