In challenging times like this, it can be particularly reassuring to have a long-standing hobby or routine to keep us grounded. We spoke to calligrapher Fozzy Castro-Dayrit - although hers is clearly more than a hobby! - about her obsession with ink and paper and what's helping get her through this seemingly warped reality with focus and grace.
How did you get into calligraphy? Was there a moment of epiphany when you realized that this was your true passion?
I've always had the obsession with anything involved with paper. I was the kid who had the impossibly large pencil case to fit in all the pens and highlighters. Writing was a big part of growing up - letters to friends and I was an obsessive note taker. The leisure of it just had to take a back seat when I went to college and began work. The computer age introduced me to fonts and typography became my new addiction. That plus planning my wedding gave writing a renaissance (so to speak) in my life - seeing that they were written by hand so differently - softly and exquisitely - on so much wedding papeterie blew my mind. So different from the style I knew about back in high school (the gothic, italic ones with flat pens), I learned about scripts and fell in love with all the delicate lines. It made me want to learn it and I haven't stopped studying it since.
(Asymmetrical dress by Mode de Vie, consigned by Fozzy, available soon)
Any advice for those of us who might not necessarily want to become calligraphers but who want to improve our (or our children's) penmanship? :)
A lot about writing hinges around muscle memory - so it all boils down to practice. Like riding a bike or driving, it's a balance between your senses and movement. And then there's this super happy point when your body "gets" it and you can do it on instinct. It honestly feels weird when you're starting the practice. But we all have to start somewhere and it does get better! There are a lot of copy sheets and references to be downloaded online - both for cursive and if you want to get into calligraphy. You can message me and I'll be happy to be a geek and send some links!
For kids - this may be hard given the technological age we're in, but start giving them pens and crayons instead of a phone or tablet. Navigating gadgets only involve the fingertips, really. Even if they're tracing letters on an app, it's only their index finger that's working and it's not doing any training for fine motor skills. Go old school. Paper, even scratch paper. Give them a writing instrument to grip. Give them the chance to fall in love with creating and writing on their own. We need penmanship to stay alive!
We've noticed that you are a big proponent of thrifting and shopping locally in terms of fashion. What does sustainable fashion mean to you? And why is it important to you personally?
We take the uniforms we grow up with in elementary and high school for granted, I tell you that. Going to college and work where you had to think of what to wear every day and also worrying about being cool and all that (ahhh, youth) plus being on an allowance level budget - a lot of brainwork! I don't know where it got started, but I found myself in ukay-ukays more often. Sometimes with co-workers and a lot of times with my mom and sister. Having the thrill of finding something at such a low price was like a drug and it still is!
We go to Baguio every year as a family and a trip to ukay-ukay is always necessary. I've always done it and it never really sunk in as "sustainable fashion". It was just a cheaper way to get clothes. The growing campaigns to go green allowed me to put two and two together (like, oo nga naman!) and in line with this, I'm also trying to reduce the need for fast fashion. I still have them (limited to the classic and basic ones), but I've finally sunk my teeth into investing in local weaves and locally made choice pieces. It feels good and I would like to spread that joy as much as I can.
(Sleeveless blue gown by harlan + holden, consigned by Fozzy, available soon)
How do you practice mindfulness and sustainability in your daily life, outside the realm of fashion?
I'm honestly terrified about how much us humans are using up the earth. And sometimes don't know if we'll ever get it back - perhaps we won't - but I'd like to let my children have as much of the wonder and the experiences we had growing up. Breaking habits are hard. Changing routines is absolutely difficult. I'd like to think little steps add up to big things, so I'm trying to just be mindful of the practices we do at home.
We bring our own containers for meats and frozen goods. I refuse the use of plastics (they usually add another round of plastic bags around wet items) and have a dedicated bag where they can put those goods in directly. We also bring our own mesh bags to the market for fresh produce. It's harder with the snacks for the kids, but we choose those we can buy in bulk vs. individually wrapped. We just "decant" them into little reusable containers for their lunch boxes. Haircare is almost exclusively with bars and not bottles.
Last Christmas, the kids asked me why they got a lot of clothes and books as gifts (they noticed that they didn't get so much Barbies and such sparkly things) - and I had to tell them that I asked their titos and titas to give them things that won't get thrown into the trash so fast. They had gotten those little Shopkins and Hatchimal toys before and it was horrifying how much of it was just glittered up packaging that you just throw away, only to reveal a tiny toy. The mindfulness can start young! Bottom line, please start in any way you can (we ourselves aren't completely green). Mother Earth will still be happy for it!
(Open-front tweed jacket by Eunice Sason, consigned by Fozzy, available soon)
As a momtrepreneur, or "CalligraMama" in your case, would you have any tips on getting dressed (and looking put-together when you need to) with minimal effort?
I think whatever the trend (and whether you want to follow it or you don't), it comes down to well-fitted clothes. They don't need to be designer. They can even be a 50-peso tank top from some stall in a market. But if it fits well, it'll make you more confident and less conscious and just overall carry yourself better.
Have the basic pieces that you can throw on together. I have a lot of blacks and neutrals that could offset color if I don't want to be so loud. Color has entered my life recently so it's a slow process for now lol. Monochrome doesn't hurt either. Block heels for that little oomph without the pain. I've kind of figured out my style and fit - which is basically a high waisted bottom that I could tuck a blouse or tank into - so I put together variations of that. I already know that I'm a twig save for my hips so instead of padding myself up or binding myself in places, I've just found what can flatter me the most. And that makes me happy. Dress with confidence and self-love, guys. And appropriately for the appropriate places and times. Because what will the children think.
(High waisted wrap skirt by Style Ana, consigned by Fozzy, available for rent soon)
We find it really inspiring that you are building a real community around calligraphy, which is ostensibly not as glamorous a topic as, say, fashion. Why do you think people are drawn to/engaging with your content?
Making things with your hands is such a novel thing in such a fast-paced world. So I think when people want to learn something as seemingly mundane as writing or as "old" as calligraphy, you'll want to find the kind of people you could grow with. And that's what I want to be, really. Someone that people could be with to make them grow and learn and flourish. I like being honest and real in my posts. It really isn't very glamorous lol. I think the "realness" makes people like the feed and the stories too.
What keeps you going these days? How do you deal with the anxiety that comes with the feeling of uncertainty and isolation?
I try not to think so much, really. Going into the future beyond the month or the week just makes me feel like I'm staring into a deep black hole and it's mighty unsettling. It's literally just thinking about today and tomorrow.
I make sure to take my time getting up in the morning. Have a good stretch to start the day (no matter what time of day you get to peel yourself off from bed). There's no use rushing with all the time we have. I get dressed to work out so I have no excuse but to get moving. Some days it's just 15 mins and some it's an hour of working out - gotta get the blood pumping! It also helps me reset and refocus.
I follow and support @braveheartphl and other friends doing drives for frontliners. Beyond this, I try not to dwell on negativity or be a source of it. I've snapped a few times though lol.
The kids are thankfully taking things pretty well. I don't know what I'd do when that slips and they become monsters. I'm hoping that never happens!
Bonus question - Which plants did you end up buying at the BM Jov plant garden? :)
I would've gotten more had I not set a personal limit (also budget lol)! I got a Silver Queen Philodendron, a Monstera Adansonii, and a Philodendron Selloum. I had to majorly sit on my hands else I'd have gone home with (yet another) Burgundy Rubber Tree.