Today's feature needs no introduction as I have had the pleasure of sharing Mikyla's artful pieces from her company Ink & Press Co. from the very beginning when we first launched.  My favorite thing about her suites is how easy they are to style, with just the right amount of contrast flowing through each element. So I am thrilled to share a peek into her background & process.

Tell us about your background and how you got into calligraphy.

Over the years my life has encompassed many forms of artistry. I trained as a classical ballerina for over 18 years and studied art history, photography, and painting while at university. My dream was to work in Arts Administration supporting local galleries or with a classical ballet company. Upon graduating, I worked at the nationally acclaimed ballet company, Ballet West. I absolutely loved my time there but after two years, I found myself yearning for more creativity on the individual level. At this time, my now-husband proposed to me and I dove headfirst into planning our wedding. I fell in love with the wedding industry and its unique fusion of business analytical skills and pure creativity. Although I loved all aspects of wedding planning, I found my creative niche with stationery and invitations. Working with a local print shop, I was able to letterpress my own invitation suite and became enamored with the letterpress process. Once my own invitation suites were mailed out, I felt such a sense of loss now that the stationary process was "over." This feeling was a driving force for me to start Ink & Press Co. even while I was still engaged. Admittedly everyone thought I was crazy starting a business during the most hectic time of life, but looking back, jumping in with both feet was the best thing I could have done. 

Unlike most stationers in the industry who start out as calligraphers, I started out as a stationer first adding in calligraphy second. Adding in calligraphy was a very natural progression for my business and for myself as an artist. After my wedding, I signed up for a calligraphy class with my local university. It was the perfect push to help me learn the principles and foundation of Copperplate calligraphy, one of the most traditional calligraphy scripts. Learning the rules of Copperplate better equipped me to develop my own calligraphy style. After much practice, I have been able to create my own unique style rooted in traditional practices and infused with my personal taste creating a refined, modern script. 

Your suites are always so well balanced. Can you share your process for pulling back and thinking about the suite as a whole? 

When I design, I actually design with the invitation suite as a whole in mind. I know how frustrating styling a flat lay can be so I try to make my suites very easy and natural to style. In my Adobe Illustrator file, I set up my artboards as if I was laying out a flat lay design. I move my artboards around so the invitation card artboard is next to the digital envelope, the RSVP card artboard is a bit lower near the bottom right of the invitation artboard, etc. Laying my digital artboards out like a physical flat lay shows me right away what does and does not work with an invitation suite. Seeing all the pieces together like this from the beginning helps me know how the pieces play off one another, if the suite is balanced, and what edits I need to make to the suite. For example, when I lay out the pieces I can see if I need to alter the RSVP card from a vertical design to horizontal. Or, if the floral motif on the invitation card needs to be added to the details card to create a sense of cohesion.

I continue this same workflow even as I am printing and producing the invitation suite. As I am creating the individual pieces, I actually pull out a styling board to work with as I go. I lay out all the paper, envelopes, stamps, etc. so that I can check the overall color aesthetic. From there, I'll press, print, calligraph, and create the invitation suite. Once everything is complete I'll make sure I can confidently style my pieces in a variety of flat lay designs. This added step helps me work through potential kinks that might have slipped through the cracks. Sometimes, a wax seal or a few name cards are the final touches needed to fill that gap in a flat lay and make a suite feel balanced and complete. As an artist, I am such a visual person. I have found that, even though this process is more time-consuming, when I work with a flat lay and the suite as a whole in mind, I am leaning into my strength as a visual individual. This process helps me to create an invitation suite that flows, is balanced, and easy for photographers and stylists to work with. 

Where do you find inspiration for new ideas?

I draw a lot of inspiration from my travels abroad, art, and my training as a classical ballerina. I have had the opportunity to travel to over 40 different countries and keep a travel journal wherever I go. I am transported back when I read my entries about the emotions I felt as I was the last admitted into Galleria Dell'accademia in Florence, Italy to see Michelangelo's David. Or, the moment I rushed through the metro with my closest friends to catch the Eiffel Tower sparkle one last time before leaving Paris. Or being hit by a blanket of heat when I arrived in Agra, India to see the Taj Mahal. The culture, architecture, and people in each destination tell stories of history and love that set my artist heart on fire. Traveling has opened my eyes and heart to new ideas and ways of thinking. 

I also draw a lot of inspiration from art, specifically sculptures and paintings. Time and time again I find myself pulling color palettes and themes from my favorite works of art. Sometimes, I will even include the painting itself as an art piece in the suite or the envelope liner. Along with travel and art, I have found that my training as a classical ballerina has shaped the artist I am today. Ballet has embedded in me the beauty of strength with delicacy. In the context of an invitation suite, the beauty of a strong typeface paired with sweeping calligraphy - a beautiful juxtaposition that is ingrained in my work.

How do you differentiate yourself (in a crowded market)?

I think the number one thing a stationer can do to differentiate themselves is working to create their own calligraphy script. My unique script is largely what sets my designs apart from other stationers and vice versa. Just like with photography, you have photographers who are classified as more modern photographers. They excel at capturing clean details and angles. You also have photographers who are more romantic and excel at capturing really intimate images with the couple. The same is true with different calligraphy scripts. A script that has cleaner lines and even spacing is going to be more modern than a looser script with flourishes. The way a calligrapher's script moves and flows can truly transform the overall aesthetic of an invitation suite. I have worked ready hard to develop a script rooted in traditional calligraphy practices that still has my individual touch. My signature script style is a blend of my own handwriting and Copperplate calligraphy practices. 

What advice would you give a calligrapher just starting out?

There will be times when you feel you are less than, not artistic enough, or a fraud. Never let these feelings keep you from progressing and growing as an artist. It takes time and through the process, you have to be kind to yourself and give yourself grace. One thing I have realized is, no matter how much we believe we aren't, we are all creative. For so long I believed creativity was something you either had or you didn't. You were either the "artistic" friend in the group, or you weren't. This is the biggest lie we as a society can believe! As a Christian, I believe God created each one of us. He is the ultimate creator and artist. Creativity is innate in each of us because we were created by and modeled after the ultimate Creator. Creativity is a muscle each of us have. The more we work and exercise that muscle the stronger it becomes. As you work your creativity, you will become more creative. So, keep your head down, work hard, create lots and lots of good art, create even more bad art and learn from it, stay true to your likes and dislikes as these are the things that set you apart, give yourself space and time to grow, let go of perfectionism, and find beauty in the process. 

Find more about Mikyla's work on her website at Ink & Press Co. or through social media @inkandpressco.

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