How custom calligraphy and personalisation is gaining popularity in the luxury wedding and party industry

Award-winning stationer and calligrapher Sanjana Chatlani says it not only evokes nostalgia but also has an appeal that is warm, endearing and cherishable

By Rashmi Gopal Rao

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Sanjana Chatlani. Photo: Meesha Vaz Studio, Mumbai
Sanjana Chatlani. Photo: Meesha Vaz Studio, Mumbai

Published: Thu 27 Apr 2023, 5:26 PM

Handwritten letter scrolls, custom wax seal stamps, personalised name tags, envelopes with your name handwritten, embossed and foil printed... the allure of personalised stationery is indeed truly special. Undeniably charming, it not only evokes nostalgia but also has an appeal that is warm, endearing and cherishable. And if your stationery is enhanced by calligraphy that is almost poetic, it is sure a winning combination as demonstrated by Sanjana Chatlani, the founder of The Bombay Lettering Company.

Sanjana recently won the much-coveted award of 'Favourite Stationer' at the 2023 RSVP Global Awards held in Madrid on March 30, 2023. The awards are a global benchmark for excellence in the luxury wedding and party industry and Sanjana’s supreme talent, passion and creativity saw her emerge on top beating 12 other talented competitor stationers from all over the world. Sanjana’s serendipitous foray into calligraphy is fascinating to say the least; it started off as a creative hobby which soon metamorphosed into a passion project and finally transformed into a fulfilling profession. Here is a look at her incredible journey.

Early passion for art and branding

Since childhood, Sanjana always had an eye for art and an itch for creativity. After completing her degree in media and communication from Mumbai University she started working with renowned luxury goods company, Moët Hennessy, which is a part of the LVMH Group. “I realised my passion for branding and marketing during my stint with LVMH. Interestingly, my introduction to calligraphy also happened during this time. It was 2017 and I was working at Moët Hennessy when I noticed an artist creating beautiful gift tags for our brand, Dom Perignon, using calligraphy. That's when I realised that luxury brands send out personalised gifts in this manner, and I was hooked! I was drawn to writing, doodling, and most importantly, the therapeutic aspect of calligraphy. Soon after, I came across a calligraphy retreat in Tuscany and without hesitation, signed up for it. It was there that I had the incredible opportunity to learn from Master penmen, Barbara Calzolari, who became my teacher and mentor” says Sanjana. She then started taking on small projects for friends and family and before she knew it, she was juggling two full-time jobs! Soon she quit her job at LVMH and decided to take a leap of faith and started The Bombay Lettering Company, a boutique calligraphy studio in South Mumbai.

Training from the best in business

As an avid learner and passionate artist, Sanjana has learnt the art from some of the most talented artists and instructors across the globe. “I began my journey with Barbara Calzolari from Bologna, Italy, where I delved into the beautiful world of Copperplate calligraphy, Spencerian, Italics and more. In 2019, I had the privilege of learning Devnagari with Master Calligrapher Achyut Palav, who is celebrated as India's most sought-after calligraphy artist. In 2022, I took part in the highly coveted "Foundations of Western Calligraphy" programme with world-renowned calligrapher Ewan Clayton in Brighton. During this three-month programme, I expanded my knowledge and skills in Roman Capitals, foundational hand and italics,” says Sanjana who has also picked up nuances of this timeless art form from other master calligraphers such as Michael Sull, Paul Antonio, Nina Tran and Suzanne Cunningham.

Marrying Script with illustrative and design elements

The Bombay Lettering company is a bespoke calligraphy design and illustration studio that caters to unique and custom projects. From designing and printing wedding invitations to creating personal stationery, to calligraphy for corporate and brand communications, Sanjana along with her team have built an impressive portfolio of clients which includes well-known brands such as Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Choo, Michael Kors, Christian Dior, Gucci, and Cartier, as well as high-profile individuals like Deepika Padukone and the Ambani family. “A highlight of my career was being selected as the on-site calligrapher for Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas' wedding, where I was the first Indian calligrapher to work at a celebrity wedding,” adds the 30-year-old.

As an English and Hindi Calligrapher, Sanjana is committed to exploring different surfaces, media textures and papers. “Currently, there is a growing trend of hand engraving, where I employ a dentist's drill to etch personalised designs on glass and steel items like perfumes, glasses and alcohol bottles which serve as personalised gift for clients. We also create unique and personalised large signs for events and weddings using wood and acrylic, which can be either hand-painted or laser-cut,” adds the Mumbai-based entrepreneur who also specialises in designing nameplates for homes. The company also provides workshops and masterclasses. Beginners can learn the art by signing up for their pre-recorded online digital course, Copperplate calligraphy,

According to Sanjana, attention to detail is key right from ideation and design to personalisation and final shipping. It is important to consider interesting combinations of colours, surfaces, textures and concepts and add personal touches wherever possible. “Even during the final stage of dispatch, we are always looking to add value by throwing in interesting accessories like vellum wraps, silk ribbons, wax seal stamps, flowers and even fragrance. This is what sets us apart and makes The Bombay Lettering Company a thought leader in this space,” says Sanjana.

Looking ahead

According to Sanjana, winning the RSVP Global award has not only helped increase her visibility and credibility but has also put the spot light on calligraphy and the luxury stationery market in India. It has helped raise awareness about the value of custom calligraphy and personalisation, which is a growing trend in the Indian wedding and events industry. “Calligraphy in India is booming and many young artists now see it as a profitable career. However, it is important to invest a significant amount of time in studying and continuously learning to improve your craft. Apart from writing well, a good calligrapher must be able to artistically design and compose pieces and add a touch of their own style and personality,” Sanjana signs off, adding that building a robust ecosystem of calligraphy design and illustration within India and abroad is her ultimate goal. Her future plans also include launching an e-commerce vertical that will exclusively feature ready-to-buy products showcasing her unique calligraphy and design expertise.

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