Trumbull woman’s calligraphy business is on the ‘write’ path

TRUMBULL — When Johana Gutierrez-Griffiths started a home-based calligraphy business at the start of 2020, her focus was on running classes and creating specialty items for weddings.

“Then the pandemic came, and all that was eliminated,” said Gutierrez-Griffiths, 32, who lives in Trumbull.

Even as in-person events were sidelined due to COVID-19 Gutierrez-Griffiths — who was living in Hoboken, N.J., at the time — kept her head above water by teaching online calligraphy workshops and providing custom gift items. As a result, her business, JJ Paperie & Co. survived.

Gutierrez-Griffiths and her husband moved to Trumbull about a year and a half ago, and she’s continued to grow the business. JJ Paperie still provides calligraphy workshops, as well as on-site engraving and calligraphy, and a line of products with her own designs and artwork.

Her clients include major retailers, such as Nordstrom, and Saks Fifth Avenue and small businesses, such as Pure Poetry on Madison Avenue in Trumbull.

Calligraphy is a visual art related to writing and lettering. Gutierrez-Griffiths said she sort of stumbled into doing calligraphy as a career after working for seven years in New York in the corporate world.

Her background was in public relations and international business, which she knows is a long way from designing greeting cards and wall hangings. She said she originally got into calligraphy as way to blow off steam and stretch herself creatively.

“I needed an outlet really,” she said. “I needed to do something for fun — just to get my creativity back.”

Her interest in calligraphy hit another level when she got engaged to her now-husband. Gutierrez-Griffiths said she started seeing examples online of how other brides-to-be used their calligraphy skills to create items for their weddings.

“I saw all theses place cards with these little details on them, and I thought they were very pretty,” she said. “I thought ‘I can do that myself.’ ”

Around that same time, Gutierrez-Griffiths said, she started looking for a new direction for her career. “I knew following a corporate path wasn’t for me long term,” she said.

Calligraphy, she said, seemed like something that she could grow from a hobby into a business. “I was scared,” Gutierrez-Griffiths said. “Growing a business takes time. But I was willing to give it a shot.”

Her products range from greeting cards with pithy messages such as “Happy Birthday to a beautiful human,” to kitchen towels bearing her own patterned designs, such as a “Pieces of Fall” towel covered in acorns, pumpkins and leaves.

So far, Gutierrez-Griffiths said, her gamble has been paying off, but she’d love for JJ Paperie & Co. to be a household name in the field of stationery and home goods. She already has her share of fans, including Portia Antonio, owner of Pure Poetry.

Antonio said she carries many of Gutierrez-Griffths’s greeting cards and notepads. “I love all her original artwork,” Antonio said. “They sell really well. I do really well with her wedding cards.”

Antonio said she also likes supporting a local entrepreneur. “She even hand delivers everything to me,” she said.