Washington-Area Calligrapher Adds Whimsy to Menus, Place Cards, and More

Annie Lloyd’s modern twist on calligraphy makes a big impression on invitations, place cards, and more.

By Adele Chapin March 29, 2011, 9:10 AM EDT

Photo: Abby Jiu

Calligrapher Annie Lloyd is known for her signature script—modern characters with graceful lines and loose curves. But Lloyd, founder of Northern Virginia-based Pretty Mail Calligraphy, honed her craft in an unlikely way. “I wear eyeliner, and I laugh that my precision is from putting on eyeliner for so many years,” she says.

Lloyd has other training, too. As a child, she wrote her name over and over again on a chalkboard set up in her playroom. In college at James Madison University, Lloyd first studied interior design, practicing perfect block handwriting for architectural renderings, but ultimately graduated with a degree in graphic design. She then moved to New York, and found work as a wedding invitation consultant at Kate’s Paperie. One day, as Lloyd filled out an invoice, a customer saw her handwriting and asked if Lloyd would address the envelopes for her invites.

Before long, Lloyd was an official calligraphy vendor at Kate’s, and when she moved to the Washington metro area, she continued working as a calligrapher, invitation sales consultant, and graphic designer at Creative Parties in Bethesda until 2007. In 2009, she ventured out on her own, first advertising calligraphy services on Craigslist, and then creating a Web site for Pretty Mail Calligraphy overnight. Buzz on bridal blogs helped Lloyd develop a steady stream of clients, and referrals enabled her to expand her business to the corporate world.

Lloyd’s calligraphy services includes addressing envelopes at a flat rate, as well as writing text for menus and place cards, and even writing text on chalkboards and glass. “It’s an affordable way to set the tone for your event. That hand-done look is really big right now, that vintage-y detail,” Lloyd says.

Jen Schnizler, assistant director for special events at Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, has hired Lloyd for the past two years to handwrite the invitations for a special dinner for Wolf Trap’s most generous donors. “She has such a unique writing style. It isn’t the traditional form of calligraphy,” she says. “Her turnaround is incredible—it’s amazing how quickly she can return these invitations to us.”

Monique Rodriquez, executive office manager for the Optical Society, enlisted her to write certificates celebrating employees’ years of service. “Scientists are the last people you’d expect to notice something like this, and they comment on how beautiful it is,” Rodriquez said. “It’s not even pretty, it’s beautiful.”

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