Dance Teacher Displays Ink on Instagram

Tess Guan , Web Editor

Diamond Bar High School teacher Kari Simonson doesn’t just find art on the dance floor, she finds it in calligraphy, the strokes of ink, as well.

As DBHS’s dance team coach, Simonson expresses her creativity daily. However, she became interested in calligraphy last fall, and took an introductory class to learn the art.

“Growing up, I’ve always been one to play with my hand writing and try different styles, I’ve always been that kind of type, and I think that just led itself to handwriting and calligraphy,” she said.

After her first class, Simonson became absorbed into the world of calligraphy. Since then, she has become a self-taught artist and started an Instagram account, @the.lettered.owl, to document her progress and journey.

“I love the account because not only is it showing my art with other people, but it’s a documentation of my growth–I can scroll all the way back and look at where I started,” Simonson said. “As an artist, and as a person, just being able to see the growth that you have in something that you love and something that you enjoy doing–that’s the biggest reward.”

Within the online calligraphy community, Simonson has become friends with other well-known users, such as @poppyandmintdesign and @piecescalligraphyl; she credits them for sparking her passion of hand lettering.

“I always suggest when you first start learning to watch other people, watch what they do, watch their styles, emulate their styles without copying them. You want to be able to develop your own style,” she said.

In regards to her own style, Simonson finds connections between calligraphy and dance, despite the notable contrasts.

“I think having that experience as a dancer and choreographer and being able to see visually what the lettering can look like–in terms of of balance and use of space–helps aids my calligraphy,” Simonson said.

Simonson was able to develop her own calligraphy style by first observing and copying writing examples she found online, afterwards playing around with traditional and different letter forms. After achieving proficiency of the technique, she began experimenting and developing her own style, a modern calligraphy style.

“It’s a slow process. One word can take me a minute to write in real life, so it’s all about a slow process, muscle memory, and developing the style and letter forms,” she said.

Currently, most of her work is in English. However, she has written Spanish lettering as well and hopes to experiment with Chinese and Korean characters in the future.

Simonson is in the progress of developing her own font and font worksheets for her Etsy shop. Named after her daughter, Shelby, the font will be available for anyone to practice writing with.

“I find that the font is like my daughter, graceful yet bouncy, and a little edgy,” she said. Simonson expects the  font to be developed by late winter.  

Over the months, her account has grown in popularity, hitting 10,000 followers in the spring. As of now, she is followed globally by nearly 20,000 people.

With her wide audience, Simonson has received online commissions and art requests for her calligraphy writings. Aside from Instagram, she also sells her work, including decorated wooden signs, on Etsy. Occasionally, she also receives pens and markers from stationery brands and pen companies.

“Yes, it’s turned into a small business for me, but I am not in it to make money–I’m in it because I love doing it,” she said. ”I love creating stuff for other people; it’s forever, it’s special, it’s an honor for me to create stuff for other people like that.”