For The Love of Letters

May 14, 2014

Letters.  This is WHAT I have.  Letters strung together to make a sound. Sounds that eventually coalesce to form words. Enough words coalesced together converge to form a thought. Ultimately, that thought signals the brain to fire electrical pulses across the synapses to create emotions and feelings.

My love of letters and words has its genesis in 1987: high school, 11th grade.  My father explained to me “words have power and can open doors”.  He told me of a story in which he needed to meet with a city hall official in New Orleans.  For whatever reason, the administrative assistant told him the official was not available at the moment.  Being the “talker” that he is – if you know me, then you know that I inherited the Gift of Gab from him – he proceeded to tell her: “Oh. I get it. There must be a surreptitious plot!” He says immediately the administrative assistant got up to get the official (who was apparently available all along).  Door opened. I was immediately spellbound and started learning the definition of words and how to use them.  He bought me a book called How to Build a Better Vocabulary.  I have been a “word nerd” ever since.

So the guy who coerced me into writing beautifully (see my home page) also instigated my love of words. And as I quoted on my home page, destiny being a determined parent, I am learning that my destiny is indeed in letters and words.  As I told one Facebook friend, after posting a Joni Mitchell lyric relating to her post: “I am beginning to discover that that’s my purpose here on earth-letters creating words, which create thoughts and evoke emotions.”  I have created my own 9-word memoir for this:

 I write stuff!

Beautiful Letters.   Elegant Words.    Exquisite Prose.


I hope my letters, as I have been told, make you “SCREAM” upon receipt. Or “moved me to tears!” Or “whisk me away to Neverland!” Whatever your reaction, I hope my letters and calligraphy “Gives out anything to grow and feed on.” Joni Mitchell

Beautiful Letters

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Telling Bedtime Stories to A Perfect Stranger

January 11, 2013

On Wednesday afternoon I sat in Whole Foods, doing some writing and planning.  On this day I was moved and inspired by a song by Herbie Hancock – Tell Me a Bedtime Story.  This song has priceless sentimental value for me.  I was listening to this song when I received the news from my cousin that my maternal Grandmother passed.  This was June 2008.  (Eight months earlier my paternal Grandmother passed away.  To this day I haven’t cried for her because I feel like she is still here with me.  I have many of her items: a coffee table, a round table, a sweater she bought me 19 years ago! And much more.  When she died I made a mental ‘note to self’ to get to know my maternal Grandmother: ask questions about her life.  Learn her dreams, trials, tribulations, etc.  I didn’t). When she died, I cried for what felt like forever, lamenting at the hard truth I did not follow through on my ‘note to self’.  Finally, I stopped crying. When I did, I noticed the Herbie Hancock song.  The song inspired a poem titled the same I wrote for my Grandmother (Incidentally, the poem is my VERY FIRST Calligraphy work). A bedtime Story

Back to Wednesday afternoon.  I was listening to this, drumming my fingers on the table, eyes closed, nodding my head to the music.  A lady tapped me on the shoulder:

“What are you listening to?  You seem to be enjoying it.” she said.

“I am.  It’s Tell me a Bedtime Story by Herbie Hancock.”

“Ohh! I LOVE Herbie Hancock!”

I explained to her why I was listening to the song, explaining the general details as mentioned above.  I read her the poem.  That initiated a lovely conversation about our lives; how we ended up in Utah, why we stayed, and a few other details about our lives.   “You know, we were meant to meet today,” she said.  I agreed.  We eventually ended our conversation (we both had appointments) and exchanged numbers.  All in all it was a GREAT and wonderfully serendipitous meeting.  I love it when that happens.

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January 7, 2013

Over the Holiday Season, I received many greeting cards.  They were all beautiful, full of well wishes, expressing their happiness that I decided to pursue my passion and be a calligrapher full time.  One such card was from a friend I had not spoken with since July 2012 (of course, being a self-proclaimed Crane & Co. Enthusiast, I immediately noticed that it was a Crane & Co. greeting card).  It’s a short, meaningful, and very touching note that I’d like to share with you:

Dearest Ashantai,

             After a few months have passed and not talking – I got your letter.  After reading it, I realized again how easy it is to share your passion through words and must say how inspired I was by hearing that you are challenged by your career but saved by your talent and dreams.  I think if many more people took the risk you have, happier lives would be lived.  Many blessing into the New Year.IMG_4340

I read the note several times.  I was happy to have inspired someone by following my dreams. It formulated the foundation for my “Creating Possibilities in 2013.”  While I do have personal achievements to accomplish, (a 6-pack, learn Spanish, learn to play the violin), these are the meaningful Possibilities I want to create.

