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Meet Janet Henderson Brown of Slinging Ink® Calligraphy in Montrose

Today we’d like to introduce you to Janet Henderson Brown.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I have always had a slight obsession with penmanship and the arts even from an early age. However, as my Bachelor’s degree was in Microbiology, I decided work in the medical device industry in clinical research as well as sales for over a decade. However as with many careers in corporate America between 2008 and 2010, I was laid off due to decrease in funding for the clinical trial that I was a part of.

After this, I began to appreciate what I had heard others say….”losing my job was the best thing to happen to me”. We then moved to Houston and shortly after became pregnant with our daughter, Lola, in 2011.

I had a wonderful friend that wanted to have a baby shower for me, but I insisted on handling the invitations as I have an obsession with paper and wouldn’t dream of sending out invitations electronically. The company that I worked with to design the invitations offered calligraphy for the envelope addressing, however what I received was far from that. It was “computer calligraphy” which is an oxymoron.

After that, I took that frustration and decided to learn calligraphy for my own personal correspondence moving forward. That interest became a passionate obsession and then a career. I learned to engrave in metals and glass in 2013 and decided to open calligraphy and engraving business. Early on, the vast majority of my business was with brides, however my business transitioned to mostly businesses & corporate events. A few of the clients that I have had the pleasure of working with are Vogue Magazine, Chanel, Neiman Marcus, Macallan Scotch & Calvin Klein to name a few.

I am honored to announce that I was recently accepted into the Master Penman program led by Michael Sull, Barbara Calzolari and Pat Blair (all master penman). With that, I look forward to continuing my education to master this beautiful skill called penmanship.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Like anything, running a business has its ups and downs…areas for development and improvement along with the triumphs.

I had the privilege of working in the wedding industry at an intense level early in my calligraphy career. I will always be grateful for that as it taught me so many of the necessary lessons that one needs to learn for running a business and working with clients. For instance, you learn that the client is right 99% of the time and you do your best to make their desires a reality. That can be easier said than done, however I truly believe that that mindset is the reason behind the many positive reviews that my clients have posted throughout the internet.

I am naturally an introvert so in the beginning, conducting engraving events in public places on the spot with clients waiting at your table was terrifying. However with anything, you become accustomed to working “on the fly” and now those events are one of my favorite things to do.

From the beginning, I did realize that my personality works best with companies and my work took a turn towards commercial calligraphy and lettering over the last 2 years.

As my business changed over time, I decided to change the company name to reflect that evolution to Slinging Ink®.

Please tell us about Slinging Ink® Calligraphy.
Slinging Ink® is a calligraphy and engraving firm that recognizes that sometimes for vintage way of creating correspondence, event lettering and design is the best. I don’t use computer programs of any nature to create my lettering. Every stroke of every letter & flourish is created by hand. There is no centering button or delete button. I tried to dabble in Photoshop etc in the early days, but I’m a vintage soul so that didn’t work out because it never looked genuine. Every stroke of every letter is created by my hand.

I have created quite a bit of unorthodox event work for clients in the past. I became known for writing on non-paper materials here in Houston. I become bored quite easily so I am constantly looking for items to write on. At the same time, my clients have proven to be a wonderful inspiration for something new.

I calligraphed my first mirror seating chart back in 2014 based on a client request and quickly I became known for that around Houston. Of course, I had a desire for something new and ventured into other materials such as agate stones, marble tile, wood, shadow tiles, laser cut wood and acrylic to name a few.

I am most proud of being relatively versatile but staying true to my traditional penmanship roots and still being able to work with wonderful clients that desire work that is different from the norm. This can be seen with my work with a number of the companies that I have been fortunate to work with.

It is my belief that 3 things set me apart from others. First, I don’t see other work resembling my preferred style of writing here in Houston. It’s a little romantic with a splash of vintage nonchalance. There are incredibly talented calligraphers here in Houston, however we all have our different styles. It is like a “signature”. I believe that any artist desires to be differentiated from others and I believe that my preferred style of writing fits that. Second, I have found that many artists are very talented, but lack business acumen which is a necessity in order to make a living as a penman. The lessons that I learned from working in sales have more than paid off with my business decisions. Third, my life is penmanship. There is no way around that. And I absolutely love it!

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
This is a difficult question as I have many wonderful memories from childhood. The funniest that comes to mind at the moment is when my brother Vincent (6 years my senior) decided to teach me to ride a bike on our farm without training wheels. Of course our parents weren’t in the immediate vicinity which screams trouble. My brother had the brilliant idea of connecting our bikes together…..with tape….such that he could help me maintain my balance while he rode in front of me. Needless to say, it was a complete disaster but I did in fact learn to ride my bike that day and I will NEVER forget that experience. It was actually a lot of fun.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Howdy Y’all Lasercut: Vis Photography
Black & white Ink Spatter: Ralph Smith

Getting in touch: VoyageHouston is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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