Happy Feature Friday!
We are so excited to feature Jane of Red Letter Day! Everything from her calligraphy to her artwork is just so dreamy! Always a creative at heart, we love Jane’s journey. We also love her outlook on encouraging other creators by being open to share her tips of the trade. When we started doing these features, we realized that no matter how many of the same type of creator we had, everyone’s work was incredibly unique. It’s nice that we can help each other on the road to achieving our dreams, and Jane does just that. Read on to learn more about Jane’s life and the future of Red Letter Day!
: Tell us a little about yourself.
: Hi! I’m Jane Gahng and I’m 36 years old. I’m an artist out of Pasadena, CA. Pretty much do all my work from home and I absolutely love it. I started drawing and painting from a really young age and begged my mom to put me into the afterschool art class in 4th grade. This was my first outside of school assignment art class and I loved it! I learned basics of oil painting, acrylics, watercolor, drawing,….etc. But the real training started when I was in junior high, my mom found a studio of an artist that taught young kids and teenagers like me. She taught me the skills and was pretty strict about finishing assignments. Plus it was always amazing to me that she was an artist that had artwork everywhere in her studio and was showing in galleries all over the world. She even let me paint some things onto one of her large pieces! From there I went to night classes at Art Center in Pasadena during high school and decided to save up money and go to Pasadena City College –> Long Beach State –> Italy to study art for a year abroad. Since then, I’ve dabbled in working in corporate America but I always turn back to doing artwork. Can’t seem to get away from it!
: How did you start Red Letter Day?
: About 9 – 10 years ago I started designing custom wedding invitations under a different business name, Olive Hue Paper Goods. I loved doing it but I also had so much work that I got burnt out. I didn’t even think to hire anyone or expand, I just decided that I had enough. During that time, I had dabbled in calligraphy and did some envelope orders for some people. I took a couple years off doing this and just needed some time to myself and reflect on what I really wanted to do. I started calligraphy as a hobby. I got books, looked up Youtube videos, tried to mimic my favorite calligraphers, and just started to make things for our own home and Christmas cards for friends and family at the time. That was about 2 years ago when my boyfriend told me that I should pursue it and make things for people. So from January 2015, I decided to start this business with a huge push from my boyfriend and help from social media, kept pushing images out there of things I was doing. It’s blossomed into an amazing thing and I absolutely love what I do everyday. I feel like I get to play!
: What draws you to creating and the art world in general?
: I love stories. Whenever I go to the museums or galleries, I’m the person that sits in front of paintings for a long time to see details, texture, color, push and pull of the piece. It helps me to see what this artist may have been toiling with to do this work. When you read about artists and the process of how they come about it, it draws you into the story and narrative behind it. All artwork has a narrative, however short, long, political, offensive, etc, it may be, and I’m drawn to it all.
I also love finding out the process from start to finish, the emotion and the breakdown to make the piece come together. Sometimes I hear people say, “I can do that” when they see a painting that is seemingly simple in concept. But in all honesty, they can’t. They can’t have that same story to produce what has been done.
My story is that I simply make what I want to make. I like to make things colorful, sometimes a little messy, and have a dancing rhythm to my work. If it doesn’t make me want to look at it again and again, I rework it.
: You are a self-taught letterer, graphic designer and calligrapher. How did you go about learning these skills for yourself?
: YES! Pretty much self taught. I used to fiddle around with Illustrator and Photoshop when I was working for others because they had the program. I definitely got in trouble and don’t recommend others to do that, but I was young and naive and didn’t think much of it. I really didn’t know how to use the programs well bc I studied classical drawing and painting in college…my tools were paint and paintbrushes. When my first client asked me if I could design their wedding invitation for them, I don’t know what kind of trust they had in me, but I said yes. And that was how I started to learn…forcing myself to take on new things have always made me launch into learning it even if I don’t know how. Google was definitely my friend at the time!
As far as lettering and calligraphy, I would say yes and no. Yes, because in the beginning, I would letter projects for clients as I would artwork. Although I had no formal typography training, I did understand and know the basics because of my need to research and read about things. So I did things the way I visually saw fit. I would always say that I was a letterer that made things look calligraphic. But my boyfriend gifted me a workshop with some calligraphers that I deeply admire. This changed my outlook completely about calligraphy. It’s not about the way the letters look good together, it’s about form and consistency. Once you train yourself to do that, the freehand and modern calligraphy work that is so popular right now, looks so much better and everything looks more deliberate rather than an afterthought. Since then have taken up learning and trying to perfect my copperplate calligraphy and still practicing / learning everyday!
