Calligraphy artist Amanda Reid reflects on self-care and increasing visibility in fine art.
By Jess Bugg, photos courtesy of Amanda Reid
If you haven’t given calligraphy much thought, spend 10 minutes with Amanda Reid and it will become your new obsession. Reid is a calligraphy artist, educator, health care worker and entrepreneur. She is also incredibly passionate about making a positive impact on the world through promoting diversity within the calligraphy space.
While working on her doctorate in physical therapy, Reid attended a calligraphy workshop. “It was really relaxing and meditative for me. It just became an escape.” Reid continued attending workshops in the evenings after class as a way to unwind from the demands of school and to exercise her creative side. At home she practiced by writing her course notes in calligraphy, which also made her study sessions more relaxed. During a particularly draining orthopedic residency, Reid realized she was no longer willing to sacrifice her mental health for the sake of reaching career goals. After leaving the residency, she was able to put her attention back on calligraphy. Eventually she started posting her work on social media where followers requested custom designs and tutorials. This is how Amanda Reid Designs began.
Shortly after creating Amanda Reid Designs in 2019, Reid created the Instagram page Calligraphers of Color after realizing there were no prominent BIPOC in the calligraphy space. “If you search ‘Black calligrapher’ the only thing that comes up is calligraphy in black and white.” She says laughing, “I remember standing in my kitchen with my husband, [Matthew], and I was like, ‘Where are we? I know I am not the only Black calligrapher. If we don’t have anyone as an example, then somebody has to step up, and that might have to be me.’”
Reid initially had between 1,000 and 2,000 followers before the Black Lives Matter movement accelerated in the summer of 2020. Suddenly her page reached over 10,000 in only a few months and Reid had to quickly adapt to growth she wasn’t necessarily ready for. “People were looking for Black artists and my page was getting shared a lot. At first, I was overwhelmed by support but then realized a lot of people were reaching out who didn’t feel genuine. I felt that some people were just trying to throw my name and my face on their list of Black artists even though they had never even spoken to me.”
While there may have been growing pains initially, Reid has built an amazing community and a strong network of support. “A lot has happened in a short amount of time. When you find something that you really love and present it to the world, the type of people it attracts is kind of amazing.”
For Reid, the goal of Calligraphers of Color is to promote and highlight diversity in the calligraphy space. “I wanted to create a space that was for us first. I want people of color in calligraphy to feel like they are not alone. A goal of mine is to create a directory for people to find us. I am trying to increase visibility and support calligraphers of color in their journey as artists and in their businesses.”
Calligraphy as a Fine Art
Reid often works with high-end brands, personalizing items for in-store events, engraving everything from clothing, to glass bottles, to Jo Malone fragrances and Louis Vuitton Boxes. “Calligraphy is a luxury service,” Reid says. “If you were to commission a custom piece from an artist you would expect to pay top dollar, yet with calligraphy people often don’t want to pay. They don’t view it in the same way. I am a calligraphy artist, and I think that’s why high-end brands have commissioned me, because they find my style different from traditional calligraphy.
“Most of the time artists are working at home or in the studio alone, and no one gets to see that behind-the-scenes process,” she continues. “What I love about live calligraphy is that it’s really exposing calligraphy as an art to people who’ve never thought about it. It’s almost like a performance. It’s a beautiful experience that people get to watch.”
Self-Care with Intention
Reid’s workshops have remained a high priority for her and she’s hoping for more in-person opportunities in the future. “Workshops are my happy place,” she says with giddy enthusiasm. “I love creating an atmosphere. I have all these ideas. Seeing them come to life gives me so much energy.” This year, Reid is focused on building a modern calligraphy course online for beginners that will be a more in-depth version of her workshops. Don’t be surprised if you see a book from her in the future as well. “I’m an educator at heart.”
Fast growth has forced Reid to become more selective in how she invests her time. “I don’t want the practice I fell in love with to become something I no longer enjoy.” For her, it is still a form of self-care. “When I get stressed about the business side, I sit at my desk in my garage studio. I could have a thousand things to do, but all I want to do is write. I have a candle that’s always on my desk that I light, I put on lofi chillhop, just create this whole vibe within my own space and get lost in it. Calligraphy is a form of self-care because it forces you to be present and slow down. You have to be very intentional.”