Time to introduce our next extraordinary woman! Li Ward is a Boston-based artist who runs a custom illustration and calligraphy business, primarily focused on the wedding industry. She is known for her whimsical, colorful and “more-is-more” watercolor designs. As Li says herself, each project she works on is truly a labor of love. Emily has been a longtime fan of Li’s work, so when it came time to design our first silk scarf, it was an obvious decision to collaborate with Li — the end result being our recently launched “Watercolor Waves” silk scarf.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your handlettering and illustration business.
I was born in Taipei, Taiwan. We came to the US when I was two because my dad was going to graduate school in the States, and then we just stayed. I grew up in various places around the South, came up to Providence RI for college, landed a job in Boston, and have now lived here longer than anywhere else. A lifelong lover of paper and handlettering, I started my lettering and illustration business in 2016. My primary focus is custom wedding stationery - from the invitations to maps to menus. I work primarily with watercolors. Each design is custom to every client. Even as I’m given design checklists, I frequently meander away from the list so I can sprinkle each project with something that’s unanticipated but still fits. A spark of the whimsy and the unexpected is always fun.
How did you get first get started in the wedding industry (originally as a photographer!) and more recently with watercolor design and illustration?
I was in the tech industry after graduating college, and did that for over a decade until my soul shriveled to dust. To replenish the soul I began a quest of turning lifelong hobbies into a profession: I decided to become a photographer in 2008. It started with pet photography. Then in 2009 I photographed my first wedding. I quit my corporate job soon after and in 2010 officially became a full-time wedding photographer.
At the same time this was happening I became reacquainted with calligraphy, which I had learned in junior high school. I provided spot lettering to local wedding stationers, did a few website logos, a chalkboard or three. It was really fun to do on the side. In 2016, while still a wedding photographer, I decided to jump into the deep end of the pool and start my own full-service custom wedding stationery shop. At the beginning my designs consisted of only handlettering, whether more formally with pointed pen, or more colorfully and modern with brush lettering. One day I picked up watercolors on a whim. I’ve always loved drawing and sketching but watercolors I remember specifically not enjoying. I have no idea what made me try again and then make a business around a medium that is difficult to get the hang of. But I really love watercolors and I am especially thankful for YouTube, Instagram videos and my more adult levels of patience.
So after running the photography and stationery business at the same time for 3 years, I recently “retired” from wedding photography to focus just on this illustration and design business.
What has been one of your favorite custom projects to date?
Hanna and Jamie’s stationery for their Matisse x Capri x Chesapeake Bay wedding. Their crest ended up being used everywhere and on everything, including their custom bar and embroidery on their photo album. It was so fun to see.
Photos by Abby Jiu
What words of wisdom would you share to our community of women? This can be about anything - life, business, relationships, etc!
Have no fear! You have so much to offer! You must also have a business plan.
Photos by Li Ward
Take pictures of/with my cat
But if I ever have staff I would like Luke Edward Hall to create our company outfits
Favorite vacation spot
St. John, USVI
Quote that you live by
Multum in Parvo - “much in little”
If you could have coffee with anyone (dead or alive), who would it be?
Podcasts + running
Favorite instagram account
Currently reading or watching
Reading: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
Favorite brand (besides Alice Walk of course ☺)
Diptyque - love the artwork and typography on their bottle and candles too
Favorite Alice Walk piece
The Long Vest!