Christina Luo is the Owner, Designer and Instructor at Fox and Flourish, calligraphy and creative services in Vancouver that opened in 2013.
After ogling over Fox and Flourish’s beautiful Instagram and reaching out to Christina for more information on her absolutely amazing creations, we chatted about her story and her hopes for Fox and Flourish’s future.
Read more about the Vancouver communications guru turned calligrapher and teacher below:
- When did you first realize you wanted to kickstart a career as a designer?
I honestly did not think I would become a designer in the traditional sense of the word. My background is in communication and publishing, so there was a smidge of using design programs for editorial spreads and layouts, and the occasional typography study, but not nearly enough for me to consider a career in design. However, after taking on a few digital lettering projects, I was hooked and have offered it as a service ever since.
- Where did the Fox and Flourish name come from?
It came from my energetic mind at two in the morning! Like I said, I get very obsessive about names, so I had this huge list of names with the only common denominator being the word fox. I’ve been in love with foxes since the third grade (I won a public speaking competition where foxes were the subject matter) and the word flourish just clicked, as it’s a calligraphic term but also means embrace growth, and be dynamic.
- Was owning Fox and Flourish all in your plan?
Not at all! I’d always thought I’d go on to work in tech and the start-up world that’s so prevalent in Vancouver’s world right now, so I geared all my professional experiences toward social media and community management. It was actually during one of those experiences as a communications intern for a non-profit that I was egged on by my colleague (mainly out of boredom after 5pm) to learn calligraphy as a new hobby.
I will say that I have always ached to have something to call my own. In my teenage years, I experimented with design programs and created graffiti art in Paint Shop Pro to sell on sketchy late ‘90s Internet forums. I’ve “founded” maybe 25 blogs/websites/initiatives that never made it online, and I would obsess over the name and creating the perfect banner design for it, but ultimately abandoning the whole thing due to lack of content.
- Are you a one-person army, or do you have people who help you create and sell your product?
For the most part, I am a one-woman army, however I have beautiful friends and supporters who have helped me achieve this level of success, to whom I’m forever grateful for. I’ve hired my sister Irene as Fox & Flourish’s in-house illustrator and my friend Adam is our lovely teaching assistant at the beginner workshops!
- Who first taught you about calligraphy?
The lovely calligraphers of YouTube. There were little to no resources when I first wanted to learn, so a lot of it was self-teaching (Internet style) by looking at blurry videos of the kindest ladies writing with a dip pen. A few months into it, after I’d developed a bit of my own style, I took a few classes to refine my technique: Molly Jacque’s Skillshare class, Maybelle’s Advanced Calligraphy workshop in L.A. and an italics class with the amazing Martin Jackson through a program called Type Camp, which we’re lucky enough to have in Vancouver.
- How has, or hasn’t, your education and background helped you with your successes?
Communication is in some ways an extremely theoretical study, and I think it has helped shape my mind to be very critical of my own work and how the public, potential clients and the media might perceive it. It’s a bit of a blessing and a curse, as I can’t seem to rid the communications voice in my head telling me exactly what every possible perspective of my artwork is, and sometimes makes it difficult for me to make work for the sake of creativity.
- How do your website and your social media presence impact your brand?
Ninety per cent of my clients and students find me through Instagram, which is just incredible. The other 10 per cent is word of mouth, but the first “word” most likely originated from Instagram as well. I’m also finding that since my recent website redesign by the talented Faculty, a big chunk of my students are finding out about workshops on Google. SEO game is on point, apparently!
- What was your first job? How has, or hasn’t, your first job helped you in your own business, today?
The first job that granted me a regular paycheck was Blizzard-making for Dairy Queen at 13, ha! A slew of customer service jobs since have definitely helped me in dealing directly with (sometimes, angry) people. It thickens the backbone, which has helped tremendously in holding my ground when dealing with problematic clients, and client education. My first “job-job” as an editorial assistant for a youth magazine was eye opening in terms of finding out the importance of autonomy and meeting deadlines, even when no one is directly penalizing you.
- What is a day in the life of Christina Luo like?
Christina Luo is actually a fox by nature, in that she’s basically nocturnal. I’m woken up by my pup, Margot at 8:30am and I like to take my mornings really slow, sometimes even going back to sleep. I ease into the day with some admin work at home, and around 11am I’ll walk to the studio with Margot. To make sure I get out of the house, I usually plan a lunch date with a fellow creative, a nine to five-er who works close by, or my studio-mate, Katherine, which also helps stave off the freelancer lonelies! Then it’s intense designer-work mode until about 7pm, a short break for dinner and another dog walk. The real creative work, where I sketch and conceptualize, starts at around 10pm, and can go deep into the night, sometimes stopping at around three or four in the morning, when my body physically cannot stay upright.
- What has been the most rewarding experience so far?
Everyone I’ve met and have garnered the most valuable relationships with along the way: my studio-mate, all the amazing creatives in Vancouver I’ve collaborated with who cheer Fox and Flourish on, my wonderful and enthusiastic students, the calligraphy and lettering community.
- What has been the most challenging experience so far?
The business side of it all. The self-promotion and curation is so taxing, and worrying about sales goals, not to mention the constant threat of financial ruin. Speaking of taxing, it’s tax season right now and I’m so stressed out, I’m the direct opposite of a numbers type, and I’m so thankful for my accountant!
- What would you tell a developing artist to keep them motivated?
Keep doing the work and putting in the hours. The progress shows up faster than you think. Don’t be afraid to show your work, and your process. When I first started, I was so shy about learning this new craft that I created an entirely different Instagram account, in fear that my friends wouldn’t like me clogging their feed with calligraphy. My heart would pound every time I uploaded something I created. Turns out they found out anyway and have been cheering me on from day one.
- Where is your favourite place to find inspiration? Why?
I spent the first few years of my life being cared for by my grandparents in Chinatown. This has made me into a city girl that is in love with the dark corners and alleyways of the concrete jungle. Found signage in unassuming shop windows and apartment building numerals always get to me. I’m that person getting up close with my phone camera in front of your building, and running off to create letters and words, newly inspired!
- Where can we find your products?
Our main product is actually a service – the workshops we teach out of our studio in Gastown, Vancouver. However we also create stationery and calligraphy kits, which can be found in our online shop, and at the various stockists on our site!
Thank you Christina for answering our questions! We can’t wait to see more of your work and hear what 2016 brings. xx