We had the good fortune of connecting with Molly Suber Thorpe and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Molly, what do you attribute your success to?
I am a calligrapher and hand lettering artist who is mostly self-taught. Since starting my business in 2010, I have worked with many clients on custom projects, but most of what I do now is making educational resources for other artists and creative freelancers. This includes my three books about calligraphy, a YouTube channel of free video tutorials, in-depth Skillshare classes, and in-person workshops. I also design tools for other calligraphers, which range from digital lettering brushes to downloadable practice sheets. I believe that the most important factor behind my success has been that I design for myself rather than try to predict what others want. Whenever I set out to create a new resource or tool, I always start by asking myself: What resource would have benefitted me when I was learning calligraphy? What tools do I wish existed today for my own art? I then set about creating the products, writing the books, and filming the tutorials that I personally would want to have. This means that I follow my gut, rather than try too hard to figure out what others want. Trusting that others have the same questions and needs that I have had throughout my career takes the guesswork out of what to create next. That approach has paid off, resulting in a cohesive collection of educational content that has reached a lot of artists. By following the advancements in lettering art – whether that’s new technology or ever-evolving styles – I can see what new questions I need to answer, what gaps I’d like to fill, and what products I want to develop for my own work.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My artistic focus is on flourished, pointed pen calligraphy styles, although I do create other types of hand lettering, too. About halfway through my career – so roughly five years ago – I pivoted from primarily working with clients on custom work to designing educational resources for other lettering artists. I am very proud of the collection of tools and tutorials I’ve created in this time. The sense of fulfillment I get from my work now has grown exponentially. Freelancing in general is tough, and being a creative freelancer has its own set of challenges. It can be especially hard to find client work when the economy dips. This past year, for example, not many businesses were commissioning hand lettered logos for new businesses, which is perfectly understandable. I was able to weather the storm by adjusting my focus to at-home learning tools that I could release quickly, rather than long-term projects that take a long time to produce. For example, I started releasing bite-sized YouTube tutorials every Friday, and new downloadable practice sheets every month. My goal of writing a fourth book, which could take a full year of my time, moved to the back burner in favor of smaller projects that would reach people faster.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
This is a tough one! I love museums, so whenever I’ve hosted friends visiting LA for the first time, I make sure to take them to The Getty, The Broad, and – for a quirky outing – the Museum of Jurassic Technology. Food and coffee are, of course, a crucial part of the LA experience, too. It’s such a foodie city! Some of my favorite spots are The Penthouse in Santa Monica (at sunset!), LA Mill in Silverlake, and any of the Korean BBQ joints in Koreatown.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Carrie Imai – Los Angeles calligrapher and teacher – https://carriedesigns.com Andrew Kutchera – Los Angeles typographer and teacher – https://roski.usc.edu/community/faculty/andrew-kutchera
Molly Suber Thorpe