Love letters: Zionsville artist’s calligraphy adds a personal touch to any occasion

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By Heather Lusk

A wedding planner once told her, “calligraphy takes your wedding up a notch.”

Bambi Meier, who has done calligraphy for the Simon family and other high profile clients in the Indianapolis area, agrees.

“The name on the envelope, it’s the first thing they see,” she said.

Meier was working as an interior designer when she fell into a craft that would become her life’s work.

“My first job out of college, I was sitting there kind of lettering, and one of the people I was working with said ‘You do calligraphy?’” Meier said. “I said, ‘I don’t even know what that is.’”

In 1977 she began taking lessons at the now-closed Hindman Art Center in Indianapolis, and soon after the beginner class she was hooked.

The resident of Zionsville since 1980 began her career as an interior designer. Then, when her first son was born, she decided to focus more on her calligraphy and asked at the stationary shop William Ernest Brown whether they needed a calligrapher. She began working for them, hand-writing invitations that would be reproduced.

“It’s been a gift that I’ve been able to do this and stay home with my kids,” she said.

In 1990 local event planner Gary Bravard saw her work and asked her to address envelopes for weddings.

“Then I really got busy,” she said.

Bravard had used calligraphers in the past whose work wasn’t always consistent and whose script choices were limited.

“Bambi could match almost any script. She was consistent and was always on time,” he said. “If I needed a rush she could do it.”

Her work isn’t limited to addressing the envelopes. According to Bravard, she would research the proper protocol for each name, she would stuff and seal the envelopes, find stamps to match the feel of the event and then would hand cancel the stamps on the envelopes at the post office to avoid any smudges and marks that might ruin the presentation.

“She’s the best,” said Bravard, who added that her work has been compared to invitations from the White House. If needed she mixes her own calligraphy ink to identically match the custom ink on the printed invitation.

“Sometimes they ask me if it’s done by computer,” she said. “I think I should take it as a compliment.”

Through Brevard, she met the Simon family. She has done their wedding invitations and was commissioned to write names on a family tree that hangs outside Mel Simon’s downtown office. The paper was on a roll that had to be continually unfurled.

“I loved doing that,” she said. “It was a challenge.”

She does wedding invitations, menus, place cards, seating charts, baby shower invitations, napkin rings, and more. She has written on sand dollars, gumball machines and created a template used by a seamstress to embroider “His” and “Hers” onto pillows.

“There’s so many things you can do with this,” Meier said.

On three separate occasions she has written on mirrors, one of the biggest for a wedding at Union Station.

“They decided they wanted the seating chart put on a giant mirror,” she said.

She estimates that it took 12 hours to write the names on the tall panels, making sure that the sides were even and everything was balanced in addition to having correct spelling.

“You have to figure out the names, how many there are,” she said. “I do a lot of measuring.”

Then she used ink that was easily erasable to draw lines to ensure the writing was even, followed by smudge-proof ink for the names. The job required starting on a ladder, then moving to a table and finally resting on her stomach to finish the bottom row.

For most jobs, she writes her letters the truly old-fashioned way, dipping her pen into an inkwell using a variety of nibs to create more than a dozen fonts she has mastered.

“I can learn other fonts, but you end up putting your own personality into it,” she said. “They say that once you learn you can develop your own style,”

“It’s a piece of art, because they all look really different,” Meier said.

She has begun creating her own envelope interiors and uses ink color to match. She’s also dabbled with table settings incorporating a theme into menus, place cards, centerpieces and small details to pull it all together. It’s a new area that she’d like to do expand.

“All of a sudden, I’ve been able to do more creative things,” she said.

With the abundance of envelopes she addresses, she has also undertaken an unexpected role of fixing zip codes that are amiss on her commissioned invitations.

“I know a lot of ZIP codes,” she said. “It’s crazy.” But she also has addressed envelopes to Israel, France, Japan and England.

As for retirement, “I think I’d like to always do it or stay in it somehow.” she said.

“I just really love lettering”

All about Bambi Meier

Family: Married 37 years to husband David, two sons – Chad and Cody

Favorite letter to write: “I love Ms.”

Toughest letter to write: “The hardest is a D.”

Favorite restaurant: Patrick’s (“I love the BLTs.”)

Favorite vacation spot: Anywhere warm with a beach

Favorite Movie: “Out of Africa”

Favorite book: Mysteries, James Mitchner and Little Women

Favorite pastime: Gardening and spending time with family

To reach Meier for calligraphy needs, contact her directly at bambimeier@gmail.com.


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