Inspiring Designer: Paperfinger

August 30, 2016 by Erin Behan

In 2009 when Bryn Chernoff started her contemporary calligraphy business Paperfinger in Brooklyn, she says she felt nervous about “stepping on the toes of calligraphy tradition” and "breaking all the rules." Although that sentiment is hard to imagine today — with the plethora of hand-scripted inspirational sayings populating Pinterest and Instagram — it shows you just how far calligraphy has come in the past few years.

Inspiring Designer: Paperfinger
Chernoff uses pointed pen calligraphy, which produces a sharp contrast between hairlines and thick, heavier lines via nibs, and her style is elegant, modern and very much self-taught. She took only one class, in hand-lettered type design, before moving from a non-profit job to running her own business because she was worried traditional calligraphy would "distract me from what I liked."

It turned out that a lot of other people like what she likes. Since Paperfinger's launch, Chernoff's distinctive lettering work has been featured in publications like Real Simple, The New York Times, Refinery29, and Cool Hunting, and she's moved west to Portland.

Inspiring Designer: Paperfinger
She's beloved by wedded couples from coast to coast for work that runs the gamut from personally designed save-the-dates to thank-you notes; she works with brands like Donna Karan; and she does personal commissions like creating keepsakes of wedding vows or love letters.

Inspiring Designer: Paperfinger
Weddings and events are a big part of her business, and Chernoff says she's "done every element." For some weddings, it means going way beyond the invitations themselves. Welcome books, programs, illustrated table signs, seating charts, a monogram, and on and on. "The last client did maple syrup [for gifts], so we made illustrated labels for all the bottles," she says. Her Instagram is full of new twists on wedding staples.

Far from the predictability of type, Chernoff's work lets the unexpected slip into her work. "The kind of writing I do, it's inconsistent in a purposeful way, so people know that they're seeing something done by hand. It slows you down for a second. You actually stop and be with it and feel the personal intimate nature of what's in front of you."

That personal touch has helped to expand her work beyond straight calligraphy to illustration, full design and print work, custom art pieces, logos and company branding. Custom note cards and address stamps are popular too (all available at her online shop). To keep up with demand, she now employs a small team of calligraphers, each trained in the Paperfinger aesthetic but also with their own style.

Inspiring Designer: Paperfinger
More than anything, she says she does her best work when her paper and ink work together. That might mean white ink on colored card stock for a special pop. She's choosy about her paper, often using Crane or Mohawk for placecards. Of the materials she prefers, "if it makes it easy to write well, then you love it."

In her seven-plus years in the business, Chernoff has seen an increased interest in others wanting to try their hand at the craft. She currently teaches four classes on Skillshare and has led a number of in-demand workshops around the country throughout her career.

"People don't just want to be seeing it, they want to be doing it. I always go into workshops wanting to teach all these things, but people are just psyched to sit down and allowed to practice writing on the page. Calligraphy is particularly calming and meditative in that way."

SHOP AT Distinc Paper for your calligraphy paper.

Erin Behan

Written by Erin Behan

Erin Behan is an L.A.-based writer and editor who considers fine paper one of life's little pleasures.


Visit Distinct Papers to buy high-quality paper or card stock for your next project or to find the right copy paper, correspondence stationery and envelopes.


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