The Whole Story of It Just Flows

It’s not uncommon that I get asked, “How did you get started in calligraphy?” Some calligraphers I know have a short pithy effective story, such as, “I learned calligraphy for my own wedding, and now I love doing it for other brides.”

My calligraphy journey has been a longer winding road, with many starts and stops. And the journey of It Just Flows has been even more of an unfolding of many “aha” moments, where core values were defined within my heart to shape the direction of IJF. (Listen to a podcast of that full journey here.)

justine-hwang-it-just-flows-calligraphy-workshop-teach

Here are some key snapshots of my story:

My love affair with pens and ink ignites when my Grade 3 teacher buys each student a fountain pen for our cursive practice. I promptly take it home and dance with the pen, writing large letters in the air, dripping ink all over my mother’s beige carpet. She somehow still buys me my first calligraphy pen that year. I teach myself Roman Italic lettering.

I flex my entrepreneur skills by selling hand-drawn greeting cards to my Grade 4 classmates, hand-lettered cake flags to my mom’s colleague (cheap labour at 25 cents a piece!), and hand-lettered homemade lick-and-stick address labels to my snail mail pen pals.

I experience the power of words. Verbal tirades, comparisons to other kids from well-meaning, but misguided intentions to motivate, and a lack of positive words leave my heart hungry for affirmation. I learn the deep value and life giving power of encouraging words.

I feel the pain of living outside the social bubble, looking in from the margins as a child of immigrants, labeled as teacher’s pet, never invited to the cool kids’ parties. Later, as I move around too many times; I am too familiar with the awkwardness and loneliness of being the new person. I grow in welcoming the person who is new or marginalized. 

I commit to building community, because it resurrects me. As I crash and burn out, losing my way, community leads me on the road to healing. I waddle like a toddler, learning how to live wholeheartedly – leaning into *all* the emotions after a lifetime of numbing them – by watching emotionally mature adults. I also discover how essential community and collaborations are in shaping my art, as people inspire and respond to my vulnerable creations.

My heart for seeking social change forms indelibly as a university student on a volunteer street mission in the poorest area in Canada. I listen to the stories of my homeless neighbours in Vancouver while breaking bread and sipping soup together in abandoned parking lots. We find each other in one another’s stories. We are not so different after all. We all just want to be heard, seen, and treated with the dignity in which we were created. My heart grows as I get to know Jesus’ heart for the weak, the sick, the suffering (which includes me).

My heart to help people to communicate well, to inspire change to transform hearts, relationships, and our world continues in the work I’ve been given to do with non profits for almost 20 years – teaching, creating resources to raise awareness and funds, sparking imagination and writing stories of a better world.

It Just Flows is a way I love serving the world in providing thoughtful art and workshops that increase creativity, encouragement, awareness, community, compassion, change, and generosity in the world.

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