The Painted Word

Interview by Caitlin de Laure
Photography by Franz Navarrete

Calligraphy, a longstanding art form practised for centuries by numerous cultures, has been at risk of obsolescence due to the ever-encroaching tide of modernisation. In 2014, Joanne started The Letter J Supply and has since breathed new life into the appreciation of calligraphy in Singapore. From furnishing walls with tastefully executed quotes to holding workshops and imparting useful skills to calligraphy enthusiasts, The Letter J Supply is steadily gaining ground for this art form. Joanne takes some time to speak about what incited her love for calligraphy and how it has propelled her to devote herself completely to it.

Is there a story behind the name The Letter J Supply?

A friend suggested this name to me when I was starting out. It’s the initials of my name and Jesus. And, “letter” because what we do is centred around words.

Please tell us more about the process of mastering this skill—how long did it take and what did it entail?

I’m still far from mastery! I think with all things, you’ve got to love it enough to want to spend a lot of time on it and you will naturally get better. I took my first class about 2.5 years ago, and I really liked the process of writing; creating the lines on paper felt like seeing them dance. The luscious flow of ink, the occasional scratchiness and ink blots, flipping through sheets of practice paper—this whole process was beautiful and therapeutic to me.

It was the practice on real jobs that pushed me to try harder, because I had to present something that I felt was the best within my ability. I often said yes before I knew if I could do it and stressed over it after. As there is no “undo” button for calligraphy, my safety net was buying a lot more paper than I needed so I could feel free to make mistakes.

True, there is no “undo” button. So, while the process can be very therapeutic, what advice do you have for beginners who are met with frustration?

It’s part of the process and the fruit of success in that final piece is sweet. Don’t give up, you can only get better because of the absence of the “undo” button!

Read more in The U Press N˚11 (Singapore edition).