There’s a simple explanation as to why Brenna Jordan does what she does.

She’s sitting at her drafting desk in her home studio in Lakeside, pen in hand, ink well at the ready.

“I’ve been in love with letters my entire life,” she says.

Perhaps that’s why she received a calligraphy kit as a Christmas gift when she was in grade school. Today, her love has grown into a hand-lettering business open for the past year - Calligraphy by Brenna.

It’s a craft that has been growing in popularity, she says - especially for wedding ephemera - despite this age of technology and typefaces available at our fingertips. Just take a look at the membership numbers for the group that holds onto its name like the ancient art form it promotes - The International Association of Master Penmen, Engrossers, and Teachers of Handwriting.

IAMPETH, as it is better known, has seen membership more than double to 1,200 in the past few years, Jordan said.

IAMPETH President Alesia Zorn, who lives in Oregon, said the growth is definitely a reaction to the times. “Much like the arts and crafts movement came about as a reaction to the Industrial Age, the interest in hand lettering and calligraphy is growing as a response to all of the digital options today,” she said. “There’s great growth in all branches of the ‘do it yourself’ movement. People are going back to doing things by hand.”

Jordan is scratching out the thicks and thins of her letters with a pointed pen tip held by an oblique pen holder, custom made by “master penman” Michael Sull. She’s going back and reworking her letters, which she says are “like faces. Once in a while they need some touch-up.”

People have cried in reaction to her work. They have hugged her. They have invited her to their weddings.

“When you do something by hand, they want to keep it forever,” Jordan said. “There’s just something about it that technology can’t bridge.”

She likes to keep an “organic” quality to her work, careful to not be so perfect that “it looks like a computer did it.”

Around the studio are wedding menus, invitation envelopes with addresses, programs, wooden hangers. There are also small note cards with messages; and leaves, birch bark and stones with her mark. Walls in her home are host to favorite quotes, done in her hand.

“I’ll letter anything,” she says easily. “I’m happy to be doing what I love.”

Her family of five moved from rural Two Harbors to Duluth a year ago. She and her husband Brent, a mechanical engineer, are busy with children ages 16, 13 and 10. But she knew she wanted to pick up calligraphy in full force again after putting it on the back burner while raising her kids.

That old calligraphy kit helped her land her first jobs. She became the go-to person for the fancy certificates handed out to athletes at her east central Minnesota high school. She did personal items for family and friends over the years. Now she’s taken the next step.

“I didn’t think I’d ever be doing it as a job,” she said.

Working from home, she gets input from her family. Her children have taken up lettering on and off. Brent comes up with ideas for items she can letter and sell.

“He’s my No. 1 cheerleader,” she said.

The bread-and-butter of her work is in weddings. She’s been going to wedding shows and using bridal magazines to promote her business. Hand lettering is popular because it makes an impression for couples around what can be the biggest day of their life, she said.

As she notes on her website: “People still crave the human touch, the time invested, and the personalized thought that moves to a slower rhythm.”

The marketing isn’t her thing, but it’s necessary. She knows she can’t rely just on word of mouth if she wants to stay busy. She’s found that Instagram is the best place to promote her work.

She takes classes and attends IAMPETH events. She went to its convention this summer, with nearly 300 other like minds. “They were kindred spirits who understood your passion,” she said.

Without the business, she’d still keep at it, this “natural way of expressing my love for words.”

“I try to write pretty as much as I can,” she says. “It makes the world a prettier place.”

Newsletter signup for email alerts