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Article: Calligrapher's Studio Fulfills Dream

By Elisa D. Keller
As seen in the New Jersey Herald
February 18, 2008

Newton- In her nearly 30 years as a professional calligrapher, Kathy Milici has used her artistic hand to decorate everything from mailboxes to umbrellas to apples and human flesh.

“Somebody actually tattooed my calligraphy on their body”, she laughed. “That is definitely the craziest thing anybody’s asked me to do.”

As owner of 24 Karat Designs Calligraphy Studio in Newton, Milici has achieved the dream of opening her own studio after years of operating a business out of her home in town.

In addition to her expertise in wedding packages, including uniquely designed invitations, hand-addressed envelopes, seating charts, marriage certificates and menus, Milici accepts special orders and private commissions for creative flourishes, monograms, business signage, logos, and personal transcriptions of quotes and poetry suitable for framing.

“It’s such a blessing in this county to make a living as an artist,” she said. “It’s a great job to have. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

Located on Moran Street in a historic building that she and her husband Santo are restoring, Milici’s new business space includes a professional consultation area, personal work space, and a complete art studio classroom next door. In partnership with Sussex County Community College, 24 Karat Designs is serving as an off-site location for continuing education classes taught by Milici, some of which have already sold out for the semester.

“There’s widespread interest in calligraphy,” Milici explains.

“A lot of people want to do something for themselves.”

Others, she adds, are looking to accomplish specific goals like designing signage for a business, or in the case of one of her current students, hand-writing the envelopes for her daughter’s upcoming wedding. “Calligraphy is really a heartfelt thing to do. You really feel the sentiment.”

Despite her expanding workload, Milici does all of her business’s advertising, scheduling, and designing on her own. She is also the only artist in the workroom, often hand-writing 60 envelopes a day for a formal event. As a result, big jobs like weddings - which make up around 90 percent of her business- are often booked from six months up to one year in advance.

“Being a calligrapher is a very solitary job,” she said, noting the patience and controlled effort required to keep each rounded oval shape consistent. “When computerized calligraphy first came out,

I thought, ‘There goes my job’. The world is so fast these days and calligraphy is a very slow art.” To Milici’s surprise, her detailed artistry is even in more demand with the advent of computers, thanks to her nation-wide website and people’s despite for traditional beauty and the personalized feel of genuine paper and ink.

“It’s formal, and it has an elegance about it,” she smiled. “I have a beautiful job.”

Milici is also proud to contribute to the revitalization of downtown Newton both with her art, and her husband’s dedication to restoring their historic building, complete with original wood floor and tin tile walls.

“Building renovation is very important to the whole Main Street idea,” explained Carola Hartley, Director of Newton’s Main Street Project.

“A big part of it is design and keeping up the historical integrity of the building and they did a fantastic job. The (difference) before and after is really something.”

“The Main Street designation is really a gift for this town,” Milici added. “This is such a great time to be here in Newton.”

In the future, Milici hopes to expand the types of calligraphy classes she offers, possible including instruction for teens and children. Examples of her work are also sent to appear in an upcoming edition of Contemporary Bride magazine, and she has been working on a book detailing how artist’s can better learn to market their work.

“You just really want to do what you love, but you have to run it like a business,” she emphasized. “That’s the ultimate marriage- the passion for what you love, and you make a living at it, too.”

The fact that Milici has managed to accomplish both with such great success still leaves her surprised. “I still pinch myself every day,” she laughs