Words and Photos by Olivia Bauso
When I ask Nicole Christian to tell me about herself, she claims she is “just a musician from Colorado.” She, of course, says this with a laugh following a drawn out explanation of her journey to Rochester and becoming a part-time calligraphy teacher.
After just minutes of sitting with her, I know she is much more than any one of these titles. She is bright, she is bubbly and she speaks with such purity that I know what she is sharing is unequivocally true. Nicole settled in Rochester after completing her education at the Eastman School of Music, concentrating in viola-- “it’s like a big violin, if you don’t know,” she explains to me. Nicole teaches viola, violin, piano and voice full time at Rochester Academy of Music and Arts, privately from her home and at Roberts Wesleyan College. In addition to making art, she enjoys cooking without recipes, taking yoga lessons from YouTube, and hiking only uphill. Unlike any other city she had experienced, Nicole loved how Rochester was filled with small, locally owned shops, and continues to admire the “we love our city” feel-- her words.
After graduation, despite all the “real life adult things,” Nicole found herself with extra time on her hands since she no longer had assignments to work on. This was when she discovered the art of brush calligraphy. Her then boyfriend (now husband) bought her a calligraphy set for Christmas, and it all snowballed from there. Nicole is completely self taught, and mostly just copied people on Instagram until she found her own font. This was a challenging technique, seeing as many of the words she wanted to write, she was unable to find examples for. While putting together a hand-lettered exercise journal for a friend, Nicole spent almost two hours just writing the word “exercise.” She says, “I feel like being a musician helped me with calligraphy in that I know what it means to practice, and that you have to make a lot of mistakes before you get to a good, finished project.”
Coffee Shops have a special place in Nicole’s heart, as they were one of the first places she found herself practicing calligraphy. But before coming to Rochester, she had never tasted specialty coffee. Now, you may find her or her new husband at Joe Bean Coffee Roasters (he works there, she eats there), Ugly Duck Coffee, Fuego Coffee Roasters, Meraki Coffee or Glen Edith Coffee Roasters. Nicole tells me, “When I was going through a rough time I would spend like four hours at Glen Edith reading the Bible-- I kid you not. I would just sit there with a cup of coffee and pay ‘rent’ on the desk space; It was just the most soul-opening thing to sit in a coffee shop and hand-letter.”
Once Nicole got her own calligraphy style down, it made sense that she would seek to teach her newfound craft. “I’m a teacher in my blood,” she affirms. As the daughter of two music teachers, it all came sort of natural to her, and she started giving lessons at the early age of 14.
With calligraphy specifically, Nicole tells me, “I love the opportunity to give affirmation and show people, ‘look at that, you made something,’ and let them experience the satisfaction that comes from making art that a lot of people don’t get to otherwise experience.” She adds, “This is for everyone; if you’re a human, you’re creative.” Nicole goes on to rave about the approachable nature of brush calligraphy, and it’s free form. She “so admires” those that practice formal calligraphy, and hopes she can learn it one day, but really indulges in the personal expression of creating her own fonts.
Nicole’s upcoming "Watercolor Lettering" class falls on Valentine’s Day. Though she was single for most of her life, Nicole has always loved the holiday. “Being married, now Valentine’s Day means something different, but I’m always excited to make valentines for my mom and my friends,” Nicole explains. This perspective falls in line with her view on most of life: “People are where it’s at-- we forget that a lot.”
Want to know more about Nicole?
“I know it’s really cliche, but I really love people. In the end it’s about hearing their stories and getting to know them that gets me going.”
Dislikes: Small talk
“I want to talk about deep things inside my soul, so I hate small talk."
Listens to: Jazz and Funk
“I love listening to Marian Hill when I’m cleaning. I’m also really, really into old school jazz like Ella and Louis, and I really like funk music.”
Eats: Mostly Vegan
“My favorite meal right now is the compost plate at the Red Fern-- I can’t get enough.”
Hand-lettering with Nicole is the perfect Valentine’s Day date! Register for "Watercolor Lettering" on February 14 from 7pm-9pm here at Rochester Brainery.