Day 16: Jessica Catalano

I met Jess the same place that I met art. Trying to escape the horror that is the International Baccalaureate program at Coral Reef Senior High, I opted for IB ART instead of Psych, which would have been more pressure and mental torture, (plus in art we got free sketchbooks!) I figured it couldn’t be that hard, but I didn’t expect it to be the most informative class I’d take for my future career, and I’m sure Jess didn’t either.

She was really good with a camera (which would explain her impressive feed) and her handwriting was also very neat. But if anyone had told me this girl would be taking over the creative world with her lettering, being featured in various wedding catalogues, and forging a successful career as a calligrapher.. well honestly I wouldn’t have been that shocked lol.

Jess has found a way to spin a life she loves and a career that incorporates all the things she holds dear, Her Faith, her family, and her creativity. And the most beautiful thing is, now that she’s figuring it out bit by bit, she wants to make sure she takes her followers and calligraphy enthusiasts with her, offering advice via IG Story, workshops, and lettering templates.

What industry are you in currently? 

Creative entrepreneur (idk what even my industry is?? lol! wedding industry but that’s limiting. calligraphy? creative entrepreneur feels safe)

Is your industry one usually dominated by women? How did you fight stigmas?

The industry is definitely dominated by women! There are a lot of stigmas I’ve encountered as a calligrapher, but a big one is the misconception that calligraphy is less of an art and more of a natural gifting with “good handwriting”. calligraphy is more of a fine art than it is anything else and it has taken endless amounts of time and resources for me to develop my style and ability to compose pieces in an aesthetically pleasing manner. Often times, the quality of my work will be judged by its readability. Going back to my view of calligraphy as a fine art, I often choose to compromise legibility in favor of extravagance. Art isn’t binary, but society likes to be. Constantly fighting the stigma that my lettering has to be legible in order to be “quality” is exhausting and, frankly, just as unfair to the artist as it is to the art.

What are you most proud of at the moment? 

As cliche as it may sound, I’m most proud of simply going for it. I could have easily been another statistic of people who find themselves working endlessly at a job they hate, living to work instead of working to live. It wasn’t an uncomplicated decision to forego my forty thousand dollar degree in exchange for the completely unknown life of entrepreneurship. So much of this is still completely unknown but this is what I know: I’m an artist… and I refuse to be a starving one.

Any major life events in the last 6 months you’re working through? 

Yes! I quit my job at the beginning of the year in order to pursue my calligraphy business full-time. It was an absolutely terrifying thing to do but God was so clear that this was the road He wanted me to walk down so I silenced the fear and anxiety and took the leap of faith.

What is your version of success? When will you say you’ve “made it”?

Success, to me, is mastering the art of the hustle. If I know that I am giving 110% of myself to my work, I can be both confident and content with myself for giving it all I’ve got. You’ll often hear success defined as a bottom line, or a certain status or a particular level of influence—but you’ll never that from me. Are they important markers to take note of and adjust your business strategy accordingly? Absolutely! But at the end of the day, success isn’t what you accomplish—it’s who you are. I choose to be successful in the things that truly matter: hustle, authenticity, relationships, and integrity.

I honestly hope I never get to a place where I can say, “I’ve made it”. If there’s one thing I know about myself, it’s that complacency breeds unproductivity and, consequently, a huge lack of creativity. I don’t want luck or good fortune to play any part in my business. I want to be able to look at what I build, as I’m building it, and know that the fruit is a result of grit, hard work and unyielding determination.

What’s one thing you’ve realized with age/time in the industry? (and want other women to realize as well)

I heard a quote in a podcast once that has really stuck with me. The quote was, “anytime we come together sharing our strengths, it brings competition. any time we come together sharing our weaknesses, it brings community.” I’m not sure if you’ve heard the phrase “community over competition” but it’s a new mindset that is completely changing the way entrepreneurs are doing business and it truly is a beautiful thing. There’s a lot of humility that comes with not only recognizing but choosing to share in your weaknesses as a business owner. thanks to carefully curated feeds and filtered photos, social media often gives the impression that we have it all together. The truth is, most of us don’t and the few that do, didn’t when they first started out. It’s been amazing to see how being vulnerable with my struggles or setbacks has opened the door and served as an invitation for other creatives to have a seat at the table of business woes as well.

Love or success? Should you have to choose? 

Success in love.

“& now these two remain: success and love.. but the greatest of these is… still love.”

How did you develop your skills? Workshops? Youtube? Books? Any you recommend?

I am completely self-taught! when i first started out a few years back, there wasn’t the resources that are so readily available now. Calligraphy workshops weren’t a thing, Youtube only had traditional-style calligraphy and as much as I scoured through barnes and noble for how-to books on modern calligraphy, there just weren’t any. I actually taught myself through instagram: by finding lettering that I liked and practicing recreating it over and over again until, over the course of a couple of years, I developed my own style.

Being self employed is tricky, how do you hold yourself accountable? Set a schedule? 

As a creative, my brain certainly does not operate within the realm of planners, organizational skills or color-coded anything. It’s definitely not something that I have mastered by any means, but i’m learning every day what does and doesn’t work for me. If there’s one thing I have learned in owning a business, It’s that everything is trial and error. I’m just over here failing and succeeding in this ebb and flow that is entrepreneurship!

I remember you starting a book challenge at the beginning of the year, any must reads for creative entrepreneurs? 

Some business books I have read so far this year are: Capital Gaines by Chip Gaines, the $100 Start Up by Chris Guillebeau and Girl Boss by Sophia Amoruso. I THOROUGHLY enjoyed each one of these. If I had to choose my favorite of the three, it would be Sophia’s Girl Boss. both fierce and blunt, this book is for you if you feel you have zero qualifications in running or owning a business. sophia is the epitome of a #GIRLBOSS and I can’t tell you how much I was inspired by her story and her words.

How has your faith amplified your business or your business/ success amplified your faith? (Personally I feel the closer I get to my goals and finding my purpose, the closer I get to God and I know you’re pretty spiritual so I’m curious)

uffff! What a question. Salvaging Eden is a perfect business and faith symbiosis. My faith has allowed to take so many risks and to face the fear of the unknown with boldness, Because i know that God is 100% steering this ship—I’m just along for the ride. The same can be said in reverse: the more success and fruit that I see come of Salvaging Eden, the more my faith is strengthened. There’s nothing like tangibly seeing the hand of God at work in your life and in your dreams.

You can follow her on instagram for some lettering inspo and bomb aesthetics HERE

or visit her WEBSITE

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