Kristen Hay was the winner of our Spring 2012 Ad Contest giveaway for "The Beacham Series" magazine. Have you seen her ad? It turned out beautifully!
She got the most votes of any entry in any contest we've ever had! I was amazed when the votes came in on the blog and Facebook. Clearly people love her calligraphy, and I can see why!
Isn't that beautiful? She is clearly very talented, so I wanted to do an interview with her and learn more about the woman behind the handwriting.
BB: Hi Kristen! Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
KH: It is such an honor to be chosen for this contest! I want to thank Beacham and Co. for the opportunity. I also want to thank each kind person who took a moment to vote-I have the dearest friends! The most important thing about me is that I love the Lord with all of my heart—without Jesus, I am nothing, so I am eternally grateful for all of the blessings that He bestows on my life. I would change “His” to “the” unless there is some reason not to.
I was born and reared in the small east Texas town of Lufkin. I grew up in a very supportive family and have three siblings--an older sister and brother and a younger brother. My parents home schooled us, which I feel has been helpful to each of us in so many ways.
One of the main ways home schooling benefited each of us is that it allowed my parents to really study our strengths and talents and direct us in the way that we should go. My parents encouraged each of us to be entrepreneurs at early ages, and I hope to do the same with my children.
Believe it or not, I've actually never really had a formal interview before this because I have always worked for myself. So this is a first for me and it honestly seems kind of strange and exciting!
I have always been interested in design. As a child, I used to spend hours making and decorating elaborate playhouses and “shops” in our attic room or out on the covered porch. My parents were good sports about me “taking over” these spaces and they encouraged my creativity!
My calligraphic journey began when I was a young girl of 12. My mother signed me up for a basic Italic calligraphy class and a floral arranging class at our local junior college. Those two classes spurred on a love for both floral arranging and calligraphy. I continued to practice calligraphy and became involved with a local calligraphy guild. Through the guild, I met a sweet lady who offered to teach me Copperplate calligraphy, which is written with a pointed pen that is dipped in ink as one writes.
At 13, I opened up a gift shop in the front room of my Dad’s real estate office in downtown Lufkin. There, I sold flowers that I arranged and gift items. My mom and I would go the World Trade Center in Dallas to purchase the gift items for the shop. I always enjoyed seeing the vendors’ faces when I wrote them checks for large sums of money for the inventory we ordered for my shop--they stared in disbelief that they were supposed to take a check from a 13 year old!
We named the shop “The Merry Heart Shoppe” after the scripture verse that says “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine” Proverbs 17:23. My dad and I made a large wooden sign to hang under his real estate office sign. He cut out the wood and I wrote the name of the shop in my calligraphy, then painted it. I also set up booths to sell my wares around the state of Texas at Junior League shows, church bazaars and such.
In addition to the gift shop, I owned and operated a florist business out of my parents’ home. We purchased a large covered trailer to house and transport my florist and shop supplies and we had a huge commercial floral cooler on the back porch. My specialty was custom wedding flowers and I did my first wedding when I was 15. It was not an uncommon sight to come into our kitchen and see thousands of flowers waiting to be arranged.
I continued to do custom wedding flowers until I was about 22. Once I got married and we had our first child, I quickly realized that flowers and babies don’t mix very well. I had already had a rich experience and enjoyed it for so many years, so it was not that big of a deal at that point to give it up.
Since I was home schooled, I was able to have the flexibility to run multiple businesses while continuing my education. Another side business that I had was a bread baking business. I grew up grinding grain and making and baking large batches of 8 loaves of whole grain bread for my family on a regular basis. When others tasted it, they asked if I would bake bread that they could buy, so I did. I even shipped some to people.
Also, I taught tennis lessons for a while. Tennis was a sport that my older siblings and I really enjoyed, and we routinely participated in tennis tournaments all across the state of Texas.
Other things that I love are interior design, antiques, pearls, monogrammed items, blue and white china, crystal, and all things old fashioned and formal. I am all about the details in life that make things special and extraordinary.
