Today we’d like to introduce you to Judy Johannesen.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Judy. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I chose to quit teaching to stay home with my children, who were born in 1977 and 1979, and took a calligraphy class in 1978 as I looked for something creative to do. I did our Christmas card in calligraphy that year, and thought it was beautiful. Little did I know I had so much to learn! My calligraphy teacher helped me get started by addressing wedding envelopes. Then my sister showed me a perpetual calendar that her church had made. It was on a wooden stand with 366 typewritten quotes that could be used every year. I decided to make one using my new calligraphy skills. The first one I made, I had printed and I used my trusty paper cutter from my teaching days to cut the pages, after which I punched two holes, and Voila! There was a calendar. It was rather crude, so the next printing I ordered 100, cut, collated and shrink-wrapped, an idea that saved me much time and aggravation.
My husband always gets credit for the wooden stands, but he traveled so much that he helped me set up jigs and I made and stained the stands myself. I began selling them at craft fairs.
Then in 1983, we moved from Wilmington, NC to Haymarket, VA, just outside of Washington DC, where I joined the Washington Calligrapher’s Guild and was able to take classes from many very exceptional calligraphers. My children started school and I began the craft fair circuit again. It was the perfect business for a stay-at-home Mom because of the flexibility.
In the next seven years, I added four more calendar themes to my repertoire. The first one I called the Original. Then there was the Love calendar (now no longer available); a Humorous calendar on tan paper – just a good clean laugh for the day; an Office calendar on grey paper (quotes on IRS, the government – most of which are funny – otherwise one would have to cry. In addition, there are many quotes on honesty, integrity, character, etc.); and finally an all Scripture calendar.
My husband’s paycheck paid our mortgage, groceries, utilities, etc; however, I sold enough calendars in those 12 years to pay for doctor bills, other essentials, Christmas and birthday gifts.
We moved to Texas in 1990. The craft shows were more expensive and I was not selling as many calendars as I did in Virginia. Now the children were in Junior High School and we were thinking about college money, so I went to work as a trainer and facilitator at FEMA in Denton. Although my calligraphy business went to the back burner, I did then and still fill orders from my days on the east coast – well all over the world, actually – and my business has become mostly custom poems, addressing wedding invitations, lettering in Bibles and certificates to add to the mail-order calendar shipments.
With the addition of a computer and scanner, I also make cards for sale. I retired from FEMA in 2010 and have been able to re-join the local Calligraphy Guilds and attend workshops once again: The Fort Worth Calligraphy Guild and Kaligrafos in Dallas. I love using my calligraphy to address envelopes. I recently attended a class where our instructor commented, “No one ever cherishes a FAX.” I also carry a small pad and pens with me to write thank you notes to waiters, waitresses, sales clerks . . . anyone who has helped me. It is a quick and easy way to let people know you appreciate their work and to brighten their day. In fact, I took my two granddaughters, who are currently living in Germany – ages 7 and 9 – their own kits so they can do the same thing. We wrote thank you notes in five languages and they loved it!
Every time I take a class, people are surprised, but I know that I am either growing or dying. I prefer to continue to learn and grow!
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Juggling my work, the craft shows, volunteering at my children’s school and working with the Boy Scouts proved to be a challenge. Being a stay-at-home Mom, the idea of a flexible schedule is appealing and yet it was easy to get over-extended at times. There were many late-nights, as all parents sometimes experience.
Another blow was when I had to stop the craft show circuit because the shows in Texas were more expensive and my sales were down . . . I had to make adjustments and eventually go back to work full time. Again, I was able to begin selling mail-order calendars but the sales were much lower than when I was in Virginia.
When I first started mailing the calendars, the cost was $3.00 for shipping. Now I cannot mail one for less than $10. I can get four in a flat-rate box for $14, so that helps if someone wants more than one.
Calligraphy by Judy – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I believe that my perpetual calendars set me apart. Luckily, because I can have them printed in quantities, they are readily available when I get an order.
I am very proud of the ability I have had to make new friends over the years who have seen the calendars and are ordering for the first time or re-ordering. Because the quotes are positive and upbeat, I can mail them out without pre-payments (I stopped taking credit cards) because I know I will get a check in the mail. I believe in the 39 years, I have had only one person who did not pay.
I also never change the quotes so that when someone orders a calendar for a mother or a friend, they know they will be reading the same quote daily. When I have them reprinted, I try to update the calligraphy, but the quotes stay the same.
My husband helped me create a USMC card when our son (a fourth-generation Marine) served. Bob has the original framed on his wall; I give away or sell cards to our Marines. I also have a Navy SEAL card as well. I also lettered a framed THANK YOU to the Stuart Care Center where my mother and aunts lived for several years. Though the aunts are all gone, the framed piece is still proudly displayed at the Care Center.
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Getting to letter my daughter’s wedding invitations and to address both my children’s wedding envelopes.
I am also pleased to honor USMC and Navy SEAL personnel or vets with my cards.
- All calendars are $18.50 (plus tax in TX) on a stained stand plus $10 -14 for shipping for 1 – 4 calendars
- 5 x 7 cards are $3.50 (plus tax in TX) or 10 for $3.00 each, shipping included
- small cards are $2.50 (plus tax in TX) or 10 for $2.00 each, shipping included
- Custom work is on a case by case basis
- Address: 310 Canyon Oaks Drive
Argyle TX 76226
- Phone: 940-300-8424
- Email: email@example.com