  • Make a difference in someone’s life – Not exactly a quantifiable possibility.  But Michele Papineau made a HUGE difference in my life as a calligrapher!  I simply want to pay it forward.IMG_4349
  • “Be Kind to One Another” – Ellen DeGeneres – If you’ve seen Ellen’s show you know it is quite hilarious, energetic, and a Happy Party in the middle of the day!  I watch the show every opportunity I get. At the end of every show Ellen says, “Be Kind to One Another”.  I intend to live by her Mantra.  Starting with simply writing those words as little notes and give them to perfect strangers.  It’s my way of being Kind.  Hopefully it will be paid forward.IMG_4388
  • Inspire and Motivate people to be and do their best – I did several “Boot Camp” sessions to improve my physical health and conditioning.  They were hard.  I was barely made it through that first class.   To get myself through future classes, I would channel my inner Muhammad Ali, reciting: “I hated every minute of training. But I said: ‘don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’”  Whenever our trainer would ask us how we felt, I responded, huffing and puffing: “Like a champ!”  Eventually the rest of the class caught on and developed their own brand of being a Champion.
  • Follow my Dream – A Dream guided by Providence, navigated by faith, and steered by fate.  My motto for the year: “Make Magic Happen.”

I can list many more.   But at the end of the day though, I hope to inspire you to follow these words I have on my journal.  In the words of Oprah Winfrey: “Live your Best Life”.  From 2013 to Infinity.IMG_4385

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2012 – “A Daring Adventure”

January 2, 2013

“You can’t connect the dots going forward; you can only connect them looking back.”  Those were the words of Steve Jobs at the 2005 Stanford University commencement speech.  He spoke of how certain events and circumstances created the person he was.  That said, I’d like to tell you of a few events that helped me to arrive where I am now as a calligrapher.

The year started off interestingly enough.  I worked as a chemist in a rather stressful environment.  There were days where upon crossing the thresh hold going into work my stress levels would rise exponentially.  Upon leaving work, my stress levels descended, as though a rock was dropped off a cliff.  January 23 was one of those days.  Trying to get through the day, I tweeted this picture, with the caption: What I’d rather be doingThis was about 9 am that morning.  I carried on with the remainder of the day, clock-watching until it was time to leave.  The time came.   The stress descended.  I could not and did not know that my words would be prophetic.

The next day as I prepared for my tasks, my supervisor called me up to his office.  He then said, “Let’s walk to HR.”  Upon arrival at the office, details notwithstanding, he stated, “We’re going to have to let you go.”  I was initially stunned.   Thoughts of how to earn money to care for my two sons and cover basic necessities ran through mind.  I gathered my things and left.

I worried.  Whenever I am really worried, I start reciting appropriate quotes to ease my mind and spirit.  In this case Helen Keller came to mind: Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”  My mood improved.  Little did I know that the rest of 2012 would be just that: A Daring Adventure.

I searched for chemistry jobs.  Nothing materialized.  I took calligraphy jobs as they came.  Fun to do, but I have to admit it was not meeting all my financial needs.  I worried still but kept the quote in mind.  In the middle of May I received an email regarding a calligraphy job.  In essence the client asked “Can you complete 1000 envelopes in two weeks?” WHHOOOAAAA!  If you know me you know my response: “Nothing beats a try but a failure.” (I did tell the client that). We made an appointment to discuss the devilish details of the job.  I received the envelopes on May 22.  The couple wanted to mail the announcement of their wedding from the wedding site: Hawaii.  They would be leaving on June 8 to be married on June 15.  I delivered the last set to the Bride’s home only hours before they left.  The Bride was beyond thrilled!  “This is more beautiful than I imagined!”  I told her the only thing I thought about while doing the envelopes was how happy she would be when they were completed.  It ended up being 870 envelopes in two weeks. TWO WEEKS! WOW! (I am still astounded as I write this).  Discussing it later with my friend and mentor Michele Papineau, she told me: “You NEVER would have completed that if you had a ’real job!’”  As one twitter friend tweeted to me during the journey: 

The daring adventure continued when I lost my 3rd job in 1-½ years.  Realizing this, a line from the book the Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo sprang to mind:

What happens once will never happen again.  What  happens twice is sure to happen a third time.

