Finding tranquility in hand lettering

Syazwani Hj Rosli

Local talent and hand lettering enthusiast Aida Idris, 39, who loves to share her artwork on social media, has amassed 54,000 followers on her Instagram profile, Artsy Craftsy.

“Hand lettering is therapeutic, it helps me overcome my anxiety,” she said.

A stay-at-home mum with two children aged 11 and six, Aida has been happily married for 12 years. She was a teaching assistant for nursery children for 12 years until she found out she was pregnant with her second child.

A little over three years ago, she shifted from a working mum to a stay-at-home mum. The transition was very difficult and felt weird for her, she said. She found herself missing her career as a teaching assistant. Aida’s resignation from work came after she found out that her daughter had heart-related problems.

Her daughter had to undergo two heart surgeries – one at 10 months old and the other at four years old.

To her, the most difficult moment was during the second surgery when she and her husband almost lost their daughter because of complications during the operation.

“That time, her supposed-to-be four-hour surgery became a nine-hour surgery. Five hours in, a doctor came out and actually told us to start praying. I broke down. It was during Ramadhan, so we prayed and we prayed, and so did my family members. Alhamdulillah, she made it through, all thanks to Dr Lee who did not give up on her.”

Aida also shared that it was not until after they were settled with her daughter’s heart problems that they found out that she was autistic. At first, Aida and her husband were not aware that their daughter was autistic because she wasn’t verbal.

Aida works on another project.
Photos above show creations by local talent and hand lettering enthusiast Aida Idris. PHOTOS: SYAZWANI HJ ROSLI
Where the magic happens: Aida’s work station.

“She is now six, coming seven. She attended therapy at Learning Ladders for some time and she is much more verbal now. Alhamdulillah,” she said.

Aida spent a lot of time in and out of the hospital and at one point, she came across an Instagram video on hand lettering. She was mesmerised.

“I guess at that time, I needed something like an outlet because of my time spent in the hospital. When I saw the videos, it was mostly by people from the United States (US). They looked really interesting and I had always been into calligraphy and watercolours, but I’d never tried it myself.

“So, I decided to give it a go and I really liked it. I found it to be really therapeutic,” she said.

Aida has tried other kinds of crafting such as cross-stitching, scrapbooking, crochet, mosaic and macramé but lettering is the only one that has stuck.

“When I did lettering, I went, ‘This is it. I found it. I don’t need any other hobbies. Just this,’” she laughed.

She said that the hand-lettering skill was self-taught and that she watched a lot of YouTube videos and grabbed whatever free online resources she could.

“When I first started in 2016, everything looked horrible, but I just kept going because I knew I really wanted to become good at it.”

Years after, she decided to open a new Instagram account dedicated solely to displaying her artwork. From there on, she started making new friends through the social media platform with other newbie letterers.

The lettering community, she said, was very open, accepting and supportive.

“Surprisingly, I have made a lot of friends who I’ve never met in real life and who are still friends of mine until this day. A lot of them are from the US, Australia or Canada and they are as passionate about lettering as I am. We have a mutual interest and some of them are also stay-at-home moms, so we just connect on a lot of different levels”, she added.

Aida shared that her style has progressed over the years, and said that it developed after she invested more into online classes through ‘Skill Share’. She added, however, that she still has a lot of other different styles that she wants to learn.

Asked what her favourite hand lettering kit is, she said, “I’ve tried brush paint lettering, pointed paint which is using ink and nib just like calligraphy, special brush pen and others but then, I always go back to paint brush because that’s my preference – water brush lettering or paint brush lettering.”

Today, she has reached around 54,000 followers on her Instagram with Artsy Craftsy. “Three years is a long time. It’s not real to me, the number doesn’t compute. When I think about it, those are a lot of eyeballs looking at my Instagram. It is obviously an honour that so many people like my work, but do know that I do it because I love doing it”.

Through her Instagram account, she said a lot of her followers reached out to her to sell her artwork or pay to make new ones for them.

“I was like, maybe there’s a market for this. So I started turning it into a business. It wasn’t meant to be a thing. It was just a hobby that turned into passion. But for now I’m just offering locally, not as much as internationally because we don’t have Paypal, so it’s very tricky to work around. So for now, I only offer local commissions”.

She was amazed that more people have started trusting in her work, and she has done some wedding items, signage, place cards, paintings as well as illustrative work with hand letterings.

“It was amazing, the response from my followers. It was surreal to me. For a long time, I doubted myself. I was my own worst critique. I only just started calling myself an artist. It took a long time to call myself a creative. Probably only last year, I sort of embraced that I’m an artist, owning this as what I am – a hand-lettering artist,” she said.

It was also around last year that she started to join pop-up events for her artwork and thought it would be a good platform to expose more of her skills, sell her lettering pieces and show her talents to the public. “But still, there are some I won’t sell because they are my favourite. They usually go on my wall”.

Aida’s Arsty Craftsy page is filled with posts of her beautiful lettering pieces, with lots of rainbow colours and empowering words.

“Working on a project, what I would do first is to figure out what words I want and I would sketch a layout with a pencil then decide what colours I want to use. One would notice that I use a lot of colourful backgrounds with my artwork.”

“I love colours. The brighter the better, the more rainbow colours the better. I feel happy whenever I use all the colours in the colour box. It’s the kindergartener in me, the five-year-old in me that tells me that you’re never too old to do childish things to make your inner child happy. Also, the words – the empowering and positive quotes that I do are just another form of expression. I think in a way it is just to remind myself as well,” she shared. In addition to the fun in her artwork, she said that hand lettering has really helped her cope with anxiety.

“I know people throw the word anxiety around nowadays, but it really is a real thing. It might be post traumatic. I know my daughter is fine now but I don’t know, maybe it’s a mom thing. It is so therapeutic when I hand letter. Mixing the colours, I just find it really chilled. Sometimes I can zone out when I letter. That’s how therapeutic hand lettering is for me,” she said.

In the years to come, Aida plans to conduct workshops for those interested to learn hand lettering.

“A lot of people have reached out to me about workshops, but I’m just a bit anxious because I’ve only taught children before and I don’t know what the dynamics will be teaching adults,” she laughed. “But I still look forward to it and to be able to conduct it more regularly after. I’m excited to share my passion with others”.

“For those who are starting with hand lettering, do not have self-doubt. Practice because the more you practice, the more you develop muscle memory and then it will just do. Everything is trial and error. Do not compare yourself to others, which is something I tell myself. Everyone has their own unique style and things to offer. Also, just do it. Don’t wait for people to tell you when to do it. If you want to start, then do and just love what you do”.