With the disappearance of cursive handwriting from schools’ curriculums, it’s artists like calligrapher Sam Teich that are keeping the beautiful hand-written word alive. Her work is ethereal, modern and absolutely stunning – it’s no surprise that she has worked on projects and live event collaboration with top brands such as Everlane, Topshop, TNT, sweetgreen and AYR. And her online shop is full of chic paper goods that are sure to make lovely additions to your desktop.
We caught up with Sam at her home studio in Greenwich Village in downtown Manhattan that she shares with her adorable Aussiedoodle, Fidget. She gives us a tour of her modern minimalist apartment (thanks to talented photographer and friend Ebbe Sweet) and shares everything from how she got into calligraphy, her dream collaboration, and what upcoming projects she’s working on.
Could you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into the art of calligraphy?
“When people ask how I got into calligraphy, I usually say that I was a very nerdy kid! I taught myself how to write in cursive, and my parents could bribe me to do basically anything with the promise of a visit to a stationery store. I travelled a lot growing up, and was always interested in drawing letters – I transliterated messages into hieroglyphics when we visited Egypt, and tried brush lettering in China. I went to NYU for photography and graphic design, and worked as a photographer, photo editor, and digital designer for editorial publications before pursuing calligraphy full time.”
Talk to us about your beautiful calligraphy pen.
“The pen holder is solid copper with brass and sycamore wood, and it’s designed by Tom’s Studio from a collaboration he did with the London stationery shop Quill. Its main function is beauty. You can create calligraphy just as nicely with a $2 plastic holder, but this has a lovely weight to it, and is just a joy to use.”
Sphere and Stem table lamp from West Elm
How have you designed your workspace to inspire you & promote creativity?
“Since I do work at home, the most important thing for me when I was looking for an apartment was to have a separate office area. It was very important to find a spot where I could have plenty of space to work on projects (a place where 200 place cards can dry, or I could lay out a denim jacket to paint), and also not see them from my bed! The natural light is also huge for me (as it is for most creatives!). Another challenge: I have a lot of stuff, but I don’t like clutter! The pen storage in particular was a sticking point: as much as I wanted a wall full of tall jars of color-sorted pens, it’s actually better for most pens to be stored horizontally. Pens, ink, and paint are also messy (has anyone ever been in an art supply store that isn’t covered in paint?), so I really like having them in clean, white, closed storage, but they’re also sorted by type and easily accessible.”
What are some of your best-sellers in your online shop?
“The ‘Shit to Do’ and ‘Do it/Fuck it’ notepads are definitely top sellers. The temporary tattoos are always popular too. I love clean, simple design with a bit of an edge. It’s fun to surprise people who think calligraphy is just for formal wedding invitations with a cheeky play on words. I have some new notepad designs coming soon I’m very excited about.”
“My office is a section of my apartment”, explains Sam. The L-shaped desk serves multiple functions for me: it separates the office from my actual living space, it allows me to have computer work and calligraphy work out simultaneously but not on top of each other, and it provides a double-sided table so I can have a meeting or private lesson. This surface is perfect for writing – it’s smooth and sturdy, and super easy to keep clean (very important for me!). It’s great to be able to swivel around from writing something to scanning it, to editing on the computer, replying to emails, etc.”
Blah Blah throw by textile designer Donna Wilson | Floor lamp, sofa and rug from CB2
How would you describe your personal decor style?
“I’d love to say it’s modern minimalism, but in reality it’s minimalism meets a lot of stuff! I’m always drawn to black and white, simple geometric patterns, and strong typography. I have so many flat surfaces, it’s hard to keep them clear all the time. Running a business involving paper means I have stacks of used art papers, completed works, materials for testing, contracts, to-do lists, etc. going all the time.”
Fidget is my #1 assistant”, exclaims Sam. “Since I do work from home, he’s here all the time, and likes to show up under the desk with toys. He has a little perch by the window where he likes to sit and watch the street. He’s great for productivity – I’ll take him on a walk down to the park when I need a break, and he can tell if I’m getting stressed out and he’ll climb up into my lap.”
What are your favorite things to calligraphy on?
“I love doing custom items – jackets, bags, etc., because then I get to see my work in the wild! I’ve had friends snap photos of people in the city wearing jackets I’ve personalized with captions like ‘is this yours?!’ and that is so cool for me.”
Sam’s dining nook features a beautiful accent wall comprised of vinyl “concrete” removable wallpaper by Chasing Paper, speckled pottery from West Elm gifted from a close friend, and a coffee cup print by Knowlita that showcases a blue watercolor cup from her favorite cafe in NYC where she hosts her calligraphy shops – Maman.
Who is currently inspiring you in the design/art world?
“Chiara Perano of Lamplighter London does really beautiful work, as does Lucy Edmonds of Quill London. It’s neat to be able to watch on social what other artists are doing all over the world – I have Instagram friends in Singapore and we trade tricks all the time.”
Can you give us some unique ways to incorporate calligraphy into home decor?
“A chalkboard in the kitchen is an easy way to write a menu or shopping list. And a fun trick: you can also use a chalk marker to write on mirrors.”
What would be your dream collaboration?
“Ooh, so tough! I have so many ideas. I love fashion, and I have a number of brands that I have my eye on to work with in the future. I’ve been lucky that I’ve gotten to work with some of my favorite brands already. But I’d love to apply my style of writing to apparel in different ways. I’m also dying to do larger scale work – a mural would be a dream.”
What new projects are you working on?
“So many! I have a number of brand collaborations coming up in the Fall I’m really excited about. I can’t share much yet, but I’ll be writing on some very cool surfaces I haven’t tried before. I have a new stationery collection coming out shortly to expand my shop. And I’m working with the team at Maman to bring our monthly calligraphy workshops to their new Marché in Soho, which has a dreamy outdoor space that will be so perfect for events.”
If you have always wanted to learn the art of calligraphy and find yourself in NYC, you can meet Sam in person and attend one of her regularly hosted beginner calligraphy workshops at Maman Café and Bakery by signing up here.