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Local artists brings calligraphy back to the spotlight

By Tim Farley

Every time Kim McAllister puts pen to paper, she creates a unique, one-of-a-kind masterpiece.

She’s not a painter or writer, but rather a practitioner of a lost art known as calligraphy that she does without the aid of modern technology or special graphic design programs. For McAllister, her artwork is completed by hand each time with a special elegance that is difficult, if not impossible, to duplicate.

Individual projects range from addressing wedding invitation envelopes to the creation of special chalkboard messages at restaurants or large corporate events.

Fascinated by lettering and calligraphy as a child, McAllister has honed her craft for the past 30 years and now devotes full time to Sooner Calligraphy, a company she founded in 1994. Today, a majority of her work centers on the wedding industry and making brides happy with personalized, hand-written invitation envelopes.

“My customers care about the impressions that are left by the invitations,” McAllister said. “It really sets the tone for the wedding. People feel special when they receive an invitation that has been done by a professional calligrapher. They automatically think, ‘I’m going to this wedding.’”

As a bonus to the bride, McAllister’s work may be the most inexpensive part of the wedding.

“That’s always a plus,” she said, with a smile. “People think it’s expensive to hire a professional calligrapher. Actually, it’s very affordable.”

McAllister describes her work as a “lost art” that is both time-consuming and tedious. Yet, she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I love this and I don’t consider it a job, either,” she said. “I have a real passion for it. I love being a special piece of their big day. A lot of them (brides) become my friends and we have relationships that extend beyond the wedding. It’s really a lot of fun.”

For McAllister, no job is too small or too big.

“It might be addressing envelopes for 10 people at a destination wedding in the Bahamas or 450 guests at a wedding in Oklahoma City,” she said. “It’s a full-service company that can take care of all their calligraphy needs.”

Happy brides
Now serving on the board of directors for the Society of Event & Wedding Professionals, McAllister has connected with an exclusive group of wedding planners and vendors that have helped push her business to the next level.

“Being part of this group is such an asset, but my work still boils down to making the bride happy,” she said.

Happy was the emotion Oklahoma City resident Julie Winters felt when she saw the invitation envelopes McAllister hand-addressed in a special font for daughter Tayler’s wedding, which was held April 26.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Winters said. “After receiving their invitations, I had people texting me that this is a work of art.”

McAllister went an extra mile in Tayler’s case because the bride-to-be was healing from a broken back and her mother was beside herself with all of the wedding plans.

“She (McAllister) did more than she had to,” Winters recalled. “Because things were in such a frenzy, we had written the guest list on a tablet and she took it, put it in Excel, addressed the envelopes beautifully, mailed it and got it out for us. She is a class act and very talented.”

Part of McAllister’s attraction is that she’s able – using only her eyesight – to duplicate any font the bride wants. High-tech software programs and computers aren’t part of the deal, which is what makes McAllister’s work so unique. As a special touch, McAllister names the font after the bride.

“I like the process of creating something special,” she said. “They give me blank envelopes and they pick up pieces of artwork. Each project is personalized and each bride has their own flair. None of them are the same.”

Brides have discovered that using a professional calligrapher like McAllister can be beneficial in several ways.

“First, it saves them time from having to address envelopes. It saves them stress and I can help them with their guest list to ensure everyone they want to attend gets an invitation,” she said.

More than weddings

In addition, McAllister’s smorgasbord of calligraphy work includes chalkboard welcoming messages and reception menus for weddings. She’s also completed similar work for restaurants and corporate events.

“Whoever I’m working for, my goal is to give them that ‘WOW’ factor whether it’s wedding invitations or restaurant menu chalkboards,” she said.

Although calligraphy has been her life’s passion, it’s not a craft that can be replicated by others, especially in McAllister’s case.

“It’s such an eye-ball type of thing,” she said. “It’s a one-of-a-kind process because I’ve spent so much time doing it all these years. I don’t know how to tell someone else how to do it.”
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