By Fran Tirado
“I know how to weld,” says Rachel Reding, Spring Street’s go-to calligrapher. “I can use a table saw if I have to.”
Rachel, a Strategic Designer for cult-famous homeware manufacturer Herman Miller, received her degree in furniture design from the Rhode Island School of Design. She emanates artistry, from her impeccable personal style to her incredible hand-lettering talent. But don’t let that perfect @raechild Instagram feed fool you; she’s only been doing calligraphy seriously for the last few years.
“A big turning point in my life was when I lost a friend in a terrible accident. I decided that being an artist was a big part of who I am, even though I hadn’t practiced art since graduating,” she says. “When I acknowledged and accepted that, I started making art that made me happy.” That’s when she picked up her pen and began quietly experimenting.
Rachel doling out wisdom tidbits like "get shit done" at our Brooklyn Brunch. December 2016.
Sweet & Savory. February 2015.
A year later, in 2015, we worked with Rachel for the very first time. We gave her four days to prepare for an epic live calligraphy session in front of a hundred guests at our Sweet and Savory event, wherein over a hundred guests gathered in a majestic-yet-spooky hollowed out bank on Wall Street. Rachel hand-lettered all those guest names on tiny envelopes with flourish and personality–right before their very eyes. And this is where her calligraphy turned from a hobby to a serious creative side-hustle.
Since launching her RaeChild business after that fateful supper, Rachel has created stunning calligraphic works for major clients like Ferragamo and Anthropologie, lettering famous names of A-listers like Anna Wintour, Seth Meyers, and Robert De Niro (whose name she accidentally misspelled due to a clerical error). “They say you’re not a calligrapher until you make a spelling error,” she laughs. "That was when I started feeling like a true calligrapher.”
And like a true calligrapher, Rachel approaches her art as a living, breathing, ever-evolving thing. Her current explorations include making custom inks and colors, getting “the perfect rose gold,” and also working with metallics, acrylics, industrial materials, and even bars of soap.
“The risk is where you learn,” she says. “I love that Spring Street pushes people out of their comfort zone. It opened me up to meeting other creative, inspiring New Yorkers.” Which, as it turned out, is super important when your day job revolves mainly around numerics and spreadsheets. “I love doing analytical work,” she says, “but I also love the sense of surprise calligraphy offers.”
All-nighters: the key to Rachel's seemingly superhuman ability to work all day and still turnaround perfect art by morning.
Those moments of delight and preciousness work well with the kind of work we do for our dinners, which is why you’ll so frequently see Rachel posted up at, say, a Brooklyn Brunch, writing inspirational quotes. Or why you’ll see an email with a hella magical RaeChild script decorating the whole damn page. According to Rachel, both her moonlighting gig and her day job inform each other. Her side hustle helps her stay creative and engaged at her desk job, and her price-negotiating and understanding of electrical parts sometimes informs her freelance art.
But at the end of the day, Rachel just wants to make things that shine feel truly special–which often includes taking risks.
“I hear so often ‘I could never do that, I don’t have any artistic talent.’ I think everybody does have artistic talent — it’s just about giving yourself that opportunity to make that space — to allow yourself to make mistakes and keep going,” she says. “Even if it’s a small risk, you never know if it might pay off.” She pauses, then adds: “I mean, I did start a company in the 4th grade called ‘Rachel’s Ink.’” To which we add: of course.