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Modern Calligraphy with Fresno’s Kyli Frauenheim

Jan 25, 2017 11:00AM ● By Jordan Venema

All By Hand

February 2017
By Jordan Venema
Photos by Kelli Avila

Fresno resident Kyli Frauenheim is the first to admit she hasn’t the patience for traditional calligraphy, but that hasn’t stopped her from creating her own version of the technical handwriting, which she has coined Kyligraphy.

About three years ago, Frauenheim was exploring Pinterest when she discovered a pen that allowed her to “fake calligraphy.”

Traditional calligraphy uses a fountain pen with a metal tip that dispenses more or less ink, depending on the pressure. “When you apply pressure as you’re pulling the pen toward you, it makes the letter bolder, and when you pull the pen away from you and upwards, it makes the letter thinner,” explains Frauenheim.

“Calligraphy is way harder than the hand lettering that I do. Well, harder for me. It requires a lot of consistency and repetition and exactness, and that is not my creative style. I like it to be playful and different every time,” she says.

Frauenheim purchased a pen that is amenable to a technique that she describes as “hand lettering,” or a version of calligraphy also known as modern calligraphy.

“I don’t always use the tools, like a fountain pen and ink, and a lot of time I’m using pencil to create letters, or other tools like markers and pens and brushes for a look as if I used the classic tools. You can use other tools to make the same size of line no matter how you’re writing, and choose to make certain letters bolder, as if you’re using the classic calligraphy pen,” she says.

Over the course of a year, Frauenheim developed her own style of hand lettering drawn from a mix of other artists’ styles that she had discovered through social media. Once Kyligraphy had its own unique stamp, she created her own Instagram page, and soon people were asking her to letter custom invitations for weddings and baby showers. 

“It boomed. It happened so quickly that I didn’t know what was coming,” she says.

For a while Frauenheim offered custom projects full time, “but oh my gosh, it was a lot,” she admits. Stiff wrists, sore backs and hours of tedious penciling and marking made it easier for her to appreciate the work of those medieval monks bending over their colored manuscripts.

“Can you imagine?” Frauenheim asks, laughing. “And the tools they had were so different back then. Now everything is so interchangeable. If I don’t like a nib, I can just pull it out of the pen and replace it and change the style.” 

Even though she possesses a wide array of pens in her arsenal, and all the tricks of the trade to emulate that classic calligraphic style, Frauenheim stopped taking custom work to focus on a career in cosmetology, though she still offers classes to teach others the technique of modern calligraphy.

“Basically it introduces them to my specific lettering style – the actual font that I draw – and then a little about how to connect them and make words. So we go through the alphabet and I demonstrate every lowercase letter,” says Frauenheim.

“I provide the workbook I made, a pencil, a pen, a paint pen for the project we will work on,” continues Frauenheim. “And they get to take everything home with them.”

Frauenheim announces dates and locations for her classes on Instagram, though spots usually fill up within an hour of posting. Classes are $55 per person, and last about two and a half hours.

Other than teaching classes, Frauenheim has considered typesetting the Kyligraphy font, though she admits she has reservations. 

“Everything I do, everything that I’ve ever made, I’ve touched and I’ve made it with my hands,” she says. “I don’t create designs and put them into Adobe and make it into a print. It’s never been my goal to do that. I love touching everything that I make. And I like feeling that the person who bought it from me got my work.” 

That personal touch and meaningful interaction is perhaps why Frauenheim appreciates the practical value of her art.

“I’ve always liked words, and when I was younger I wanted to be an author. I’ve always liked writing letters and stories. And it became something meaningful – my writing was something that was meaningful to somebody. They requested it because it meant something to them and I got to be the person who wrote it,” explains Frauenheim. 

Frauenheim’s classes offer an opportunity for others to learn how to meaningfully and creatively express their words, and transform simple letters into works of art.

Find Kyligraphy on Facebook and Instagram