a chat with Ariela & Terri of Geek Calligraphy

A few weeks ago, I enjoyed an email exchange with Ariela and Terri of Geek Calligraphy. I’ve known Terri for several years and became curious about what she was doing when she started sharing amazing geeky prints to social media. Without further ado, let’s get to our chat.

little acorn:
I’ve read your website, overall I get “why” geek calligraphy… but really, why do you want to get out of bed and do this (and not something else) each day?
terri:
I get to be in business with my best friend. Which is actually hard, but incredibly rewarding. Also I get to enable Judaic Art that isn’t bog standard, which is amazing. And I get to be subversive professionally, which is always fun. And if I didn’t do this, Ariela would be getting substandard help, and that would be a crying shame.
ariela:
Geek Calligraphy sits at the intersection of what are probably my three greatest interests in life: Judaism, Art, and Geekery. Honestly, it’s the best job I could imagine, and I am lucky to be able to do it, even part time, and to have a partner (Terri) who covers my weak points so well.
Geek Calligraphy product - SpaceScape Ketubah
little acorn:
Your business partnership makes me smile. Even though there’s considerable physical distance, I think it’s very important and I sometimes wish I had a Terri!

Next, I like to try to get to know what do you wish customers would or wouldn’t do? Your extensive FAQ and blog posts cover quite a bit. Is there anything else you would like to call attention to?

terri:
Customers who show up with completely unrealistic time expectations. We can do a lot, but we’re not miracle workers. Also people who approach us for things like wholesale inquiries and then evaporate off the face of the earth.

geek calligraphy card - take care of yourself (dragon with spoons)For a while, it was completely inaccessible licensing departments. It’s amazing how much easier it is to get in touch with the Lucasfilm people now that Disney owns them.

ariela:
My biggest pet peeve is probably clients who respond to me sending them a sketch by telling me something isn’t right, but can’t or won’t explain what’s the problem. By all means, be polite, but I can’t fix it if I don’t know what the problem is! Specifics are everyone’s friend.

Worse, though I am not sure I would call this a pet peeve, is when people submitting inquiries don’t respect our stated prices and try to tell us our work isn’t worth that much money. Those who say “Oh, sorry, that’s out of my price range, nevermind,” are fine. It’s the ones who say “How about $200 less?” or somesuch that really press my buttons.

little acorn:
I couldn’t press buy fast enough when a certain print made its debut. On the consumer end, I know I struggle with this and wish everything I liked fit into my budget. I see this with technology clients, I once had a potential client say “I am not paying you because I can google it!” (my reply? “have fun!”). I hope that discussions with you, and others in the knitting community (please see The great teaching kerfuffle and Why I’m not Designing Knitwear Right Now by Kristin Nicholas for starters) have helped me think twice about the language I choose when I can’t commit.

Ok, next question! What do you do when you aren’t Geek Calligraphy?

terri:
My full time job is parenting a ridiculously active toddler (known as J or Monster online). I’m in the middle of several knitting projects at the moment, including a pink and yellow cardigan for my daughter and a baby blanket for my nephew. But I’m most proud of what I’m calling my “Art Show Shawl.” It’s a shawl in the Geek Calligraphy colors and it’s going to be wonderful.
ariela:
I have a full-time day job, which takes up most of my time. I work on the back end of email marketing (database integration, template coding, analytics and segmentation), for a Jewish nonprofit.

I’m currently studying to be a soferet, so Geek Calligraphy may expand to offer mezuzah scrolls and info on commissioning a megillah or a Torah at some point.

For recreation, I like sewing, cooking, and home improvement (yay power tools!). Also swing dancing.

little acorn:
What drives your creative process?
terri:
I often delve into my past career of selling Judaica for a living to figure out what we should be selling. Or I mine it for things to parody.

It’s hard for us to be separated by two radically different day jobs (parenting and office coding). Often when one of us has time, the other is dealing with something that is metaphorically on fire. But it’s been rewarding to make it work.

ariela:
geek calligraphy print - coder's oathI shamelessly plunder my day job for ideas for my calligraphy. Our Coder’s Oath and Tech Serenity Prayer are direct results of encountering issues on the job.

I think every piece I have worked on for an extended period, particularly the ketubot which tend to take months in process, has had an “Oh gob, why did I think I could do this, I’ve ruined it and it’s terrible!” moment. That’s when I gripe to Terri and to other artist colleagues, who tell me to step away for a bit until I can come back with fresh eyes.

little acorn:
geek calligraphy print - cordthulhuI could have used the Tech Serenity Prayer or a warning toward Cordhulhu while I was the IT Manager of a small NYC law firm.

I ask everyone: Kitten or Puppy snuggles?

terri:
Kittens, definitely
ariela:
I’m allergic to cats, alas, so it has to be puppies for me.
geek calligraphy - ketubah - Salute Ketubah
little acorn:
Thank you Ariela and Terri!

Learn more:

geek calligraphy logoYou can find Ariela and Terri at geekcalligraphy.com.

If you wish to purchase a print for delivery by December 24th, please make your purchase no later than December 14. Note: they are only able to ship to US addresses at this time.


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