The beauty of a letter
Hand-letter artist gives seating charts, menus new life
CANAAN, CONN. — On a recent Thursday night, Amy Morozuk leaned over a white wooden board angled on the deck of her current living and working space. Her right hand glided over the surface as her black Uni Posca water-based marker thickened an outline of a lowercase "m." The letter's uneven humps, a signature of hers, resembled the rolling northern Litchfield hills behind her.
"One of the things I value most is beauty in my everyday life, and that goes beyond my artwork," Morozuk had said earlier that evening. "I just like things to be aesthetically calming around me, and I think that [includes] things like flowers and vines and just the elements that you would see when you look at my lettering, like the flow. I love the flow of this style, specifically."
Morozuk was working on a pair of signs displaying a message from one partner to another: "Take my hand, take my whole life too," the first one began. "For I can't help falling in love with you," the other one finished. Inside, an unfinished chalkboard menu for a wedding catered by Williamstown's Mezze Bistro + Bar rested on a table. As a hand lettering, modern calligraphy and watercolor artist, Morozuk is particularly busy at this time of year.
"Weddings are big," she said while sitting next to the menu-in-progress, a rehearsal dinner welcome sign behind her.
But invitations, signage, menus, seating charts and place cards are far from the only commissions Morozuk receives. While many coffee shops and other stores might rely on talented employees to create signs appropriate for their brands, some call on professionals like Morozuk to handle the finer points of their customer-facing writing. The Bristol, Conn., native's lettering has attracted clients such as Rubiner's Cheesemongers & Grocers and the now-defunct Allium Restaurant + Bar in Great Barrington, as well as On the Run Coffee Shop and The Green Cafe in Lakeville, Conn. The digital sphere has accelerated the rise of hand lettering and calligraphy in the design world over the past decade.
"It's definitely a thing now. I think social media has amped it up a little bit," Morozuk said.
Instagram has been a boon to calligraphy and hand lettering artists around the world in particular. One of Morozuk's favorite accounts, for instance, belongs to Stefan Kunz (@stefankunz), who has 412,000 followers as of this writing and regularly works on chalkboard walls. Following the lead of Kunz and others, Morozuk frequently posts time-lapse videos on Instagram to document her process. One of Morozuk's videos demonstrated how to letter atop a faux watercolor background by using a Ziploc bag, water-based markers and washi tape. The process only took her about 10 minutes — she had seen the technique employed elsewhere — but it quickly gained traction. As she played it on this night, it had received nearly 400,000 views.
"People love watching these videos. They're mesmerizing, I think, for a lot of people," she said.
The video helped build Morozuk's Instagram following, which, as of this writing, exceeds 16,500. Because of its success, she hasn't need her own website to promote her work, and she only recently started her own Etsy shop, where her items range in price from $30 to $325.
"There's definitely an art to that in itself," Morozuk said of increasing her Instagram followers. "The hashtag game is a big part of it, so I had to figure all that out."
Morozuk started the account in July 2017, shortly after she had begun pursuing work in hand lettering and calligraphy. That summer, she was throwing a baby shower for her best friend.
"I kind of went all-in and did all of the decor for it," Morozuk said.
When she was scrolling through Etsy and Pinterest looking for ideas, she saw a baby shower welcome message etched on a chalkboard.
"I was like, 'I think I could do that,'" Morozuk recalled.
She found a large chalkboard at Target and started playing around with it. She was surprised by how closely she could replicate her model's design. Later that summer, a different friend was getting married, so she asked Morozuk to make her seating chart.
"It was one of those things where I did one thing and kind of became obsessed with it," Morozuk said.
She never went to a class, instead watching online videos to hone her craft.
"When I would watch people on Instagram with the brush pens, it was always easy to see what they were doing and then do what they were doing. And then over time, playing around with different styles ... like I said, I got obsessed with it. So, it was figuring out how I wanted my lowercase 'm' to look and practicing it over and over and over again until it all flowed together and looked like a uniform font."
Her preferred style is modern calligraphy.
"It's not the really traditional, not the flourish-y, not like what you think of when you think of calligraphy. It's modern. It's a little bit funkier and sort of free-looking," Morozuk described.
She values that freedom, shunning rulers and letting calligraphy's flow guide her.
"It's the downstroke that you want to be thicker," she explained as she fattened some letters on one of her signs-in-progress.
If clients don't want modern calligraphy, she's open to meeting their needs, even if it's just block lettering. But usually they leave it up to her.
"A lot of times, people will be like, 'I love your style, just take this quote and make it pretty,'" she said.
Many of her works reside in The Artisan Shop, a Canaan shop run by Jesse Morey. He supplies some of the wood pieces Morozuk writes on. Though she is based in Canaan, Morozuk only works at home for certain jobs.
"Oftentimes, when I'm going to Rubiner's and doing it at businesses, I have to do it there," she said.
As she has grown her art business, Morozuk has held on to her day jobs as a recovery and life coach, as well as a server at Blackberry River Baking Co. in Canaan. She moved to the Berkshires region in 2012.
"I moved up here to get sober, and this actually has been a huge part of that. It's super therapeutic for me, art," she said.
More specifically, her floral watercolor paintings and other natural depictions are her "happy place." She has sold some of them but has never shown her works in a gallery. She just received her first watercolor commission; she'll create an oracle deck for Coby Kozlowski, a Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health faculty member who trained Morozuk as a coach. The artist said that watercolors "have a mind of their own, which is why I love them so much."
Soon, Morozuk plans to finish up her undergraduate degree at the University of Connecticut and is considering studying art therapy. In the meantime, her calligraphy and hand lettering work will keep her plenty busy.
"Opportunity definitely presents itself here," she said. "I don't know if it would be that way everywhere else. But the Berkshires seem to be a place where people want hand-lettered stuff."
Benjamin Cassidy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @bybencassidy on Twitter and 413-496-6251.
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