Shinah Chang

Chief Calligrapher - Crooked Calligraphy

I'm a former unhappy corporate lawyer turned sassy calligrapher. I teach a very traditional art form in a very non-traditional way and I love showing people that they can access the creativity inside of them, even if they think they're not creative.

What inspired you to start your business?

I spent almost a decade in law before I had the courage to leave. After I quit my corporate law firm, I spent some time exploring different creative avenues. I took classes in woodworking, figure drawing, watercolor, creative writing. I even started an Etsy shop with some of my hand-knit scarves. But none of it stuck... until I found calligraphy.

As soon as I picked up that pen, I was hooked and I knew this was something I could really do for the long-haul. The first product I sold under Crooked Calligraphy was greeting cards with beautifully-written swear words. Since then, I've pivoted to focus mainly on teaching calligraphy. Now, my business is based more on the creativity and hope that calligraphy inspires, rather than products made with calligraphy. But in all this time, my love for the craft has stayed just as strong.


What is something you would say to someone who is struggling in their first few years of business? Is there something you struggled with and learned from in those first few years?

For me, the hardest thing about building a business is that there's no roadmap. The best you get is a lighthouse far off in the distance and some different paths that you glimpse occasionally. So the best advice I can give to a new business owner is to keep showing up and taking steps in the direction of your lighthouse. You never know when you're going to turn a corner. There were days early on in my business where I would feel completely defeated because nothing was happening. I wouldn't get a job for weeks. Then, suddenly, I would get an exciting inquiry in my inbox. The problem is, you can't see that inquiry coming. All the seeds you've planted... they're all growing invisibly. So you have to keep believing in yourself and maintain faith that things are brewing. The biggest names in the calligraphy industry are all people who have stuck around and kept showing up, year after year. The important thing is to keep pointed in the direction of your lighthouse and don't stop moving forward.

What hobbies, causes, or activities are you passionate about aside from your work?

Honestly, my business has taken up most of my life for the past four years. But, now that I've built it into something a bit more stable, I'm starting to become more involved and interested in the world of step-parenting. I'm a stepmom to my fiancé's 11-yr-old daughter (Sophia) and there's a growing number of people just like me who never imagined they would be parenting a grown child... but suddenly there they are.

Helping Sophia navigate middle school and puberty and just life is an increasingly important part of my life and I'm curious to see what kinds of support and advice there is out there for people in my position.

Image Credit: Headshot and teaching photos by Valerie Vogt (www.valvogtphotography.com)(instagram.com/valvogt_)