We had the good fortune of connecting with Susan Houseman and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Susan, why did you pursue a creative career?
I have always been interested in the arts, even as a child I was compelled to express myself. At first, I thought I would be an author who wrote mysteries, later, in high school, I entered into acting. Advancing to college, I still loved acting, but also loved directing and working on set design and backstage. Once graduated I did community theatre, summer stock and a short stint on local soap opera spoof.
In 1991 I took a job as a receptionist. The job was fairly basic and consisted of answering phones and directing visitors. I had a lot of time on my hands and felt compelled to do something creative at work. That was when I picked up my first how-to calligraphy book and some markers. I fell in love immediately with this art form, and my employer encouraged me to write out all phone messages using the lettering style I was learning.
Needles to say, my creativity was ignited and my drive to learn still holds true today. Since then I have studied with master calligraphers and lettering artists from around the world. Even while raising my 3 children, I love expressing my creativity through calligraphy, engraving and many other art forms.
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.
I feel that primarily I’m a calligrapher and engraving artist. However, I’m actually so much more then that! I’m a unicorn! What that means to me is that I am a unique and creative soul that has found a way to express myself through calligraphy and engraving. I absolutely thrive within the creative process!
Practicing my calligraphy over the years has allowed me to center my thoughts. It’s also taught me that perfection is an illusion. I’ve learned that I need to show up everyday and do the work! Self-judgment can be a monster that needs to be tamed, especially when I’m experiencing a “dry spell.” I don’t see myself as a traditional or modern calligrapher, I see myself as an artistic scribe. I’ve faced many challenges over the years because I have chosen to blaze my own path. I’ve also been encouraged and acknowledged and rewarded durning my journey for being just that, different!
I have embraced the idea that this is my life’s journey. I feel compelled to create and share. I believe that learning the foundations of any art form makes you a better artist. For example, knowledge of the foundations of calligraphy helps me to continue exploring lettering on different surfaces using different tools. I also love sharing my knowledge through teaching and learning from my students. I do believe teaching makes you a better artist.
I want my brand to reflect my love of the creative process. Creativity and calligraphy will always be part of my life, even if it’s just for myself.
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.
I live in beautiful St. Louis, Missouri, where the arch represents the gateway to the west. There are so many amazing places I would like to take you to durning your visit. Your first day we would go visit downtown St. Louis and see the Arch, and if your up to it we could ride the small elevator to the top of the Arch so you could see all of St. Louis. Then we would go to Union Station, formerly the main railway center, which was converted to destination space that includes a hotel and restaurants as well as the St. Louis Aquarium and a Ferris wheel.
Your second day here we would visit Forest Park. Larger than Central Park in New York, this was the site of the World’s Fair in 1904. There is a Zoo and Art and Natural History Museums that are free to the public. There’s also a Boat House where you can rent a paddle boat or enjoy some outdoor dining surrounded by nature. In the evening you can attend a show at the St. Louis Muni, an outdoor theatre. If you’re not up for a show, then we could go to Third Wheel Brewing, a local brew pub.
On your third day, we will do the tour of Anheuser Busch and their Biergarten. They offer a brewery tour and see the famous Clydesdale horses up close. At this point we’ll need some yummy food so we’ll head over to “The Hill,” for Italian food and Ted Drew’s for custard.
On your fourth day here we’ll start the day with coffee at Course Coffee, and the go shopping in old St. Charles, also known as French Town. We will have lunch at La Belle Vie Cafe and then shop some more.
The last few days that you are visiting we will visit some of our local wineries, and enjoy taking walks or bike riding on the Katy Trail. Stopping by the casinos if you are interested, visiting Maple Wood and Webster Groves for tasty toasted ravioli and gooey butter a St. Louis speciality.
We will try to catch a Cardinals game or maybe see The Blues. I recommend the Angad Art Hotel, it is located in the art district in St. Louis and you can select your room color based on your mood. It’s has a great bar and terrace upstair with great views of St. Louis.
I can’t wait for you to come visit!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I have so many people to thank over the course of my life. Numerous amazing calligraphy teachers, inspiring books, wonderful students that I have taught, and opportunities that taught me valuable lessons. However, the most important people have been, my husband and children. My studio has always been in my home. My husband and children have witnessed first hand all my struggles, challenges, set backs and triumphs. They learned when to give me encouragement, or just stand by me while I finish a project. They have provided moments of clarity, challenged my thinking and always gave me a different perspective.
They have watched me grow, struggle, have successes and failures. My children have learned from me and are creative and artistic. My husband has always been my poet, who appreciates an authentic voice. He is always encouraging me to find my true voice in this creative journey that I feel compelled to travel. My daughter graduated from Webster University in 2020 with a degree in illustration. She actually completed her BFA piece in her apartment during quarantine, it covered an entire wall. She just kept working because that’s exactly what I would have done. I see this in my son who has the same tenacity with his love of cars.
It’s also important to have a support system outside your family, people in different businesses. The St. Louis Calligraphy Guild and the Cincinnati Calligraphy Guild were a great resource for learning. My trademark lawyer: Glennetta Haymon has been instrumental in learning about trademarking my Soul Stones, and how to run a business.
Joan Williams Photography / Headshot