#NoFilter Interview w/ SC artist: Rachel Koh

Rachel (In green top) facilitating as an anchor of  Beginner's Table  - A calligraphy and lettering meetup held every quarterly. 

Rachel (In green top) facilitating as an anchor of Beginner's Table - A calligraphy and lettering meetup held every quarterly. 

Having started calligraphy only in 2016, Rachel (@letteringinphospehenes), our principal modern calligrapher has achieved quite a feat! From participating in styled shoot with vendors in the wedding industry to an artwork display for Singapore's Estée Lauder Companies Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign 2017, we're really proud of our youngest member on our team! In recent months, she's been incorporating more modernized Copperplate writing in her works and we cannot wait to see how her script evolves with time and practice.

Tell us a little bit about yourself

My love for this craft probably stems from my love of reading and art. I've been a fan of both since I was young, so calligraphy is the culmination of those two passions! I first really got into researching about calligraphy in the beginning of of 2015, but as life would have it, I didn't have the time to pursue it until circa May/June 2016. 

I started off with brush lettering and watercolours initially, but soon jumped on the dip pen bandwagon. I completely fell in love with it's versatility and finesse. Fast-forward a little over a year, and here we are in the beginnings of 2018 - I've found an incredible team, about to start our residency and launch our mentorship programme! 

Is (or are) there any artist(s) that you admire, or may have influenced the work that you do today? 

This is such a hard question because I feel like I have to much to learn from everyone! But off the top of my head I really love the work of Younghae (@logos_calligraphy), Jane (@lavenderlanecalligraphy) and Jessie (@_jwlettering). 

They're some of my favourites because of their individual flair. They've managed to put their own elegant flair on calligraphy which is incredibly distinctive and beautiful, whilst maintaining the traditional essence of the craft. I hope to be as good as these talented ladies someday! 

Describe a typical practice session?

One of the artworks on display for Estée Lauder Companies Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign 2017.

One of the artworks on display for Estée Lauder Companies Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign 2017.

I feel like the main crux of my practice session occurs within the first few minutes. I always start off with my basic strokes, regardless of if I'm going to be working on a modern or traditional style piece later. Not many people know, but modern calligraphy is derived from traditional forms, and as such still follow, albeit very loosely, the same basic strokes. 

Beginning with the basic strokes eliminates the extra hassle of thinking about what I'm spelling or writing. For example I might have had a cup of coffee before writing and that's made my thin upstrokes wobbly. Beginning with basic strokes helps me to immediately target what I need to be mindful of during that writing session. 

After I'm done with that for about ten minutes, It's free and easy from there, and I just either continue with writing out a piece of prose or poetry if I'm in the mood for a casual writing session, or if I'm really serious then I will move onto more targeted practice with specific letters or flourishes. 

What is the hardest aspect about learning lettering/calligraphy?

I struggled a lot initially with being patient with myself. I'm mostly self-taught, in that I've not been to formal classes before, so when I first started I had to learn even how to hold a pen from scratch, how to dip ink... that in itself probably took me 2 months. I really got discouraged at one point because I was taking so long to get everything and what I was aiming for seemed completely unattainable. 

What's crucial to know about calligraphy, is that it's a slow art which requires a good amount of diligence, and targeted practice to achieve your goal. Comparatively, some of the masters I look up to have put in years of practice compared to my few months, so initially I was being really impatient and unrealistic, because I didn't properly understand the time and effort that goes into perfecting something. 

I mean even now, I do get very frustrated when it takes me longer than I thought to get something right, But it's important to understand that practice doesn't immediately mean perfect. practice equals progress, and progress puts you on the road to perfection. 

Tell us one (or a few) unknown fact about yourself

I used to participate competitively in equestrian sport, and almost went to art school to do design, but went in favour of a psychology degree instead. I like taking solo trips to museums! I also prefer smooth peanut butter to crunchy peanut butter.

It's always difficult answering these questions, like, how do I decide what's socially appropriate and what's not? Do people really care about my peanut butter preferences? 


Find out more about Rachel and our team's works during our Open Sessions held at library@Orchard held in tandem with our Art Residency here or our upcoming calligraphy workshops over at workshops.sc.sg

Nichole Tin