February 24, 2020
Avi is a calligrapher, stationer, muralist and graphic designer in Ottawa, Ontario and the face, hands and boss lady behind Avi Scribbles Art Co – if there’s words or letters involved, Avi does it. She is a “20 On The Rise” winner in the Designer category, which is awarded to individuals who are making waves and raising the tide, rocking their respective industries through hard work and creativity hosted by HoneyBook. Avi is the mom to one fur child and 71 plants, and has a background working in design and engineering. Combining form and function is her specialty and hands-on, creative projects really gets her gears turning. With a desire to keep learning new things, there’s no problem too big to solve.
I accidentally started a business. I have a background in product design, and I went to school at Carleton for industrial design. I was working at a design consultancy as a user interface and user experience designer, and I would randomly watch calligraphy videos or videos of people pouring wax seals and stuff.. you know, those super satisfying videos on Instagram that you you end up watching and wondering how you even got there. I’ve always been a very crafty person and I was like, “I could do those things”. And so I tried it and I just fell in love with it and I would practice for hours and hours every day (like three to four hours a day, sometimes). It was kind of my therapy after work.
I had a friend who asked me over Christmas to make him a deck of Christmas cards, and I was like, “People want to pay me for this?” Then I guess he referred me to a friend who asked me to do their wedding, and then someone else asked me to their wedding, and it just kind of snowballed until I quit my job for totally unrelated reasons with full intentions of finding another job. I was applying for jobs all the while throwing myself into my calligraphy business. And then I guess I just kind of realized one day that I stopped applying. I had just stopped applying and interviewing for jobs and was like, “You know what? This is my subconscious telling me this is what I’m supposed to be doing for my life right now.”
I love big signage.. the bigger, the better. I’ve done some murals around Ottawa and the yoga studio murals have always been my favourite, just because I am very, very big into yoga. I’ve been doing it for years and years and so it just really kind of feels fitting for me that I get to do murals or big signage in places that I find so much joy in.
I also like when my clients let me go nuts. That’s when I truly get to be creative. That’s where my mind gets to kind of run free.
Oh my God, I knew nothing about business when I first started this. I knew literally nothing.
I’m a self taught person, so I taught myself everything I know now about business. It’s also been things like networking and community that have really helped me. But honestly, I don’t even see myself as a calligrapher first. I would say I’m more of a designer first. Graphic design was my first true love. But I do also love calligraphy and typography and just lettering in general.
Oh, that’s a really tough question. I don’t think I have a specific style per se. I find I bounce around a lot between a lot of things just because typography has always been the main thing for me. I like the structured look of lettering, but I like the bouncy, whimsy look of calligraphy, so they don’t go together at all. But I love them both equally. I definitely like to mix and match styles, which I don’t see a lot of. It’s either very formal or very feminine, or whatnot. But I guess my style would be kind of be a mishmash of two very different things coming together — which is essentially a metaphor for my life.
Within the weddings realm I do pretty much anything that has letters on it. I’ve just recently added invitation design to my services. I’m also going to start doing semi-custom invitations, which is really fun because it kind of gives you that designer feel without having a designer price point. I also do day of signage, seating charts, place cards, table numbers, that kind of thing.
For corporate work, I do a lot of logo and graphic design and branding, I take on very select few clients for website design. I also do murals and signage. I’ve done some menu boards for restaurants like Riviera and Pure Kitchen. It’s been a fun ride.
Yes! I won the “20 On The Rise Award” in the designer category, which is presented by HoneyBook and the Rising Tide Society, which is huge, because there’s only a hundred people who win it in the world. The award is presented to freelancers in the community who are pioneers in the community and who are evoking a form of empowerment, purpose and passion. I woke up in the morning and saw that email, and I was like, “Is it April Fools”? At first I thought it was spam.
First and foremost, proofread. I don’t know how you or your aunt spells her name. I don’t know how your friend spells their name. Please write it properly before you give it to me to write it. I’m writing it like I see it. Auto correct is a saving grace but is also a downfall.
Second, calligraphy takes a long time. It takes me about a week or two weeks to complete your project, but 80% of the work is actually before that even happens: it’s communicating with clients, figuring out what style you want your piece to be, what colour you want your piece to be, what details or illustrations will be on it, etc.
