Saturday, March 17, 2012

From Hobby Calligraphist To Home Based Business

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The moment Robbie Crawford touched a calligraphy pen to paper, she fell in love with the beautiful form of handwritten expression.

That was more than 30 years ago.

Now, at the age of 60 and after 36 years in nursing, Crawford has finally chosen to do what she loves.

She retired from her nursing career in September to start her own full-time calligraphy and engraving business out of her Tallassee home in Blount County.

"I decided when I retire that I would do something I would love to do for the rest of my life," Crawford said. "This is so much fun, so much fun."

The baby boomer spends her days writing fancy letters on certificates, addressing wedding invitations and using a dentist's drill to engrave calligraphy on wine bottles and decorative stones.

After years of doing calligraphy work sporadically, never believing she could make a career of it, she said she finally took the plunge because nursing had become difficult and exhausting. She worked night shift on the oncology floor at Blount Memorial Hospital the past nine years.

"The hours were horrible," Crawford said. "I thought, 'You know what? I'm going to do it.' I knew I had the talent. I knew I had the skill. Plus, it's marketable. People always want something personalized."

Crawford first learned calligraphy as a 26-year-old working in Memphis. During one of her women's Bible study meetings, a member taught calligraphy.

"You don't have to have good handwriting," Crawford said. "Calligraphy is an acquired skill. The more you practice the better you get."

It's all in how someone holds the pen, she said.

When she first started, she thought

she was good, but now she laughs at how "primitive" her first tries were.

She began practicing every day for about an hour. That's about all she could do without her hand cramping.

It took eight years for her to become comfortable enough to sell her calligraphy work.

She had several successful years doing calligraphy part-time while still working as a nurse.

At one point, a greeting card company offered her $5,000 for rights to a print she did with the story of Jesus written in calligraphy in the form of a Christmas tree. They wanted to put it on a Christmas card, but Crawford didn't sell it. She still uses it today for her own work.

When she and her husband moved to Chicago for her husband's work, she lost her calligraphy contacts and stopped selling her work.

The couple moved to the Maryville area in 2001 because they wanted to move back to Tennessee.

While working at Blount Memorial, she did calligraphy for family and friends about once a month, keeping her skills fresh.

She put a small calligraphy studio in her basement complete with a writing desk, a filing cabinet of hundreds of her prints and framing equipment.

She recently added an engraving station.

She never thought of engraving before she heard of an engraving course given by Ken Brown, a widely recognized calligrapher.

When she teaches calligraphy at local art stores, she uses Brown's book. She took a short course on engraving in Dallas in November and since then has been hooked.

"I can't keep away from this engraver," Crawford said. "I engrave all the time. Even if I don't have an order, I just engrave glass."

Some of her favorite items to engrave are wine bottles and small stones on which she engraves people's names. She said the stones are perfect wedding favors.

She personalizes perfume bottles and has even engraved golf clubs.

As part of her new business, she also attends bridal shows, perfume events and craft fairs promoting her business.

She keeps a calligraphy pen in her purse so she can write people's names on the spot.

The best part of this venture, she said, is that she doesn't have to watch the clock to see when she has to leave for work.

She has more time to spend with her husband, fish and hunt for rocks in the woods with her grandson.

"I wake up happy and excited to get down here," Crawford said. "My life is my own for the first time in a lot of years."

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[Via - KnoxNews.Com]

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