In a nutshell, what do you do?

I draw and paint letters for different purposes, often for inscriptions in stone which I then cut by hand. My commissions range from gravestones to paperweights and sundials, from ex librises to logotypes, anything you can think of that requires lettering. I did a three year apprenticeship in The Cardozo Kindersley Workshop in Cambridge, UK, and worked there for seven years in total. I have studied the Type & Media course in The Hague and I have a bachelor degree in History of Art.

What’s your creative process; how do you get stuff done?

I call my creative process 'reduction'. It’s like cooking a really good sauce. Everything – ideas, thoughts, client requests, inspiration – gets put into the pot and is then reduced to the essence. It means research and reiteration, sketches and trials. I love this part of the job. Anything is possible.

Everyone works differently. When did you become aware that your creative process is your own?

As an apprentice in the Cardozo Kindersley Workshop, I learnt not only how to draw and cut, but also how to get from nothing to actually delivering and fixing a ready piece of work. This is a very important part of the training. Left to my own devices I’d probably get very little finished. I have a million private projects that I’ve started, but never finished. Once I’ve solved the idea, I lose some of the urgency to finish. This is a shame because there are certain things that can only be discovered during the actual making.

With a client it’s different – there is something that needs to be done. You have to keep to certain presets and you have to deliver. I find it important to have good communication with my client and I try to hear beyond the words, what it is they are really after. I reflected on the process during my time in the workshop – even if I didn’t know to call it a process – but it was when I started out on my own that I really became aware of what I was doing. With this came the freedom to adjust the process to suit me. And I keep adjusting it.

When are you most creative?

Early mornings and late afternoon, early evenings, and when facing a problem that needs to be solved.

Can you be creative in a vacuum or do you need outside influences to help?

I need time and solitude for my work, but it has to be interlaced with outside influences. These influences don’t necessarily have to have anything to do with lettering: Watching people, talking to people, going to exhibitions, seeing things, hearing interesting topics, visiting old and new places, being in nature, going for a run, being bored. Anything that opens up the mind. We are all connected and humans don’t exist in a vacuum. We are a brief moment in time, a link between history and future. Everything new is based on what has gone before. To expand my mind I do the odd university course part time. It enriches my thinking and gives new aspects to my work. But then, a deadline is always a very good incentive!


Did you seek being creative or did creativity find you?

I think I have always been creative. I’ve always come up with ideas and I’ve always made things. Because of this I have made the choices that led me to become a creative. There was never any alternative in my mind.

Do you think your background has had an effect on your creativity?

Of course. Creativity is really about looking at the world from different angles. In order to do that, you bring with you all that you have learnt in your life and all your preconceptions.

Have you ever struggled with creativity?

Yes, as the mother of three children, a son (9) and twins (5), exhaustion and lack of time do frustrate me, and it affects my creativity. Luckily I have a supportive husband and we share chores. It is mainly head space that is a problem – I sometimes feel like I run out of random access memory (RAM)! But my children also inspire me and I love to see how they use their creativity.

But before the typical tired mum syndrome, there was a specific situation that depleted my creativity. I left the workshop, where I had colleagues and my work context, to move back to Sweden. Letter-cutting was basically non-existing over here, and no one understood what it was I did. Each job was like starting over. New suppliers, new materials (harder stones than I was used to), more blank faces when I explained what I do. This started reflecting back onto me and I lost confidence in myself. It was like I didn’t understand what I was doing either. Luckily I didn’t give up and fifteen years on I have managed to create my own niche and a good network.


Is there any one person, thought or thing that’s changed the way you think?

Singling out one specific thought, thing or person is hard. There have been several. My thinking today is the result of all I have experienced up until now. Some people stand out more than others, and how they have influenced me has had a lot to do with timing. If you are not ready for an idea, the meaning will be lost to you. The latest influence I can put my finger on, was a course I did last year at The Royal College of Arts, Crafts and Design, called Images of Holiness. It made me see certain things I had taken for granted from a different perspective and the new outlook impacted greatly on my creativity. I felt liberated and it was exactly what I needed at the time.

Do you have one piece of advice for anyone starting out as a creative?

Many people will tell you how things are and what you should do, but there are many ways of solving the same problem. Listen to the advice, but only use what is relevant to you! Also, respect your clients and see them as team members. That way they will feel involved and respect you too.


Do you think creativity has defined you?

It is part of who I am, so I guess yes. But I don’t go around thinking about how creative I am. I just do what I do.

What would you like to do if you weren’t doing what you do now?

I’m doing that too! I always wanted to curate exhibitions and since almost a year back I combine my lettering business with a job at the local council, where I’m in charge of the council’s art gallery and art collection, and I manage the council’s public art projects.

T H A N K   Y O U

Find Annika Petersson on Instagram and via inscriptorum.com 

Photo credit: Maria Hansson.