I enjoy writing letters, especially thank you letters. I estimate that I have probably written well over a thousand thank you letters since my youth. This is a dying art of gratitude that I hope to instill in my children as they grow up.
Photography is also a big part of my every day life. I have a passion for lovely photographs, so I enjoy documenting our family life in this way. I have a professional camera and lenses; however, I rarely do photography as a business because of the time involved. I choose to focus more of my attention on my family and calligraphy instead.
One of the other large parts of my life is cooking for my family and friends. I enjoy entertaining, so my husband and I have dinner parties and friends over as often as we can. I enjoy cooking from scratch and I LOVE gourmet food and unique flavors! That is why I recently decided to have a cookbook printed with over 100 of our family’s favorite recipes. People had been asking me for years to put a cookbook together, so I finally did, and it has sold better than I dared to hope. I have had to have it printed four times already! I describe the cookbook as eclectic because it has a variety of recipes from ultra healthful (the ones that I try to make most often) to moderately healthful, to decadent and terrible for you (you know—those recipes that you save to make when company comes or for parties and special occasions). The cookbook really has a little bit of something for everyone. I incorporated my calligraphy into the cookbook on the front cover and inside as the title page for each section. The picture on the front of the cookbook is of Strawberry Cream Crepes that my husband made me one Mother’s Day and little pink wild roses that my kids picked for me. It is a special picture to me, so I just added the calligraphy and it worked out beautifully!
My favorite part about my life is my family--I am married to the most wonderful man in the world and he is such a devoted husband and father. We are blessed to have six sweet children who keep me on my toes every day!
BB: You have a beautiful family! What's your favorite thing about your children? What do they do that makes you laugh/smile?
Thank you! My kids are such wonderful blessings in my life! I truly enjoy being a mommy, teaching them and watching them grow and develop. I am absolutely crazy about babies. I love everything about them (well, maybe not the sleep deprivation that comes from having them =), but they definitely make me smile and I love how they bring JOY to the entire house. Everyone is happier when there is a baby to love on and talk to. I enjoy seeing each of my children get so excited about spending time with each other, and the smiles that it brings to their faces make me smile!
I am homeschooling my children, and this has been a great joy (and a challenge at times) to me. I enjoy seeing their love of learning and watching them flourish in the things that they do. Reading to my kids is probably one of my favorite activities, and they love it as well.
I love the sweet hugs that I get each day from my kids and I love watching them grow into loving children who have a heart for the Lord. It makes me smile in my heart when I hear a good report on their behavior when they have been away from me with trusted friends or family They have their moments of disobedience, for sure, but it is nice to know that all of the hard work we put into training them really is making a difference!
The little ritual of tucking my kids into bed is one of my favorite times. I relish the moments I have nursing and rocking my baby boy to sleep each night and rubbing my big boys’ backs while they are lying in bed. My girls ask me to sing certain songs to them and tickle them. I love hearing them sing with me and laugh when they are tickled! What a fleeting and precious time this is!
BB: I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about my fiance (I know… I know…), and people really seem to be interested in relationships. How did you meet your husband, and how long have you been married.
Kyle and I have been married for almost 12 years now and he is truly such a blessing in my life. Here’s our love story, in a nutshell…When I was 16 my sister commented to me one day at a family gathering that she knew who I could marry. Not taking her very seriously, I asked, “Who?”. To which, she replied, “You can marry Kyle!” When I asked who Kyle was, she responded that he was a great new guy that worked at the same company where she and her husband worked. We all laughed it off, but inside I was secretly intrigued to meet this fellow!
Well, the day came not too long after that I got my chance. My family was attending the annual Rotary Club Waffle Supper (romantic setting, I know! =), and there, my sister and brother-in-law introduced me to Kyle. He sat with my family and we got to interact with him briefly that night. I observed that he was gentlemanly, polite, joyful and awfully cute, too!