I am the face of Avi Scribbles. I have no employees. I don’t hire out anything for any project right now. So I do everything. I am only one woman who can only do so much. I don’t want you to feel like I’m rushing through your project, so I only take on a limited number of projects per month. So that being said, book early, even though it doesn’t take me that long to actually physically do your project. So yeah, book four to five, maybe six months in advance if you can.
I know that I’m not the top priority. People usually book things like venues, photographers, and videographers first, and calligraphy and signage and day of items tend to fall by the wayside and are an afterthought. It’s interesting though because I find that with calligraphy becoming so trendy, it’s almost becoming part of decor. So I’m hoping that eventually it’s gonna kind fall under the decor umbrella so that it kind of becomes more of something that you think of in advance.
Most of the brides I’ve worked with were either planning their wedding themselves or only had a day of coordinator rather than a full service planner. I have worked a little bit with the decorators, but more so that we kind of just discuss colours, overall vision, etc. They’ll share their mood boards they’ve created for their clients just so that we can kind of collaborate on something that will be cohesive.
I’d say it’s pretty 50-50. I’ve had the couples who know exactly what they want, and I’ve also had clients that are like, “I love what you do. This is my colour scheme. Have fun.” I like both, but yeah, they’re interesting in their own way. The only thing about the first type of client is that I really don’t enjoy being asked to copy something. It’s a very big “no no” in the design community. So if you bring me a photo from Pinterest, I’m going to use that as inspiration, but I’m not going to straight up copy that. Or alternatively, show me photos of things you don’t like because then I know right off the bat by process of elimination the things I can just take out right away.
It’s a luxury service. And I totally understand that it’s not a must have, it’s more of a nice to have. So with a luxury service comes luxury pricing, but also has the added benefit of taking the planning off your shoulders. You’ll have a really great professional that is going to do all the work. So just plan that into the budget, especially with a couples coming to me so last-minute that they’ve kind of already allotted their budgets to everything else. By coming to me earlier, it allows you to then allot your budget with all of your vendors accordingly rather than getting pigeonholed at the very end because we’re so far into the process and so close to your wedding date.
I love deconstructed seating charts right now. I’ve done one and I really want to do more. I have this idea for a couple that loves to read: it’s going to be a bunch of books with gold foil table numbers or a seating chart. But yeah, I want to do more deconstructed seating charts.
I also want to do stuff on really unique surfaces. I’ve done acrylic and wood so often and I think they really compliment a lot of designs, but I think with hiring someone to do custom work for you, I think a lot of people get trapped in the idea of thinking that what they see on Pinterest is pretty much what’s possible. But there’s so much more that can be done! And the reason that you’re coming to a professional is that we have so many ideas of things we want to do. I love pitching my ideas and hoping they catch.. sometimes they don’t. You’re paying custom, so you might as well do something that no one else has.
Start super, super early. There’s a lot of materials that don’t work well with other materials. Some of them have really inherent properties that you might not know about. So start early, get well versed with the materials you’re using. There’s a website called “This to That”, and it’s amazing. If you’re trying to glue things together and you don’t know what glue to use, you type in the two material you’re looking to glue together and it’ll tell you exactly which glue you should be using.
Also, test permanence. At a wedding specifically, you’re probably going to have your drunk friend who accidentally spills her cocktail, so you want to make sure that your pieces are waterproof.
If you don’t have a steady hand, use stencils. Use rulers. I use rulers all the time. I say I do free hand, which I do, but there are some instances like logo work where I need to copy things exactly as they are, and no one’s gonna knock you for using a ruler. Use pencil first and yeah, test everything out first because the worst is when you have two days before it’s due and all of a sudden your paint pen just exploded everywhere and now you have to scrap the whole thing and start again. You don’t want that stress, like, two days before your wedding.
Be creative. I think that especially when you’re hiring someone who does custom work, especially for weddings, this is a day about you and it’s meant to showcase your love story and your style. It’s your day. You can do whatever you want. I know it’s also for your parents, but it’s also for you. So add something weird that’s super unique, and maybe other people might not notice it, but you will.