As a prop and soft goods stylist, Allegra Hsiao is in demand. Images from clients like Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn regularly feature her work as do design magazines like Dwell and CA Home & Design. With a degree in fine arts from Amherst College, it may not seem surprising that Allegra has a hidden talent: Calligraphy. Over the years, her calligraphy skills have complemented her work as a prop stylist on many a shoot. In fact, as evidenced by "the calligraphy stars of Instagram," the ancient art form of calligraphy is still decidedly modern.
When did you learn calligraphy?
My older sister was a calligrapher so I started trying my hand right out of the gate. She wrote out the alphabet in italics and I copied it over and over for years. My first "professional" job was in the sixth grade when my teachers asked me to calligraph the names on my classmates' elementary school diplomas.
Calligraphy seems intimidating. Do you need perfect penmanship?
Of course not! If "perfect imperfection" was not desirable, people would use a computer. Beauty is found in imperfection.
Where can we see your calligraphy?
It has been featured in some catalogs over the years — Bergdorf Goodman, Pottery Barn, Red Envelope. I’ve also done a lot of event calligraphy for fashion designers like James Galanos and John Galliano. Currently, my calligraphy is featured as the title art for the film series Standing on Sacred Ground .
How does calligraphy complement your work as a stylist?
Every so often, a table setting needs place cards or some stationary needs address labels. My fine art background also comes in handy from time to time when a client needs copyright-free art in a pinch.
What’s in your arsenal of tools?
My favorites implements are an inkbrush or a nibbed calligraphy pen and ink. Inkbrush makes it feel less like writing and more like painting or making art. The old fashioned, nibbed calligraphy pen and ink is just plain cool; it makes me feel like I’ve stepped back in time. What’s more, the effect is always unexpectedly beautiful.
What should we know about calligraphy?
If someone commissions a calligrapher to write a letter for you, consider yourself very special! Essentially, you've received a piece of art that took a great deal of time and love.