10 Questions with Casey Schuurman
Inspired by the Proust Questionnaire, I'm asking letterers and calligraphers I admire to share their thoughts on success, frustration, personal experiences, and more.
What's your name and where can we find you?
My name is Casey Schuurman (pronounced kay-sea sher-man. You'd be surprised what people come up with haha). On the internet, you can find me on Instagram @caseyschuurman, on my site caseyschuurman.com or scrolling through Tumblr. In real life, you'll find me in my home studio working (and singing loudly) or eating something delicious in the sunshine at a leafy park.
What's your lettering / calligraphy background?
**It wasn't until studying at RMIT University that I first learnt the term 'Typography'. I was incorporating bits of 'hand lettering' into my projects, not really realising what I was doing. I'd come from an Illustration/Drawing childhood and this just seemed natural. One of my lecturers commented on my knack for lettering and something clicked for me then and there. After this, I started to see interesting, expressive Typography and Lettering everywhere (or so it felt like.) I discovered the work of Gemma O'Brien and Jessica Hische and was totally blown away that there were people (especially women) not only earning a living off of this 'niche' but also kicking ass in the 'Design Industry'! As Lauren Hom says, "You can't be what you can't see"—meaning that sometimes it's not until you see someone else doing something that you even register it as a possibility. That was my moment! It was in the final semester of my Design degree that I decided Typography was what I wanted to pursue. I had no idea how to do that or what my 'career' would look like—but I went with my gut.
I actually took a year off after study, feeling creatively and emotionally burnt out after putting 110% into University for 3 years right after high school. During my year off I travelled overseas for 4 months and came home feeling refreshed and inspired. Having time to think about where I wanted to take things next gave me some much needed clarity. In 2016, I studied Typography at an independent Design school in Melbourne, 'Old School New School'. This intensive course touched on Calligraphy, Lettering, Blackletter, Type Design and more. I met some amazing people there and pushed my Lettering to the next level again and again. In 2017, I took the plunge into Freelance work and the lifestyle that comes with it. To earn a living I was (and still am) teaching lettering workshops, selling products and doing client commissions. It was the hardest, yet most rewarding year of my life!
**Looking back—YES, I was that girl in 3rd Grade customising everyone's folders and workbooks with top notch bubble lettering. I guess it goes way back!?
When was the last time you surprised yourself?
I surprise myself all the time! I'm an extremely organised, analytical, list/goal obsessed person which for the most part, is incredibly helpful in what I do. However, there are times where this leads me to overthink, over criticise and put some serious pressure on myself (and my work). I battled this part of me again and again throughout 2017—usually when an exciting opportunity came up and I caught myself wondering whether I was really up to it i.e. 'good enough'. Using the 'say yes and freak out later' mindset, I'm proud to say I took on everything that came my way—and in one way or another, I succeeded! I find it's always surprising looking back and seeing how far you've come in a year. Often, I've achieved more than I thought or have given myself credit for.
What is your greatest frustration in the creative process?
Getting started! Don't get me wrong, I find inspiration all the time and in so many ways! The frustrating part for me is giving myself the time and space to sit down and really explore ideas/styles and get into the 'flow'. It's all too easy for me to get distracted and lose the essence of an idea or get caught up in visualising a final outcome or comparing my work to others. I really need to work on 'working', haha. The environment can't always be 'perfect' for creating and the work won't always be 'perfect' in concept or execution either. That's something I'm still thinking about. How to block my inner perfectionist and just create without analysing and expectation. Give me a brief, a reference or a problem to solve and I'm away! Creating meaningful, beautiful and experimental work from myself (and for myself)? That's the work in progress. :)
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Hmmm I have two! A life one and a career one. As much as those two overlap to the point I can't tell them apart sometimes—I think it's important to try and separate them now and again.
Career: Diving head first into Freelance in January 2017. It completely changed everything. How I spend my day, how I earn money, how I care for myself, how much I leave the house, how I spend time with my family/friends/partner etc. I think my work ethic really pulled me through. Years ago, when first discovering Lettering, I found the agency and artist representatives 'The Jacky Winter Group'. I set my sights on representation as a major career goal right then and there. And while I'm not quite there yet, I did intern with Jacky Winter for almost 5 months of 2017. I gained so much insight into the industry, made some amazing friendships and even helped Gemma O'Brien paint one of her mind-bogglingly-awesome murals in the attached gallery space. Actively taking steps towards my long term goals feels like a big achievement!
Life: I've supported myself for the last 6 years living out of home, creating the life I want to lead and pushing myself forwards. I surround myself with supportive, genuine, thoughtful people and I've travelled fairly extensively for my age. They're the three things that have shaped me into who I am today that I'm really thankful for.
Who are your favorite artists?
I always dread this question! It always feels like there's someone I'm missing. My current favourites are:
What is your motto?
Last year, it became 'Comparison Kills' after I did a lettering artwork using these words as a way to express my creative struggles at times. Other quotes that really speak to me (that I think about all the time): 'Edit your life frequently and ruthlessly. It's your masterpiece after all.' - Nathan Morris 'Whenever you think or you believe or you know, you're a lot of other people: but the moment you feel, you're nobody but yourself.' - E.E Cummings
If you weren't a letterer/calligrapher, what would you be and why?
I would find something that was still creative, just in a different way. I love language, travel and eating... so maybe a travel writer? Or an English teacher working overseas? I LOVE landscape photography so maybe I'd travel taking photos of the world's sights. I think they're all related to experience, expression and enjoyment. That's why I pursue Lettering, too. :)
What's your ONE piece of advice to people starting out?
Get to know yourself—because it will inform EVERYTHING! How do you like to work? Alone? In a team? In a quiet environment? With lots of background noise? How do you like to spend your time outside of work? What time do you like to start your day? How comfortable are you putting yourself and your work out there? How much does money mean to you? How do you define success? How much social interaction do you need? Does it energise you or drain you?
Answering questions like these (and more) will save so much potential disappointment, time, energy, money and stress later. Once you know yourself, you gain clarity on your goals/hopes/dreams and everything becomes a bit easier. Next turn your focus to the Industry and try to understand it as much as possible. Then finally, shift your focus to the work and set yourself goals on the type of work you'd like to do and the style/voice/tone of that work. When you can understand and juggle all three (as much as possible)—I think that's when you start to pick up momentum.
Anything you'd like to add:
Good things take time. Or in a more catchy, memorable and relatable way: Shit. Takes. Time.