Welcome to another artist spotlight! In an effort to shine more light on some of the talented calligraphy artists out there, I’ve been reaching out to inspiring artists I look up to and asking if they’d be willing to answer some interview questions. Today, I would like to introduce you to the talented Jessica Duff (AKA Shay Calligraphy).
Jessica Duff (Shay Calligraphy)
If you follow any sort of blackletter calligraphy or calligraffiti hashtags or accounts on Instagram, I’d be surprised if you haven’t come across @shaycalligraphy.
The mind behind the work is an incredible artist out of Biel, Switzerland by the name of Jessica Duff. I discovered her work in November of 2016 and have been captivated by her gothic styles ever since. Jessica has been evolving her skills at an unbelievable rate.
Not only does she seem to be posting new pieces every single day, but she also works at massive scales. As you’ll see, her mural work is mesmerizing.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me! I’ve been a big fan of your work for a while now. Would you mind speaking about your background and how you got into lettering and typography?
My name is Jessica, I’m 24 years old and come from the beautiful county of Bern, Switzerland. Early 2017 I moved to Biel with my boyfriend, having completed my apprenticeship as a sales person in a butchery, in the county of Thurgau. Granted this is a very unusual line of work, but I still enjoy it. Besides my lettering, I also like to play the piano, when I find the time.
I found my way to lettering by coincidence. I was an in-house therapy patient for seven months with a lot of time on my hands and wanted to try something new.
What is the lettering scene like in Biel? Did you grow up in Switzerland? What is the art scene like where you live?
I think the scene is very small. I know one guy, we did two collaborations together. I grew up in Switzerland and was born in Frauenfeld. Until I was 18, I lived in Steckborn and then moved to St.Gallen. I now live in Biel. In Biel, the graffiti scene is very big. This is lucky for me as I’ve had the chance to paint some outdoor walls.
Your blackletter calligrams are incredible, as is your other blackletter work! What inspired you to begin pursuing this style?
I was inspired by Oscar Handstyles, who I found on Instagram. His work just really caught my attention, so I ordered my first calligraphy book off the internet and started learning different types of fonts. I took to it quite quickly and my friends also seemed to like it.
Finding ideas and inspiration for new pieces is not that hard for me, as I follow over 400 pages on Instagram that share the same enthusiasm for this type of art. With so many influences, I generally tend to find new ways of getting my ideas on paper, canvas, or whatever the surface might be.
If you don’t mind me asking… how on earth do you get those perfect circles? It often appears that you’re doing it freehand!
I generally use the same method every time. For example on canvas: I draw the circles on with a compass. Outdoor Wall: I knock in a nail and put an line on it. Then I take a pencil and link it with the line and draw my circles.
What would you say is your favorite project that you’ve done?
I really love the one I did in collaboration with Mischa (Instagram: meash.mshone) at the river of Nidau. It was my first collaboration. He’s an awesome guy and also a very inspiring artist. We had a lot of fun at this spot.
It’s obvious that you’re familiar with a very diverse set of tools. What are your favorites?
I have started with acrylic colors. Its okay, but at the moment I love to paint with the water based colors from Molotow and Montana. And I have some brushes I wouldn’t give away.
What can the world expect from you in the next year/couple years?
I definitely practice everyday. I am looking for an own studio where I can paint any time I want. I will paint a lot of walls in the summer, and perhaps take part in some jams.
If you had to give one piece of advice to an aspiring lettering artist, what would it be?
The most important characteristic one needs, is patience — which isn’t generally one of my good traits, but when it comes to lettering, it somehow works. All I can say is:
Don’t give up, even when it’s not going your way at the time.