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Since 2013, I've been helping small businesses look as good as the work they do. This is where I post tips, new work, studio news, and all things branding and design. Take a look around and don't forget to say "hi!". 

Calligrapher & Illustrator, Holly Hollon


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Images courtesy of Mandy Busby

Today I have something a little out of the box…an interview with the oh-so talented calligrapher, illustrator and designer Holly Hollon. I first came across Holly’s gorgeous work when in Seaside, FL over the summer. I saw an ad with her calligraphy and illustration, took a photo and immediately posted it to Instagram hoping someone could tell me who did it. Little did I know I would be working with her a few months later, on a custom map for author Martha Hall Kelly’s site. It’s so funny how things work out like that! This creative world is a small one sometimes. I was really interested in Holly’s creative process and thought you all might like to learn more about her, as well!


Where do you work? Studio space? Home office? Co-working?

HH: I work out of my home. We have a second bedroom that I use as my studio and sometimes that space is not enough and I start to take over the dining room and the living room and on and on. Here is a pic….

Your maps are amazing. Do you start with a simple map and look up the landmarks?

HH: I use google maps to get a gist of the land and from there I sketch the spacial area. As I am doing that I block of where the landmarks are. I do a lot of research about the place I am drawing the map of to understand the culture and the lay of the land.

What creative tool or material can you not work without? For me, it’s my scanner and my black micron marker.

HH: I use a oblique holder with a blue pumpkin nib and Moon Palace black sumi ink. I love the line quality gives me for illustrating. Clairfontaine paper is my favorite for creating work for reproduction. I also LOVE my Artograph light pad, it is a must have tool for any illustrator/calligrapher. I actually have 2 of them, one for my office and one for the dining room and it is great to travel with too. Oh and best gold ink ever is Dr. Ph. Martin’s Copperplate Gold.

What keeps you inspired? Do you look to other calligraphers and designers?

HH: When I was in high school I was in the grocery store with my mom and saw the cover of the current Gourmet magazine that was covered with beautiful calligraphy and whimsy illustrations by Elvis Swift. I just loved the style and had my mom buy me the magazine just so I could save the cover. After college I discovered who Elvis Swift was and that he was the one who had done that cover and it was so cool to me to see that I had admired something for so long and that it had inspired my style. I also love the works of Matisse, Wedgwood China and the colors of Frank Stella’s early works. I love children’s books and Lyle the Crocodile, Winnie the Pooh, Madeline and Eloise are all huge inspirations.

Any tips for calligraphy beginners?

HH: I would definitely encourage taking lessons. You will learn lot about tools of the trade and the basics of calligraphy. I think it is really important as an artist to have some formal training and then to take what you have learned and give it your own twist.

What do you like to listen to while you work?

HH: Dean Martin, Andrew Bird, U2, Marie Antoinette Soundtrack, Louis Armstrong…weird mix…I know…I also love to watch I Love Lucy reruns and cooking shows while working

What is your favorite type of project? Weddings? Illustration? All of it?

HH: All of it, I love having a balance of different projects going on, it keeps things interesting.

What was your first design or calligraphy job?

HH: My first design job that I used my calligraphy skills on job was for a stationery shop here in Birmingham called the Scribbler. I thought this was the perfect opportunity for me to use for calligraphy, it just conceptually worked with the name of the shop. The client loved the logo and direction and I also won quite a few awards for the branding of this job and it was published in Communication Arts. This really encouraged me that I had landed on something and I continued to use my illustration and calligraphy skills with branding.

You’re a fellow Southern creative based in Birmingham, AL. What’s you favorite place for a good southern meal?

HH: Shindigs Food Truck in Birmingham….Willis Burger…I am OBSESSED!!!!

To check out Holly’s beautiful work, head on over here. And if you’re located anywhere near Birmingham, Holly is now offering calligraphy workshops. I just might be taking one myself in January!


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