Take More Tell More | Suzy Lee
Meet sweet Suzy Lee. Radical heart, incredible artist & owner of Dear Darling Calligraphy. I had the chance to sit down with her recently and chat about the struggles of owning a small business, the power of words and being valued for who we are and not what we do. Thanks for sharing your heart Suzy, the mark you're making on San Diego is beautiful & it's a better city because of artists like you.
What is Dear Darling Calligraphy? How did it get started?
Years ago I was in a staff meeting at my work when a coworker saw me doodling on a piece of paper and asked me if I wanted to address her baby shower invitations. Over the next few months I started addressing envelopes for friends for all sorts of reasons. At the time I lived in a house with 6 other girls, so I would sit down after everyone went to bed and work through the night. I was teaching myself the art of calligraphy and it was an act of meditation. I had always been into handwriting, but this was totally different. This gave me a voice. It was a difficult season of life for me, and the name Dear Darling came out of words that friends and family and God were speaking to me. Words can be these things we cling to during impossible seasons when nothing else in our lives make sense. The privilege of this job is that I get to send love letters to strangers all over the world.
What is the greatest obstacle you have faced in pursuing this dream?
I did my undergrad in Political Science and Pre-Med and my masters in Human Rights and International Politics and the last thing I ever thought I would do was be a full time calligrapher. I grew up with this idea that I needed to be a doctor or a lawyer to make a difference in the world. Art became more of a luxury, not something that was going to change the world. The biggest obstacle for me was tackling the question of, “is this making a difference in the world?”. Overcoming that was a long process. But words do make a difference, art moves us to do things, art benefits the world. It is worth it, and I can help people by doing this. These words may just be words, but if I surrender them, they can be used to encourage others to be bold and love well. This isn’t just a service I provide for someone, it’s not just a project, it’s an intimate act between me and God.
What keeps you going on the days it would be easier to give up?
This job has been incredibly rewarding, but honestly, the devil comes after you. It’s easy to get discouraged, it’s easy to get stuck in comparison. But God is listening and my work matters to Him. And when I get everything else out of the way, that’s all that matters. On top of that, incredible community and constant inspiration. That’s what gets me through.
What’s the biggest thing life has taught you over this past year?
Life’s been teaching me to think differently, to focus on organic change. The people I want to be like never forced anyone to change. They lived by example instead. My dad was one of those people. He was so radical and extreme in the way he loved and believed that grace and love is the only thing that can change people. He gave it relentlessly and got hurt over and over. But he wasn’t hardened; he had a soft spirit until the day he died. What I’m drawn to is the kind of change that happens in a human being when they have an experience and something in their heart clicks.
What album do you have on repeat at the moment?
I listen to a lot of really random stuff. I go through phases like everyone, but the most consistent album for me is Valley Maker. He is super sneaky, and you can’t find him on iTunes or Spotify. But his music gets me through a lot of late nights.
If you could win an award for anything what would you want it to represent?
There is a professional side of me that wants to be respected in my industry for my craft, but I think that’s fleeting. It’s not what you do; it’s who you are. I want to have purpose in my work, but I don’t want my work to be who I am. I’m a person. And God sends living and breathing people to impact the world. The best thing I can do for the world is be. I have the ability every day to choose to be better or not change or just be worse. And I have that choice every single day. I want to be valued by the way I make people feel much more than my work.
What advice would you give to someone considering starting something new?
Make the wonder win. If you aren’t full of wonder, you are not living in the world God created for you to live in, or at least your eyes aren’t open to it. Whatever you need to do to live in that world, do it. The fear that keeps you stuck in one place is the most destructive fear you can have. We stay in what we know, thinking it’s guaranteed, but not even that lasts forever. The fear keeping you from doing what you dream of is way worse than the fear of the unknown. We say we want adventure, but ultimately adventure is the unknown. And it’s scary, but it’s the good kind of scary.