Louise Mulhall is a Brisbane based Calligrapher and holder of possibly the most delightful business name I’ve yet encountered – Floralovely. With a background in floristry, it’s not surprising the find that Louise’s whimsical and fresh designs have attracted a strong Instagram and Facebook following, with demand growing for her pointed pen style.
Returning to an art practice that you had once been disappointed by is a courageous move - especially with a young family in tow. But Louise’s late night explorations in modern calligraphy have paid off handsomely, as her delightful creations are in demand for weddings, events and corporate clients. Louise also runs workshops across the east coast, to share her skills and passion with aspiring calligraphers.
Calligraphy is an ancient and evocative art practice, what initially attracted you to it? I initially became interested in calligraphy when I was in high school - I was always the girl at school with the highly decorated “title page” for assignments! For a short while I learnt broad nib calligraphy, but became disheartened when I wasn’t getting the results I wanted. So I put my tools away and didn’t give them another glance until many years later, where I discovered pointed pen calligraphy. This discovery of the tools which complimented my style unleashed my creativity and I fell completely in love.
Having worked in the wedding industry for many years, I could see there was a market for my own style of handwritten place cards and wedding invitations. I researched modern calligraphy online; bought all the recommended books I could find, did online courses and completed a modern calligraphy workshop in Sydney. I spent many, many hours at night once my daughter and subsequent son, were asleep refining my style and working my way through reams of practice paper and ink.
The name 'Floralovely' was intended to capture my love of both flowers and calligraphy, allowing flexibility between these two aspects of my business. Ultimately though, I decided to focus exclusively on my calligraphy business and put my Floristry career into hiatus.
What are the biggest misconceptions about your work?
If you were to look at my Instagram you might be lead to believe that my days are filled with playing with pretty papers and shiny inks when in actual fact my days are usually filled with taking my kids to swimming lessons or playing with play dough! Social media can be quite deceptive in that way.
As my children are still so young, I limit the amount of orders I take for calligraphy as my main job at the moment is Mum. I spend most days with my son and daughter and then work at night while they are asleep.
There’s a lot more involved with my business that just sitting down and writing for a couple of hours. I liaise with clients, order supplies, organise workshop venues and ticketing, create calligraphy drafts in pencil and I spend a lot of time practicing my lettering.
I definitely couldn’t keep working this hard if I didn’t love my job. I feel a great, personal fulfilment being able to write calligraphy for work and still be there for my kids when they need me.
My favourite quote at the moment is from Will Rogers (1879-1935) - “If you want to be successful, it’s just this simple. Know what you are doing. Love what you are doing. And believe in what you are doing.”
What have been your greatest challenges in starting your own business? I’ve found my greatest challenge is managing my time between work and family, which I’m sure is an experience shared with any working mother! Making the most of my child-free days is imperative, as well as a having a tolerance to late nights in the office. I try to stay out of my office on the days that my kids are home with me as I want to make sure my attention is on them and not on my work.
I have also found it challenging to keep on top of the administration work while still allowing myself plenty of writing and creative time. It’s easy to get caught up in emails and admin when you’re doing everything yourself but I need to make sure I have dedicated writing times where I don’t look at the computer.
What part of your day gives you the best 'flow' in your work? I really enjoy when I have a long list of names for a place card order or envelope addressing and I sit down with a cup of tea and just work my way through the list. It is so satisfying to see all the cards or envelopes lined up with the ink drying after I have finished them.
Talk us through a day in the life of Floralovely.
On the two days my children are in daycare/kindy, after the morning chaos and drop offs, I come home and settle into the stream of emails and admin work with a cup of tea.
Once I’m up to date, I’ll review the client brief and start warming up for writing. I’ve found I just can’t sit down and expect to start calligraphy work straight away. I I need to do a few pages of swirls, drills and practice alphabets to get going.
I’ll spend the rest of the day working through the order, whether it’s envelope addressing, place cards or a seating chart and before I know it, it’s time to pick up my littlies!
I mostly practice my calligraphy at night-time in the home office I share with my husband. In these quieter hours I have found the perfect environment that allows me to get my ink ‘flow’ happening. Everything is fairly still, my children are sleeping and I can really concentrate on what I’m doing.
----- Keely Malady is a twenty-something year old graduate architect living in Melbourne. Keely’s blog, Small Talk & Co. aims to hold a space open for a new conversation on the wonders of the small things that make up a life well lived.