Alas, nothing happened because, after all, he was 23 and I had only just turned 17 at the time. We found out that he attended our church, so we began regularly seeing him there. My mother took the proactive approach on behalf of her daughter and began inviting him over for Sunday dinner and he also became a regular at all of our family birthday parties, etc…He called himself “Zeke Flournoy”, since we all came to see him as a brother. He never showed interest in me until about 2 ½ years later when I turned 19. It was like a light switch went on with him and all of a sudden I wasn’t looking so much like a little sister to him any more!
My parents and I began to notice his strange behavior—all of a sudden he just couldn’t wait to get me a chair or open a door for me, and such. At that point, I began praying that if something were to happen between us that the Lord would show me. Shortly after this change, he asked if he could take me to dinner after we played tennis with friends one evening. He expressed his interest in me and wanted to know if I was interested in pursuing a serious relationship. Of course, I was definitely interested, and told him that I had actually been praying about this for some time. He then went the following Sunday to my parents to ask permission to begin courting me. Nineteen days later he proposed on Easter weekend and four months later we were married! We shared our first kiss at the altar at our wedding and it was truly a dream come true for me. The Lord had brought this wonderful man to me in a small, out of the way town, and I am so grateful to the Lord for His provision. It has been the best 12 years of my life!
BB: Your calligraphy is beautiful! How did you learn to do it/how long have you been doing it?
I have been doing calligraphy for almost 20 years now! I took my first basic calligraphy class at our local junior college when I was 12 and I learned the pointed pen script when I was about 16. Since then, I have honed my skill and taught myself through ridiculous hours of practice and trial and error. I would study books and penmanship samples that I admired and try to re-create them until I got the desired look that I was trying to achieve.
I am a member of the IAMPETH (International Association of Master Penmen, Engrossers and Teachers of Handwriting) and, only last year did I get much formal training, at the annual IAMPETH calligraphy convention. I had the privilege of being taught there by multiple Whitehouse calligraphers and master penmen.
BB: Does anyone else in your family do calligraphy?
Yes, actually my sister-in-law, Sara, has a highly successful calligraphy business as well. Because of calligraphy, we connected through a friend on Facebook. It is kind of a really neat side story actually, that I will briefly share.
Sara was single and living in Chicago. My brother, Jordan, was single and recently graduated from law school, so he was back in Texas. Despite the vast geographical differences, I saw the potential there for each of them and connected them through Facebook. They clicked right away, and Jordan began keeping Kyle and me posted on the budding “relationship.” Even though he had yet to meet Sara in person, the more he talked to her, the more he began really thinking that she might be “the one.” Two weeks later, the next thing I hear is that he is flying to Chicago to meet her and her family. Kyle, spontaneous chap that he is, suggested that if he thought she was “the one,” he should take advantage of this trip and go ahead and propose to her while he is there. Amazingly, he thought this was a good idea, too, so he took Kyle’s advice, bought a lovely engagement ring, and off he flew to Chicago. Things went really well in person, so he asked her parents’ permission for her hand in marriage the day after he arrived. Then he asked her to marry him the next day on the beach. This took place a whole two days after they had met in person! She said yes to his proposal and they were married six weeks later in a lovely ceremony in Chicago. They now live in Dallas and have an adorable baby girl. Sara likes to do envelopes, so I refer my clients to her for the envelopes and I like to do the rest, so it is a win/win situation!
BB: It seems to me that you would have to be very creative to do calligraphy, but also very meticulous. Is that right?
I have always had a creative bent, but I think the meticulous part of me has come more with age. I am very meticulous in most areas of my life, which can be a good and bad thing. It is a good thing for my clients because they know that I will take the utmost care in the details of their calligraphy, as it is extremely exacting work. I have extremely high standards, so if you ask me to do something, be it calligraphy, cooking a meal, decorating a house, or doing photography, I will try to do my very best, and you can be assured that details are addressed! The lengths that I go to make things special and unique may not be appreciated by all, because lets face it, I can be very much a perfectionist at times. This attribute is a benefit to my customers because they can be assured that I will take the greatest care and thought to make sure their pieces are done well.
In areas other than calligraphy, it is easy to slip into being too particular about certain things. Sometimes I unnecessarily put these high expectations on others that I love. Everyone is different and not everyone cares about the details in life and that is perfectly okay. I constantly have to remind myself of this to avoid unrealistic expectations and disappointment.
