Interview: Carla Hackett

By Andrea McArthur Carla Hackett

Carla Hackett has taken her love of type and turned it into a blossoming boutique lettering and design studio called Foxglove Lettering. Foxglove is based in Melbourne at Little Gold Studios, a shared creative space where Carla hand-crafts lettering for a range of clients in creative industries, including fashion, music, food, branding, retail, hospitality, magazines, books, weddings and conferences. Carla established Foxglove Lettering with the aim of bringing a warm, unique, human element to a world dominated by digital fonts and design.


What led you down your current path?

After studying graphic design at university and six years’ working at some of Sydney’s top agencies, I escaped to Berlin to soak up some international inspiration. It was a fantastic city to be based in as the living expenses are a lot lower than Australia and there is lots going on there creatively. Not to mention being on the doorstep of Europe for travel fun times!

I went along to a two-day hand lettering workshop with Ken Barber from House Industries. From that moment I was completely hooked! It was the perfect mix of illustration and typography that really appealed to me. After the workshop, I began feverishly lettering a bunch of personal work. I had a side project called Deutsch Doodles where I illustrated funny German words and it lead to a commission where I illustrated Berlin Bingo, a hipster guide to Berlin.

Once I’d had my ‘Bowie years,’ I decided to move to lovely Melbourne at the end of 2012. I’d always wanted to live here and it really was the best decision as I’ve found there is a great supportive community of creative business owners here. I decided to focus on my lettering and move into Little Gold Studios and start Foxglove Lettering in March this year. It’s been a journey to really take a step back and hit a reset button before finding what I am really passionate about.

Since then it’s been gaining momentum. I had a little boost of inspiration in March, winning a scholarship to go to Clare Bowditch’s Big Hearted Business Conference. Clare saw my chalkboard in my video and asked me to be the first BHB Inspiration Bomb artist. It was that fantastic exposure and going to the conference that really solidified in my mind that I was on the right path to doing what I love and making a living.


Who do you admire in the industry?

There are some amazing letterers who inspire me greatly. They’ve managed to carve a niche career with this specialty skill. Jessica Hische, Erik Marinovich, Mary Kate McDevitt, Jon Contino and Dana Tanamachi. And locally Gemma O’Brien, Dave Foster and Luke Lucas are producing phenomenal work. My studio buddies at Little Gold inspire me everyday with their energy and passion for their creative businesses. It’s amazing to be around.

Do you think hand-lettering is having a resurgence? Why?

Definitely! I think there is a real yearning for hand-crafted things in this digital age. The nostalgia and ephemeral nature of chalk has its own appeal nowadays. My mentor is a former ‘Ticket Writer’. She made a career out of hand lettering signage for department stores in the 1950s and 1960’s. The sign writing courses have cut most of the hand painting part of the course - it’s all done on the computer. I want to learn this skill so that it can live on!

Can you talk about the difference between hand-lettering and other type-related terms?

By definition, lettering is drawing. Lettering is closer friends with illustration than typography. Let’s also just clear up that calligraphy is writing and typography is a predictable and repeatable system of letters - a typeface.

What has been your most favourite project in recent years?

Earlier this year I got to work with my great friend Irena Macri from Eat Drink Paleo who runs Australia’s most popular paleo recipe site. Irena commissioned me to art direct, letter and illustrate the book's cover, chapter introductions and feature pages. All images were chalked by hand and photographed alongside the ingredients and prepared dishes. The best part was getting to eat all of the healthy delicious food once it was photographed!

Eat Drink Paleo

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

I ride my bike to my studio in Brunswick where I’ll make my Aeropress coffee. Just this short bike ride and sitting down at my desk is a trigger to switch into creative mode. I try to do most of my creative work first up when I have energy and do some business/admin stuff later in the day. My days could be quite varied, some days I could be out on an on-site chalk job, some days I could be lettering on paper or lettering on my chalkboard, or lettering with paint and a brush! It depends on the project. But as long as I have picked up a drawing instrument everyday, I have practiced my craft so I can get better and learn. There’s also emails and business stuff to stay on top of and posting behind the scenes pictures to Instagram and Facebook!

What future plans do you have for your lettering business?

I really want to keep honing my craft and practicing lettering in all forms. This will mean making time for personal work amongst client work. I feel some great momentum happening, and I’m super excited for more great opportunities for collaborating with interesting brands and Creative Directors on some super fun projects. I’m also learning the ways of combining creativity and business so that I can continue to make a living doing what I love.

I’m working on producing a small range of hand lettered greeting cards as a side-product with my soon to be letterpress printing skills. I eventually would like to run workshops to teach people the process of lettering. I’ve had a few enquiries already!

Wedding Stationery

5 Questions in 5 minutes – Getting Personal:

Studio Sounds, what's playing?

We have rdio set up on a mini iPad in the studio so everyone can control the music from their computer so we always listening to our collection on random rotation. But in particular we’ve been loving the new Snakadaktal - Sleep in the Water. We also love 60’s girl band ditties!

What are you currently reading?

Manage Your Day-to-Day by 99U. It has some fantastic interviews with people like Seth Godin and Stephan Sagmeister on how they manage to do great creative work in these times of many distractions.

What are you looking forward to?

I am super excited to be doing a letterpress workshop with Amy from St Gertrude Design. Amy is going to teach a few designers how to use her 100 year-old press ‘Gordon’ (who moved in Little Gold Studios two months ago) so that eventually we can print our own designs. This is an inaugural workshop and will be open to other designers in the future.

I’m also looking forward to getting back to nature in late December down in Tasmania. We’ll be camping at Freycinet National Park with some hiking, relaxing, sampling the local wine and food, and also get over to the amazing Mona for some art inspiration.

Can you share your go to resource for inspiration?

I have some fantastic lettering books from Louise Fili - ‘Scripts’ and ‘Vintage Type and Graphics’ full of her personal collection of vintage lettering and my 1959 Photo Lettering Catalogue full of original hand-lettered typefaces that Don Draper would have used!

I love seeing behind the scenes work of other letterers and artists on Instagram. On the web, I follow Friends of Type and Type Everything blog amongst others. But there is lettering and type all around us everyday that I find really inspiring.

What is your local areas best kept secret?

It’s probably not so secret with the Brunswick hipsters, but when I found Dejour Jeans I was so excited! $50 jeans in lots of colours with free tailoring? Yes please! I must also mention Los Hermanos for great Mexican food and the cute little Save Yourself designer boutique in Sparta Place that sells my favourite Lime Crime lipsticks.


After reading all of this type and lettering goodness I'm inspired to pull out the brush pens and chalk! If you would like to contact Carla please see all her details below.

Carla Hackett / Foxglove Lettering Website: Email: Instagram: @carlahackett Twitter: @canarycarla Facebook: /carla.hackett.lettering

Andrea McArthur has a passion for all things visual. Type is her true love and goes weak at the knees over beautiful design. Andrea works as a freelance graphic designer in Brisbane by day and lectures in graphic design by night. You will find her sharing design related goodness via @andyjane_mc