The Kalaakriti series aims to highlight the stories of different artists with South Asian backgrounds. In today’s installation, check out Reema's story about her work as a Digital Artist!
Reema's 25 years old and she lives in the SF Bay Area where she runs a handlettering and calligraphy business, offering event signage and custom handmade artwork. She manages this business in addition to her full-time job as a Sales Operations Analyst at Rubrik.
Social Media: Instagram: reedesignx
How were you introduced to your work?
At the beginning of the stay-at-home orders, I hadn't started my current full-time job yet and so I had a lot of time on my hands. I started watching Youtube videos of handlettering and calligraphy because I found it really satisfying. Then out of boredom I started teaching myself with pens I had lying around the house. I got hooked pretty fast so I started buying more pens and calligraphy tools online and after days and days of consistent practice I found myself falling in love with the craft!
At what point in your life did you feel that following this passion was what you wanted to do?
At first, handlettering was a hobby that I did on my couch while watching TV. It was so fun for me to practice and try new techniques and after some time I felt really confident in my ability - or at least confident that my passion for this would continue to motivate me to keep learning. That's when I started noticing other creatives discovering or building upon various hobbies and art forms and sharing it online and I was so inspired by them. Seeing people expressing themselves in such unique and beautiful ways excited me and that's when I realized that my hobby was something I also wanted to share with people. Simply, because it made me happy :)
What would you like the world to know about your work and the realm that you're working in?
Anyone can do it. A lot of people assume that in order to learn calligraphy and be good at it, you have to have very good handwriting or be very naturally gifted. It's not true. All you need is practice and discipline. My penmanship is not that great and when I first started calligraphy it looked horrible. But it took me hours of consistent practice to get to where I am today.
In the South Asian community, there’s quite a stigma against people choosing careers that are “non-traditional.” When choosing to follow your passion here, what are or were some challenges you’ve had to face?
I am thankful that I haven't faced any major challenges due to my South Asian heritage. In fact, I think in our community people expect women to pursue creative endeavors rather than work in technical roles/companies full-time. Luckily, I get to do both :)
What are your opinions on maintaining a traditional art form vs modernization?
My entire passion is the modernization of a traditional art form. I do modern calligraphy and handlettering because it looks nice to me and I connect to it. But I have lots of respect for those that do traditional calligraphy.
Are (or were) there any individuals that you have looked up to or directly had a mentor-mentee relationship with that helped you find your footing in this world?
There are many great calligraphers that I follow online (on YouTube and IG) who have taught and inspired me so much. I feel like this community is truly one-in-a-million in that experienced artists are always willing to help out beginners.
How is your identity affected by the work you do in this field?
Though there are a lot of great handletterers and calligraphers out there that do what I do, I specifically wanted to take the opportunity to cater my business towards South Asians and desi brides. I think this has allowed me to connect with people in my community by speaking directly to them through my South Asian inspired designs. Because there aren't many of us in the calligraphy world, when I discover other South Asian artists I get so excited to support them and cheer them on. It feels like a little community within a community and it's so special.
What advice would you give to someone who's struggling to follow their passions due to various external pressures and/or personal pressures ? How would you guide them if they came to you for advice?
I would advise them to ask themselves, "What would you do if there was no other voice in the world? If there were no other eyes on your work besides your own? Do that thing. Do it for yourself. And do it unapologetically."