I have to pick and choose what to be meticulous about as well. With six children at home with me every day, I have had to let my standards slide a bit in certain areas. My house does not stay as perfectly organized as I would like. It is hard for me to let this go, but it is one area that I am working on not stressing about as much. It is more important that my children have me interacting with them than for me to be always cleaning 24/7. If you drop in on us at any given moment there will likely be loads of clean laundry waiting to be folded, counters needing to be cleaned (since my children and I love to cook together a lot), and toys strewn about the house.
Also, I try to be more lax in ways when it comes to my kids. For sure, I am strict on many things regarding them, such as eating healthfully and obeying, etc.., but I want my kids to be kids. I try not to put stringent and unnecessary rules and pressure on them regarding every activity that they do. I want them to try hard and do their best, but not be stressed because they are not living up to unrealistic expectations.
BB: If you were doing 100 wedding invitations, how long would that take you?
I don’t typically do each invitation by hand. Most of my clients prefer that I do one master invitation. That master calligraphy is then taken to a local printer that I have been working with for years to be printed on the paper and style of invitation of their choosing. The company that I work with makes each invitation custom to the bride and groom’s specifications. They have multiple exquisite paper choices and can make almost any size or style of invitation. It is also surprisingly affordable to have the custom invitations made and printed this way, plus the bride and groom can have a unique wedding invitation like no other!
BB: How do you find time to be a mother and do all your work?
That is definitely a challenge with having six young children in the house with me all day! Since I don’t have huge chunks of uninterrupted time, I tell my clients to allow one month for their calligraphy job so that I can work on it here and there. I work on it during the kid’s naptimes and sometimes I hire a home school teenager to come over to my house for a few hours so that I can do calligraphy.
BB: It looks like you do a lot of different types of calligraphy. What is your favorite thing to do?
My calligraphy really has its own style now. I scribe many different font styles, but I call my main two fonts “Flourished Italic” and “Copperplate/Spencerian.” I have taken my favorite aspects from different fonts to crate my own distinct look.
As for my favorite things to scribe, that would definitely be wedding invitations and all that goes along with that. The only thing that I do not do any more is address wedding envelopes. This is due to a previous hand injury and the stress that the long hours of addressing can put on my hand. I stick to doing the wedding invitation ensemble only, so I can take more breaks and not overly stress my hand. I do enjoy scribing the return addresses that are printed on the back flap of the outer envelopes, as well as the printed address for the response cards.
BB: What is your favorite project you've ever done?
My favorite project would definitely have to be my own wedding. I enjoyed custom designing and writing the invitations, programs and flower cones in calligraphy. We had them custom made and we added special touches to each piece. They had a special wrap that was the inner envelope, and a vellum overlay. We put ribbon and a gold wax seal with a custom monogram on each piece. They were simply stunning. Of course, I could not have done all of that without my family and Kyle helping me. Kyle really loved me a LOT to do all that he did—he and my family carefully dripped hot wax for the seals onto 850 invitations, programs, and flower cones.
In addition to doing the calligraphy for the wedding, I did the wedding flowers (with the help of sweet friends I had trained through the years at floral arranging seminars in Dallas). We arranged almost 3,000 white roses into huge topiary trees that lined the church aisle. We also made bouquets, greenery and other flower arrangements.
I also designed my silk Dupioni wedding dress and had it custom made by a seamstress. Our wedding day was the best day and I loved every minute of it, from the planning out all the details to marrying my love!
BB: And finally, how did you get so many votes in "The Beacham Series" contest? You obviously have a ton of people who love you and your work!
I have been extremely blessed with a host of wonderful and caring friends, family, and clients who voted for me! It is very touching to think that all those people took a few minutes out of their day to vote—what a blessed gal I am!?!
BB: Thank you so much Kristen! Your story is amazing. I can't believe you are so talented! Florist, baker, calligrapher and educator! How impressive. If you ever come to Atlanta please let me know. I would love to meet you.