As you probably know by seeing our Embellished Manuscripts Collection, we are fascinated by beautiful lettering: all the peaks and valleys of cursive writing and the soothing calm of individual letters that come together to form words. You know we also celebrate creatives from all corners of the world and all walks of life, and we relish stories that come from the heart, especially the ones that advocate for mental health. Today’s guest covers all these topics we are passionate about and more. Vancouver-based Dina Lu is a calligrapher, creative business coach, YouTube creator and testament to the benefits of art and creativity for mental health. Dina is not only a successful calligraphy business owner but also teaches other creatives how to turn their passions into a way of living. We are thrilled to welcome her to our blog.
1. How did you discover your love for what you do?
I discovered calligraphy through Pinterest in 2018 when I was randomly browsing for cake decorations. Something with calligraphy popped up – probably a happy birthday greeting card or something – and I got lost in a Pinterest calligraphy art hole. The next day, I went to the art store and bought a calligraphy brush pen, and the rest is history! Part of me learning calligraphy was also inspired by my mom’s mental health struggles. After many years battling depression and psychosis, she was finally diagnosed and treated, and when she was discharged from the hospital, my mental energy was freed up to think about a personal dream: to have my own side business. My mom didn’t have a job, so I thought I could learn calligraphy, get my mom to paint, and then sell cards with her. She always had painting supplies lying around, so I told her about my idea and asked if she wanted to team up. I thought the idea was brilliant because we could make some side income and spend time together as mother-daughter bonding time. I’ve shared the full story in this article by Cold Tea Collective.
In terms of content creation, I’ve always loved writing blogs. Since I was 11 years old, I’ve created 10 blogs on different topics just for fun because I loved sharing my experiences and having a space all to myself where I could be creative and write. This love of content creation has translated well into general content creation in my business – Instagram posts, email newsletters, YouTube scripts, and continuing to blog.
2. Has anyone or anything in particular inspired your creativity and artistic passion?
I’m inspired by a lot of things and people! The daily joys in life, travelling and nature are something that I always turn to when I feel stuck artistically. I love being present and taking time to enjoy things in peace and quiet. There are many people who have inspired me – many artists, calligraphers, bloggers, YouTubers, my mentors and coaches. My family and friends also inspire me so much when I talk to them about their challenges and what’s going on in their lives. A huge part of my content is sharing my real struggles and how I’m able to make progress in overcoming them, so my own challenges are something that also inspire me.
3. Were you a creative child growing up?
My favourite kind of books to get at the library were arts and crafts books, so yes! I definitely loved creating things growing up, especially trying new things all the time. I also loved browsing different kinds of art sets at the art store – for example, sets where I could make my own jewelry, home décor or origami. I also loved pressing leaves in those old telephone and Yellow Pages books.
4. Do you have a particular style or medium you prefer to work with?
In my calligraphy work, I usually use calligraphy brush pens or pointed pen. My style is modern and simple, and most of my work is done on paper. As a left-handed calligrapher, I discovered that writing on big surfaces such as mirrors and big chalkboards was inconvenient because I would always smudge the writing with my left hand, and that’s why I typically stick to paper. Recently, I got an iPad so I’ve been experimenting with digital calligraphy – it’s definitely a work in progress but I hope to incorporate more digital calligraphy into my work soon!
5. What is your favourite word to write?
Ha ha that’s a fun question! To be honest, I don’t really have a favourite word, but if had to answer this question, my best response would be writing people’s names while they watch me. It’s not a “favourite word” per se, but I find a lot of joy in people watching me write their names because they always smile.
6. What has really helped you to get noticed, aside from being so talented?
First of all, thank you! I would say that love for meeting new people and my ability to be my true authentic self online has helped me immensely in growing my business and personal brand. When I was running my calligraphy business on the side, I taught a lot of calligraphy workshops. Of course the first couple workshops were a bit nerve-wracking, but then I started to really enjoy meeting new people and helping them learn a new skill.
Growing up, I loved following content creators and creatives who showed up very authentically, so now in my own work and content, I do my best to do that too. I love a great story, and sharing the journey with others, so I don’t hesitate to share the challenges and struggles that I’m going through with my audience.
7. How did you go from running your own calligraphy business to coaching others on launching a creative business?
There were several things that inspired me to start coaching others. When I was running my own calligraphy business, I had a lot of struggles and wished that there was someone who could help me with my problems, but I couldn’t find anyone specifically in the calligraphy niche. In university and when I was working in my 9-5 job (I quit it in 2019), I loved mentoring younger people and was part of a few mentorship programs. For many years, I’ve always dreamed of becoming a digital nomad and travelling the world, so I knew that at some point I had to transition my physical calligraphy business to a more digital business. A couple months after quitting my job, I started to share free content about running a calligraphy business, created a Facebook group just for calligraphers, and started working with clients for free. Since then, I’ve coached over 50 calligraphers around the world on starting a business!
8. What is your favourite part about coaching?
My favourite part is definitely seeing other people succeed in the goals they set for themselves. When my clients are happy, I’m happy. Whether it’s them getting new customers, building confidence, turning around a negative mindset, or securing brand deals, I love hearing them share about each and every win. Running a business is a step-by-step process, and I’m honoured that I can walk alongside so many talented people and help them along the journey.
9. Any advice you would like to share with aspiring calligraphers?
I’ve got lots of advice, ha ha! If there was only one piece of advice I could share, it would be this: to be successful doing anything you want, take a small action step each day. So many times we get stuck thinking that a goal is so big and unachievable, but actually all goals can be broken up into tiny daily actions or habits that we can build. Even in 10 minutes a day, you can work towards whatever goal you want to achieve, if you do it consistently.
10. We have a tradition where we ask our featured artist to do a shoutout to any contemporary fellow artist that inspires them, so we can feature them in the future and as a way of #artistssupportingartists. Please nominate a fellow artist and tell us why you admire their work.
I’m a huge fan of Cathy Thorne from Everyday People Typewriter Poems. She’s based in Toronto, and writes the most amazing poems on her typewriter on the spot. Yes, on the spot in a couple minutes after chatting with you! I admire her work because it takes so much talent to write a beautiful, spontaneous, and uplifting poem in just a few minutes and the entire experience makes you feel incredible. She is so creative, wise, and impactful with her poetry.
Thank you Dina for sharing your story with us!