: At Red Letter Day you also offer wedding services. What is it like making special pieces for client’s big days?
: I started Red Letter Day with the wedding industry in mind. I loved the industry when I did it for 6 years so I wanted to make sure there was still a place for weddings in my business. It’s so fun working with brides and creative planners. I’ve written on everything from beautiful handmade paper made into a Harry Potter style letter for a proposal to mirrors for signs to leather for place cards. I always keep in mind that this is the day that they bride and groom have waited for and spent a lot of money on so I always do my best to reflect what they want. It’s always an honor to do work for them because they’ll see it in photos and remember it for the rest of their lives. Being part of people’s special days is a strange concept especially because they’re usually complete strangers to me, but I quickly get to see and get to know a lot of these clients and it makes it 100% worth it.
: Name a few things that are inspiring your work currently?
: Currently, I’m booked solid with custom watercolor illustration requests and these are so fun to do! I’m looking at a lot of different patterns that I’ve seen or collected on my Pinterest board. I especially look to my “Le Sigh” board. I’ve recently collected a lot of fabric images and this really helps me to with color, shadows, texture…pretty much loving these images for my watercolor work that I’ve been doing. Also, another outlet for me is Instagram. There are so many artists and creatives out there and social media has helped me to connect with other creatives. These meetups and gatherings are always so inspiring to me when I see what their doing and know that we’re experiencing similar things as business owners within this industry.
: You have participated in some great styled photoshoots. What do you enjoy most about these shoots?
: I absolutely LOVE photoshoots. We can get as creative and far out as we want and it always turns out so beautifully. I also get to work with vendors that I don’t normally see and it’s always fun to collaborate and come up with something that can be done without an inhibiting budget. It’s also a great way for me to build a portfolio of things that I want to do but haven’t had the chance to do.
: What does a day in the life look like for Jane?
: My days are all over the place. But typically, I wake up and go straight to the computer to check on emails, Etsy orders, and social media. Then I try to fit in a workout (most days) and by that time, it’s the afternoon already, so I eat and rest a little because I have a long rest of the day ahead. Usually, I start my artwork or calligraphy work in the afternoon and evening. It’s when my juices flow the most and when my hands are not as shaky as it is in the morning. I never calligraphy in the morning right after I wake up unless I’ve gotten in a good stretch and warmed up with my pens. I start work by perusing through Pinterest with things that are related to what I’m working on or just to see what’s been pinned. This kind of helps me get motivated to start my work! The end of the day for most is really the start of the day for me. I’m usually up until about 2 or 3 working on projects ranging from seating charts, escort cards, envelopes, place cards, signage all for weddings or during the off season, it’s more corporate clients that are having events, openings, or holiday parties. I’m pretty much working all day and it can range from working at home to meeting clients, vendors, or just connecting with others in this industry.
: What are some of your ideas for the future of Red Letter Day or your creative journey as a whole?
: For now, my immediate idea is to update my website and keep a running blog for people to see what I do more frequently and more in depth instead of just a photo on Instagram or social media. For the future, since I work from home, I would love to expand and have my own studio one day. Ideally, I would love a space that has a room for me to work and spread out with an inspiration board that we can work on for different projects and another room that has excellent lighting for photos and styled shoots and a large wall that I can put shelves everywhere with all our props! I have done a little work with corporate clients like Hublot, Nordstrom, Lululemon and a fast food chain (I can’t name!) But I’d love to move more in that direction and keep building a stronger portfolio. I’d like to build this into licensing artwork for products and fun stuff! 🙂
Lastly, my personal & future creative goal is also to write a book about the process of creatives and creating.
: Any advice?
: haha! I’m the one always asking for advice!
But I used to be stressed out with the number of followers I had on Instagram because I felt that was a direct showing of how good I was or how many people wanted to hire me. I hear this a lot about building a lot of people to follow you so that your work is seen, especially with the algorithm thing, but this started to stress me out. So I’ve let go of it and just do what I’m supposed to do and really love what I do which I hope shows in my work. It’s been almost 10 years since I started any sort of creative business for myself and each time I think about it, any struggle I’ve had through building it, I’m glad it was there because it’s made me stronger to move along and do me.
Also, one last thing. The best work comes from connecting with other creatives and being open rather than thinking someone is going to steal your work. If someone asks me where I’ve sourced things for my products, I tell them. There are so many people in this world that are looking for artists like us that there’s really no need to hold back. This is a small community in relation so I say let’s be open and connect to inspire and encourage each other!
Etsy shop: www.shopredletterday.etsy.com