For artist Lexi DeConti, an envelope is her canvas, her brush is a fountain pen, and it’s bottles of colorful ink that allow her to to turn everyday words into works of art.
“It’s a really cool art form,” DeConti, 29, said about calligraphy. “Sometimes I wish I was a painter, selling my work in a gallery, but this type of art is just more practical for me.”
DeConti, a Quincy resident, has spent the last year building an online following through delicate watercolor paintings and elaborate calligraphy. She studied printmaking in college, but drifted away from art when she started a career in publishing. It was about 18 months ago that she first picked up a pen and ink, and she quickly fell in love with both modern-day lettering and traditional calligraphy.
Using books and online resources, she locked herself in a makeshift art studio in her apartment’s spare bedroom and taught herself the rare art form. She uses her Instagram page, @leximayde, as a “living portfolio,” and has started a small business selling custom watercolor paintings and lettering envelopes, invitations and place cards for special events such as weddings.
“I really have always been into doodling and lettering and I’ve always gravitated more toward writing in cursive even day-to-day,” DeConti said. “It’s just really satisfying, the way it all comes together. It has a more refined look, it looks really nice and it’s relaxing to do.”
A wall in her studio serves as a gallery, supply shelf and place for inspiration. On it sits a dozen colors of ink, printouts of various calligraphy fonts, samples of watercolors and cups full of pens, markers and nibs.
It’s not a quick art form — just addressing a letter can take three or four minutes — but DeConti doesn’t mind.
“One of the only good things about the (coronavirus) quarantine is that I’ve had all this time to really think about what I wanted to do,” she said. “I’ve been able to practice a lot, incorporate watercolors and learn what styles and materials are right for me.”
DeConti’s first major task was for her own wedding — she made her own invitations and also made place cards and table markers for her reception, which was pushed back due to COVID-19. With her extra time, she’s been using Instagram to practice her medium.
She’s currently nearing the end of “Massachusetts alphabet” series, where she uses watercolors to illustrate every letter from A to Z. She has also created custom, watercolor pet portraits for customers and at the start of quarantine, she invited people to submit their names and addresses. She then sent every single person who replied a decorated envelope adorned with calligraphy.
“I’m always trying to find new content to post — there’s a lot out there. I needed practice, but I also just wanted to spread a little joy,” she said of her envelope series. “It was March and April when everything was just dark. I said, ‘If you DM me, I will send you mail and it will be pretty.'”
DeConti recently set up an Etsy shop where she’ll sell things such as note cards and other items, but she said it’s the design work like addressing envelopes for an event or creating an invitation that she’s fallen in love with.
“I just love doing anything that’s custom and personal to people,” she said.
Photos in this post were taken by the wonderfully talented Greg Derr. They were originally published in The Patriot Ledger.