Today we’d like to introduce you to Camille Fenn.
Camille, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
If you had told me a year ago, that this is where my business would be today, I would never have believed you. I wouldn’t have even called it a business a year ago. Just something I did in my free time because it was fun for me. I started Handsome Love on a total whim, not knowing where this journey would take me.
I had a friend whose aunt was getting married when we were in college. She asked me to write up a few signs up for the wedding because I still wrote in cursive. She even offered to pay me and I remember thinking, “why would she pay me for something like this?” So, I made the signage and started doing a little bit of research. It turned out, there were actual women (and maybe a few men) out there selling their calligraphy/design skills to make a living. That was their full-time job. What?!
Fast forward to last Summer, Summer of 2018, I officially launched Handsome Love Calligraphy thinking maybe I’ll make some extra cash this summer picking up a few clients. But who would trust me with their wedding signage?! No one knows me. I wasn’t sure anyone really would.
It turns out, there is truly a huge demand for calligraphers and designers in Denver. Cursive is no longer taught in elementary schools, but there is still such a deep appreciation for the art and brides want that special detail incorporated into their wedding. It is timeless. And so, I completely booked up for that summer.
I am still in disbelief that this is my legitimate job. I don’t even see it as a job. Just something I still do in my free time because it’s fun for me.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
There have been many bumps and ruts and floods and hurricanes and tornadoes, etc. on the road along the way.
One of the biggest challenges I faced was learning to take myself seriously as a business owner rather than a hobbyist. For the most part, when people ask me what I do for a living, I will just tell them, “I work in the wedding industry” or “I’m a designer” and leave it at that. Because when I start to tell someone I hand-write wedding signage or I address envelopes and write up place cards some have a tendency to put me in the category of “hobbyist” which can be a tough category to dig myself out of. I had to very consciously work to not worry so much about explaining what I do to just anyone.
My advice for someone who is walking that tight-rope of hobbyist/designer is to first define what you do for yourself and know in your heart of hearts that that is what you are. There is nothing anyone can say that will change YOUR perspective of what you are in your own mind. And be proud in that, right? Look at all that you have created. Then, just know, that the right people (your “ideal” clients) will absolutely understand who you are and the services you offer and appreciate them as they should be appreciated, without you even having to take the time to explain.
With that, I admit, I STILL struggle with pricing out my services. I sometimes find myself going down a bad Etsy search road and looking at what hobbyists online are pricing their signage at and I have to pull myself out of that and remind myself that what I am creating for my clients are completely customized pieces that they will keep for the rest of their lives to remind them of their wedding day (one of the milestones in their entire lives). And they came to me (when they had a million other options, even Etsy hobbyists) in appreciation of the style that I bring to the table and no one else can design something in the same way I would.
Sometimes, I will price out a proposal and send it out to a client and then I’ll shut my computer and just run away and turn off all my electronics and try my best not to think about it (really not to worry about it) because I am very aware that my prices are high. Some clients will book. Some will not. But again, the right clients, who appreciate the specific skillset and design-eye I bring to the table, will book. And that’s all I want.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Handsome Love Calligraphy – what should we know?
I started Handsome Love specializing in event signage. I work largely in the wedding industry and create day-of signage for weddings which can include “welcome” signs, seating charts, table numbers, etc. as well as any paper goods/details like place cards, menus, programs, etc. It is all the personalized details that require a designer to put together (that you are not able to purchase at a store ready-made). I realize this is quite a large umbrella, but what I love about what I do, is there really is no limit when it comes to day-of signage. I have had brides who, for their place cards, purchased 200 terra-cotta bowls that I hand-painted the names of guests on too. I have had brides who, for their seating chart, wanted the names of all 150 guests written on a gigantic piece of genuine leather that we hung from a copper piping structure. I have filled 200 balloons with confetti and customized them for custom stir-sticks. Whatever your vision is for your wedding details, we can work to bring it to life.
It is the day-of signage that is completely customized, never seen or done before, that I think adds that special touch to someone’s wedding day when you have all these very traditional guidelines you are working within. It is in the day-of signage that you have an opportunity to do something completely different your guests will remember forever.
So much of the media coverage is focused on the challenges facing women today, but what about the opportunities? Do you feel there are any opportunities that women are particularly well positioned for?
I believe and fight for equality in all aspects of my life and in looking out at our world and recognizing all the industries that are primarily male-driven, I do acknowledge the frustration some women experience in feeling outnumbered, underpaid, and unheard.
I also feel a need to say that, I do believe, if there was a man who wanted to pursue a career as a wedding calligrapher, they could absolutely do it just as a woman could. I believe men and women are equally capable of doing any job.
That being said, I do strongly feel grateful and privileged to work alongside so many talented, strong, creative women within this particular industry in Colorado. Is the industry 100% female? No. It’s not. But it is primarily female. And the wedding industry in Colorado is extremely supportive and I think that comes along with the fact that there is no shortage of work.
Women within this industry are never hesitant to grab coffee or drinks to talk about business opportunities and network. In figuring out how to market Handsome Love, I went on SO MANY coffee dates to pick the brains of the other Denver calligraphers and I have since been referred by them to clients they were unable to take and I the same to them. I largely owe my success to the women within this industry who have lifted me up alongside them.
- Website: https://www.handsomelovecalligraphy.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @handsomelovecalligraphy
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/handsomelovecalligraphy/
Photo of Camille: Bridget Burnett Photography – @bridgetrburnett
Photo 1: Adriana Klas Photography – @adrianaklas
Photo 2: KMitiska Photography – @kmitiskaphotography
Photo 3: Adam Houseman – @adamhouseman
Photo 5: Andrea Godfrey Photography – @andrewgodfreyphotography
Photo 6: Danielle DeFiore – @danielle_defiore