Genue Inc.
February 4, 2018

Genuinely You: Kate Rondorf


Kate is a mom of two, hand letterer, business owner, and freshly-transplanted Bostonian. Looking for a creative outlet after having her second child, Kate stumbled upon calligraphy and hand lettering, and in just two years, has helped create the largest hand lettering community on Instagram. Read on to hear about her secret Instagram life, how she navigates motherhood and entrepreneurship, and how she finds inspiration in the mundane aspects of life…



How (and when) did you get started with calligraphy and hand lettering?

When I had my second daughter about two and a half years ago, I felt like I really needed an outlet—something that was just for me. So I started practicing calligraphy when my kids would sleep. I found some YouTube videos and Instagram accounts that I liked and I taught myself. I started my Instagram account, with the goal of posting twice a day, just to hold myself accountable to make time for it. I was welcomed into the Instagram community through some beginner oriented challenges on certain accounts geared towards bringing in beginners to encourage you to work on your skills. I got really positive feedback, and I was building relationships with people on Instagram. I just loved it—learning about it, trying new tools, figuring out what my niche was. And my account grew rapidly. It’s stabilized now, more, especially with the Instagram algorithm. But it’s wonderful to be part of such an encouraging community.



What’s it like to have thousands of followers on Instagram?!

In the very beginning, I told my friends that I was starting this account. But other than that, it’s just been more organic.  It’s kind of become my hidden life. Because it’s behind the guise of Instagram (thankfully it’s not a fashion blog or interior design where people are thinking that my clothes or my house are perfect) people have no idea. They meet me in real life and they have no idea that I have this Instagram account and do this whole thing unless I bring it up. I don’t want to be tooting my own horn—it’s just one facet of my life. It’s just a weird thing and so a lot of times people will find out and be like “I saw your Instagram!” and I don’t even know what to say. I’m not like famous, it’s just a part of my life.




How did you start Calligrabasics?

There’s four of us now, but three originally started it—Kathleen, Eliza and myself. Kathleen direct messaged me and Eliza on Instagram—about two years ago—and she complimented our work and asked if we would all want to collaborate together. The idea of Calligrabasics was that it would help people push the envelope on their own journey—wherever they were on that journey. Calligrabasics is for day one beginners and even someone like me, who has been doing it for a while and has their own niche.  It gives you a way to find new tools, try new things. It’s now become the biggest lettering community on Instagram, which is amazing, and we started a business from it. We now have an LLC. Most of my work, now, comes from Calligrabasics, more so than my personal Instagram account.




What’s the best part of starting your own business?

We really want Calligrabasics to serve as a resource. We’ve started building and selling downloadable guides for people to learn different kinds of calligraphy. And we’re trying to build more of the learning part of Calligrabasics now that we’re more established. I think it’s really intimidating to come into a creative field and feel like all these people are so much better than me and think, “how can I even start?” We wanted people to feel like they could have a place to start and work with what they had, all the while not being compared against others. We wanted a space where everyone would lift one another up and support one another.  We’re not interested in competing against each other. What’s really funny, though, about all of this, is that the four of us have never met in person. We know each other’s kids and families, we talk on the phone, we text all day long, we Google Hangout. It’s kind of funny.





What’s a typical day like for you?

Being a mom is #1, so I work around my kids’ schedules.  But my days really depend on the week and what’s going on—what new thing we’re launching. I do a lot of texting—decision making—during the day with the other girls in Calligrabasics.  And I do a lot of design work for Calligrabasics now; I design the guides and I do a lot of actual lettering. And I have some weekly meetings with my Calligrabasics team.  In the mornings, I try to do something with the kids—errands, play date or fun things—and then work when they nap. And then when my husband gets home and we put the kids to bed, I’m usually working on stuff while we watch TV. I try to fit it in when I can, but my kids are my priority and I’m staying at home with them for that reason, so I definitely don’t want my work to be overshadowing that.





Where do you draw inspiration from?

I draw inspiration from the Instagram community.  Calligrabasics is inspired by the group and the people who are trying to be artistic in their own way and figure out what their niche is. I’m also inspired by the mundane things in life. I feel like my life is very typical and I’m a mom so I try to make light of the silly things—like the fact that I’m exhausted all the time. I try to make things pretty despite the mundane. This is my life, and I’m not expecting it to be anything more than that, and  I can make beautiful things and inspire people by my positivity. I try to be real, but positive through my work—I try not to add to the negativity that already exists on social media.





What’s your favorite thing about what you do?

I love teaching people—through the guides or teaching workshops—I love that about what I do.  I love the supportive and encouraging part of teaching. And I like things that I’m excited about. If it’s just figuring out what to post for the day, I don’t like that. I like it to be more organic than that. Ideally, I want to feel like “wow! I love what I just created and I can’t wait to share it!” because I’m excited about—that part I love. I love feeling proud of what I do and being excited to share that.





Do you have an overall design or maker philosophy?

Not officially, but I’m all for trying to be positive and authentic and uplifting to people through my work. My goal is always to make people feel like they’re not alone.




What does it mean to be genuinely you?

I’m a pretty real person, so being authentic is living through the good, bad and the ugly. I don’t want to give off a perception that I’m perfect or that I have it all together. I want to be real and help others to feel like they’re right there with me and we can do this together.  I show my mistakes and I show the good stuff and I try to talk about the hard days. Even in my regular life, that’s important to me, to be real and authentic about what’s really going on and I don’t want to hide it. I feel like that honesty only helps people and encourages people to not give it and keep going together and walking side by side.




Thanks so much, Kate! Thank you for creating such a supportive and inspiring community for letterers!

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