That being the third time, I decided I would “follow a dream guided by Providence, navigated by fate, and steered by faith.”  I decided to do calligraphy full time.  THAT, was the highlight to the beginning of my daring adventure that was 2012! The honorable mentions list of 2012:

  • I earned the nickname “Magic Hands” from my friend Loyce Wheatley.  Owner and exceptionally exquisite Gown Designer at Grace Bridal Couture, Loyce bestowed the name on me after seeing my calligraphy.  She felt the words came alive on the pages and spoke to her.  “It’s like magic!” , she proclaimed.  “Magic Hands” was born.
  • I graced the blog of Crane and Co. “Post Script.”  I was thrilled beyond belief to be featured on their blog.  Most of us are aware that Crane and Co. is the premiere paper maker.  To be featured on their blog was an incredible thrill.  I was even more thrilled to learn in the intro that they followed the two-week long journey on my blog! Epic! as the kids today would say!
  • I won “Best Calligrapher – Utah” and was a 2nd place finalist for “Best Calligrapher – Nationally and Worldwide! Wedding Industry Experts held a contest this past summer for many categories, including best calligrapher.
  • I graced the blog of Salt Lake/Park City Bride & Groom – While having a chat with Erin Kate, she expressed to me the idea of photographing me dapperly dressed and doing calligraphy in a wide up field.  “I love the idea. Let’s do it!”  And we did!  Erin spectacularly and exquisitely photographed the shoot.  SL/PC B&G posted the photos with a thoughtful intro and interesting questions on their blog. Thrilled again!
  • My calligraphy was featured in the 2nd and 3rd issues of Salt Lake/Park City Bride & and Groom – This was the year for sweet treats in SL/PC B&G, as my calligraphy was featured in “Icing on the Cake” (Spr/Sum2012) and “Rainbow Brights” (Fall/Win2012).  Jacque Riehl of Riehl Events was the architect of the gorgeous and colorful layout of sweet treats.  I am hopeful for more opportunities to work with many more Wedding Vendors in the future!

2012 was indeed an adventure.  Crowned with a beloved nickname, 2013 is “The Year of Magic Hands”! The adventure continues… Happy New Year everyone!

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I am a Crane and Co. Enthusiast

July 6, 2012

My name is Ashantai Yungai and I … am a Crane & Co. Enthusiast.  Not sure what a Crane & Co. Enthusiast is? The Crane & Co. Enthusiast: can tell the difference between letterpress and engravedowns a nice pen;  possesses a stationery stash (and the stationery is exclusively Crane’s); and delights in details like wax seals.  George Clooney is a Crane & Co. Enthusiast.  Cate Blanchett is a Crane & Co. Enthusiast.  Leonardo DiCaprio is a Crane & Co. Enthusiast.  Zooey Deschanel is a Crane & Co. Enthusiast.  I am certain you are Crane & Co. Enthusiast.

Being a Crane & Co. Enthusiast, I have had the great pleasure, privilege, and honor of being featured on Crane and Co.’s blog Post Script.  It was very fun answering the questions.  But when I saw and read the post on the blog this past Tuesday, my eyes watered with ebulliently ecstatic emotions!!!  I was especially excited that my 2-week, 1000 Envelopes Journey was mentioned in the intro.  And the ‘secret sauce’?  It is nothing more than Love, Passion, and Practice.  As Albert Einstein said, “I have no special talents.  I am only passionately curious.”  So, here’s to all the Crane and Co. Enthusiast!  Love. Be Passionate. And…. WRITE ON!


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