Sarah O Dea-The Journal-Signature Rentals

Industry Insider / Sarah O Dea

This week on The Journal we are speaking with Sarah O’Dea, one of Ireland’s most talented calligraphers and stationery designers. Working across a broad spectrum of different creative outlets, from TV and Film to Weddings and Events, Sarah’s eye for detail is second-to-none. 

Sarah O Dea-The Journal-Signature Rentals

1. Tell us why you love what you do for a living, and in particular, why you love working within the event industry as a Stationary Designer and Calligrapher?   


I feel very lucky that I can make a living from doing something creative. Amongst my happiest times have been when I’m in my studio working on a design, playing around with lettering and illustrations. When I started out 8 years ago my focus was on providing calligraphy. I had always enjoyed painting and drawing so being able to bring this into my work also has been so rewarding. It means that rather than just writing on invitations that I have been provided with I am often adding calligraphy to invitations that I have already designed.   

Over the years I have built great relationships with event planners; getting to be part of that creative process is interesting as there are so many different suppliers feeding into the aesthetic of an event, from florals to lighting to table scaping.

2. How would you describe your style, and have you noticed any particular trends gaining popularity for 2023/2024 weddings or private client events?


I enjoy painting botanical illustrations and these are always popular, especially in wedding stationery. I take inspiration from many sources; I love the paintings of Carl Larsson and would love to visit his old house in Sweden which featured in so much of his work. I find inspiration from looking at the old botanical designs used in old-fashioned embroidery. I love to embroider in my spare time. The books I read as a child also still play a key role as a design reference, particularly the illustrations of Errol Le Cain and Edmund Dulac.   

One trend gaining popularity is that many clients want to take a theme and then scatter elements of it throughout their stationery creating a bespoke narrative throughout. For a recent wedding I created a suite of stationery with an illustrated bouquet of flowers on the invite, I then took each individual flower and captured them separately throughout the rest of the stationery.

Sarah O Dea-The Journal-Signature Rentals

3. What is your career ‘pinch me’ moment that really stands out in your mind? A moment you are proud of, that highlighted your passion for what you do.


It is always so exciting to see something you designed in amongst a beautiful table setting. I am usually working in isolation in my studio and only seeing the design in the context of all my inks, paints and scraps of paper – then to see a menu I created, professionally photographed in a styled table surrounded by flowers and tableware is a joy to see!  

My biggest ‘pinch me’ moments though are when I’m hosting a workshop. There’s normally a moment around halfway through the class when all participants have mastered the pen and materials, where they have become completely absorbed. I’ll look around the room and everyone will have their heads down, writing away and there is complete calm and silence in the space. It’s lovely to feel I have facilitated this moment of flow!

4. What are your goals and aspirations for your business? What professional advice would you give to other stationary designers and calligraphers starting out in the industry.


I have been enjoying the illustrative side of my business and would like to focus more on that. I’ve had enquiries for prints over the years and have promised myself that once my youngest son starts Montessori, I will work on a body of prints which can be sold on my website!  

I have always been interested in interiors and would like to further explore creating murals and painting on furniture. Charleston House in Sussex was owned by the artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, and I am inspired by the way they decorated their walls and furniture. It’s certainly not a minimalist approach and is more eclectic in style.  

I have recently worked on several weddings in the USA and would like to do more, it’s been fun creating stationery for these as there are so many more elements involved that I can design for.   

 My advice for someone starting out in this industry is to talk to other suppliers in the events industry. I would even recommend reaching out to people who work in the exact field that you are starting out in. I often get enquiries for work that I don’t have the capacity to take on or isn’t in my exact area, I’m always happy to be able to give someone a recommendation for another calligrapher.   

I would also say, have an idea of what you think your business will look like and then allow for the fact that some aspects you expected would be central will be only a small part and other unexpected areas will flourish. In my business for example, I never planned for film and tv work to be something I would do and yet I find I get to create written props regularly.   

I would also recommend saying yes to things even if you’re not sure how you will carry them out, the fastest learning experiences are the ones where you just have to figure it out as you are doing it. 

Sarah O Dea-The Journal-Signature Rentals

5. Tell us more about your workshops and what they entail?


I hold my own modern calligraphy workshops throughout the year and then also host workshops in various arts institutions. They are generally for people who are new to calligraphy, although I do get repeat attendees. The workshops are a one-day affair and I provide a kit for everyone to take away at the end of the day so they can continue to practise. I’ll show attendees how to use all the materials then we’ll start making marks on the page and working through the alphabet. I’ll then show how to add flourishes onto lettering and give styling tips and show how to get different effects using a range of materials on different surfaces. At the end of a workshop everyone will have developed their own style and that is what is so great about modern calligraphy, it is not really strict and allows for experimentation.   

I also do private workshops in corporate settings; they provide an opportunity for participants to build bonds as a team and to do something creative that takes them away from their screen.


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