When most people think of calligraphy, they think of wedding invitations, marriage certificates, and the declaration of independence. And to an extend, those assumptions are very correct. Calligraphy has deep roots in certificate artwork and original wedding paraphernalia.
But the outlets for using calligraphy have always extended past the wedding industry. In fact, our world extends far past that, into the commercial world. This has huge implications on what it means to be a calligrapher and what a calligrapher's income and day-to-day will look like.
Throughout history, there has always been a place for calligraphy within the commercial world. These days, calligraphy can be categorized alongside commercial illustrations, and likewise, priced very similarly.
So what does that mean for you? Well, for starters, if you're a calligrapher, it means that you have a variety of job sources outside of wedding calligraphy. The cool thing about being a calligrapher is that you're not limited to one industry or another. Based on your work-flow and talents, you might find that you like one side of the industry better. You might find that you work well in both commercial and wedding, opening up a variety of job opportunities and clients. Let's take a look at the differences between the two...
Wedding calligraphy is any and all hand made calligraphy for wedding purposes. For the sake of keeping things simple, I'm going to lump any sort of event calligraphy into this group. Wedding calligraphy usually consists of (but isn't limited to) hand addressed envelopes, place cards, wedding invitation calligraphy (note, just the calligraphy, not the over all-graphic design), and marriage certificates. There are many other calligraphic elements that are used at a celebration but, for the most part, all calligraphy is used for one event and a good chunk of the calligraphy is one-off. In the wedding industry, calligraphers will often work directly with the bride or groom or they will work with a wedding planner or stationer. As a wedding calligrapher, the artist's income is often based on the amount of calligraphy that he or she will produce for that specific wedding.
Commercial calligraphy is used for the intent of selling products at large scale. Commercial calligraphy consists of (but isn't limited to) calligraphy for editorial purposes (magazines, books, etc.), ad campaigns, or products intended to be sold in mass quantities. In this commercial industry, the calligrapher will almost always be working collaboratively with a select group of highly trained individuals (usually based out of an advertising agency) appointed to bring a client's project into being. As a commercial calligrapher, the artist's income is based on a variety of things like the complexity of the calligraphy that is being created, the usage that the client needs for the artwork, and the type of company that will be using the artwork. As a commercial calligrapher, you'll often have the ability to accept payment in the form of royalties, depending on the project.
I have extensive experience as a wedding calligrapher but I recently switched over to strictly commercial calligraphy (and lettering) about two years ago. Why? I found that I work best in collaboration with highly trained professionals when it comes to bringing an idea into being. It's not that I don't enjoy working on wedding related projects (I do!) but I've found that my personality and talents work better within the commercial industry.
So what type of calligraphy do you align yourself with and why? Maybe you dabble in both wedding and commercial art. Perhaps you didn't know about commercial calligraphy until now. I'd love to hear about your experience and preferences in the comments below.