An interview with Chiara Perano, founder of Lamplighter London

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Nov 25, 2016

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This week at MADE PRESENTS we’ll be hosting a series of masterclasses and events. One that we’re particularly excited about is a calligraphy workshop, hosted by Chiara Perano, founder of creative studio Lamplighter London.

We sat down with Chiara to ask her more about her studio, her creations, and the workshops she hosts.

Tell us a bit more about your background and your career to date...

I'm half English, half Italian, and went to school in both countries. I studied Illustration & graphic design at the University of The Arts London in Elephant and Castle, and after graduating had a few junior design positions whilst I figured out what I wanted to do. Initially it was fashion illustration. Then, five years ago I founded Lamplighter London, a studio for creative event stationery and modern calligraphy, which combined everything I loved doing in design, and at the time I felt like there was no one "destination" for in London.

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I am a self-taught calligrapher - as in I practised alphabet drills and letter variations intensively, and tried all different nibs and inks until I found what was best for me. I worked hard to develop my own style of hand in a modern way, which I think was really important - to create my unique version of lettering. After a while I started getting some amazing client requests. Now we have grown, and the studio works on creative briefs from invitations to menu design, murals and lettering on fabric, all with calligraphy and illustration and high attention to detail. I also work with lots of fantastic brands on events which is an exciting progression. My book Nib + Ink was published in March this year, which was a career highlight to date. 

Describe your style...

Playful, modern, starry.

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What motivated you to work in calligraphy and illustration?

I just always loved lettering and drawing from a really young age. I didn't imagine I would be a calligrapher when I grew up (and when choosing a career at school I thought I would probably have an Italian restaurant like my dad, or I wanted to be an interior designer in the Changing Rooms days) but deep down I did know I would be working for myself and in the creative industry somehow. 

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How would you describe a typical working day?

We've recently moved from Hackney into a new warehouse studio in Seven Sisters which I love, it's so bright and spacious. I get to the studio about 10, but I've probably been doing emails and work since I got up. First thing, my assistant Tina will outline the calligraphy jobs we need doing (ink colour, style, paper, guest list, etc.) and I'll be working at my calligraphy table most of the day. More recently we've started making little videos at the studio so we will probably set this up at some stage unless we're really slammed with deadlines. We work on many projects at once, as everything is so last minute with events, jobs creep in from our regular clients and we have to juggle everything to accommodate. It's manic sometimes, but fun. I might have a meeting with the Lamplighter team, or new clients or my manager Alice at some point. I leave about 7, but it's hard to switch off from your own business especially if you're mid project, even when I'm at home I'm probably researching or brain storming new ideas! 

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What’s your process for creating artwork for clients?

I work closely with all my clients, meeting them to understand their vision for the event, and then we produce mood boards and initial designs. This stage can either go two ways, either the client loves it straight away and we can finalise the design, or we go back and forth til we get it just right for them. If we're handling the printing we will have the client choose paper stocks and Pantone/foil swatches, and produce calligraphy samples for any envelopes that are needed. It's sometimes a very short turn around, and other times a well organised client will come to us up to a year in advance so the process takes 3-4 months.

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What interested you in collaborating with MADE?

I think MADE is innovative and stylish, a brand I love and I’ve always got some pieces on my wishlist!

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What advice do you have for someone wanting to start learning calligraphy?

It's a great hobby to have, easy to get into, really relaxing, and a great party trick too! If you want to learn it professionally it does take a lot of dedication, practise and creativity. 

What is a masterclass with you like? What can your students expect to have learnt by the end of it?

In a short masterclass, will work through our drill sheets together and I'm on hand for any beginner issues or questions. (There are usually many!) I'll do demonstrations, and students can expect to learn all about the calligraphy tools and how to use them correctly. We finish up practising how to join letters the right way, and begin creating words. 

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What are your three favourite things, and why?

I’m not materialistic unless it’s sentimental. My camera, (I’m ALWAYS taking photos), my Levis, and my new engagement ring for obvious reasons! 

What do you like to do to unwind?

Have a chat with a glass of red wine.

What book are you currently reading?

Moranifesto, and I’m excited to start the new Zadie Smith. 

What's your favourite film?

I'm so rubbish at films, rarely making the time to sit and switch off. But recently I watched The Grand Budapest Hotel and it's dreamy; my idea of colour heaven. 

Do you have any pets?

Nope, just myself and my partner Michael live in our new house. We do have a studio pup - Ollie (owned by one of our designers) who comes and snuggles under my desk. 

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Where would you most like to visit and why?

Always California and on the next visit I want to head out to Joshua Tree, and Palm Springs - retro, sunshine, relaxation. 

Tell us a bit more about your upcoming projects.

I’m working on book 2 (the follow up to Nib + Ink), and developing a range of products. It's an exciting time! 

Finally, what's your favourite MADE product and why?

I've got my eye on the Scott armchair in dreamy petrol velvet. I love the relaxed mid century style. It's going to go in my lounge once we've finished the refurb! 

Chiara's first illustrated modern calligraphy book, 'Nib + Ink' was published by Ebury, a division of Penguin Random House in March 2016. Buy the book here.

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