Justine Ma is a graphic designer who stumbled upon lettering by mistake, but man oh man are we grateful she did!
We met Justine at Remedy Cafe on 124th street, sipped Chai and shared gingersnap cookies from Bloom - YUM! It did not take long for us to feel the genuine excitement Justine has for her work, family, and the life she has curated. Curious about her backstory, we were intrigued as she explained her introduction to the art of hand lettering, how she turned her passion into a career (hint: hard work), and what she hopes her daughter Ruby will gain from having a mom who is not afraid to follow her dreams (A[wo]men to that!).
Read on to learn more about the passion this boss babe has for her biz in our latest #getREAL interview...
What do you do and why do you love it?
Six years ago, while working at a design agency, my art director brought in a traditional dip-pen nib set in hopes that I could pick it up and complete a lettering project. I welcomed the challenge, self-taught, and really enjoyed the art form - it was a nice break from the computer! I am now a self-employed stationary designer with a central focus on hand lettering. I love it because I get to do what I want [laughs] - I don't work for anyone and it feels amazing. I like picking my own hours and getting to choose what I work on and create. I mean, 60% - 70% of my work is client based, so in that way I guess people are telling me what to do, but it is totally okay with me though, because it's my passion.
Who or what influences you?
Creative people. I hang out with a lot of creative minds - party planners, photographers, and designers. They inspire me and give me fresh perspective. As a freelancer it gets kind of lonely, so it's nice to turn to your friends and bounce your ideas off of them.
Piece of advice you need to take just as frequently as you give?
Work-life balance [laughs]. I think that is everyone's struggle as a freelancer? I did really well until I had a daughter, and now I feel like I am consistently trying to juggle playtime with work time - but so far so good! I always tell people it is important to set strict working hours, otherwise people will start taking advantage of you - you don't want to be answering client emails at midnight.
Last book you couldn’t put down?
Do children's books count [laughs]? We read a lot of children's books in our house right now. There is a Pantone book for children and it is beautifully designed - it is one of our favorites.
Biggest item left on your bucket list?
I had a bucket list when I was 20, and I think I have accomplished everything that was on it - it was mostly things like travel, start a family, buy a home, and those sort of practical items. I have ticked them all off the list now, so I think it is time I create a new one! I'll have to get back to you on that.
What keeps you moving forward no matter what?
I have a lot of great clients who are always requesting cool things, so that keeps me driven and keeps my creative wheels turning.
Hmmmm. I think it was when Ruby first sat on my lap and started drawing with me. She was really little - I think she must have been under one, and she just crawled on over, sat on my lap, grabbed the pencil out of my hand and started drawing. It was a heart melting moment for sure. She's my apprentice!
Words to live by?
Smile often. I think in Alberta, we are very work driven and determined. There is nothing wrong with that, but I think it is important to pass a contagious smile on and try to make a few people laugh in your day. Laughter is the best medicine and life is too short to go without it.
Memorable moment you have experienced in your life that has made you feel strong as a woman?
Childbirth - I survived[laughs]! Growing, and birthing, and raising a child.
Complete this sentence: To me, beauty is___________________.
Everywhere. Honestly, it is everywhere - I can find beauty in everything.