Steph Leadbetter is a hand lettering artist living and working in Cardiff. Taking inspiration from the seasonality of nature and from thoughtful interior design, Steph creates elegant and delicate hand-lettered cards and prints that are meant to bring a little extra beauty, inspiration and meaning into every occasion. You can find her cards and prints at Penylan Pantry and Ripple store in Cardiff, and also on her Line and Leaf Etsy shop. We caught up with Steph at her home to learn more about her passion for letter forms and calligraphy, her inspirations and upcoming projects.
For people who don’t know you – who is Steph Leadbetter?
I’m a Cardiff dweller, wife, mummy, foster carer, adopter, coffee/gin/Jesus lover and a big calligraphy fan!
What’s your fondest childhood memory?
My fondest memory is one that spanned several years actually, our annual family holiday to Padstow, Cornwall. The early morning walks to get the paper with my cousins and Grandma, bodyboarding at Trebarwith Strand and Polzeath, crabbing in the harbour, cycling along the camel trail… literally writing this I well up… definitely my fondest memory.
When and in what context did you discover your passion for letter forms and calligraphy?
I’ve always enjoyed creating/making and giving things a go. My regret is not continuing Art for A Level and taking Maths instead! But it wasn’t until I bought the book Nib and Ink by Chiara Perano whilst we were going through the process to become foster carers that I really set my mind to honing in a skill. I followed it letter by letter, took my time and fell in love with letterform and how the simplest of words could look so beautiful!
Tell us about the inception of Line and Leaf. How did it all start and what inspired you to embark on this journey?
We began fostering and, our now son, had just started school so I found myself with time in the day to practice and create presents for people as birthdays/weddings came up and then requests came in for personalized pieces which I photographed and put up on Instagram and slowly more requests came through. I then started making handmade cards and plucked up the courage to ask Mel at Penylan Pantry if she would consider selling a few in her beautiful café. To my amazement she agreed and this was the start of seeing a hobby turn into something a little more. I now have a set display in Penylan Pantry and also have my cards in the new zero waste store in Cardiff, Ripple.
What was your biggest challenge starting out?
The business world felt so overwhelming to me, and still does a little! It’s been hard to go from a hobby to a business mindset, and I’m the first to admit my organisational skills are pretty duff! This year has had added challenges with a drawn out house move and our adoption going through and making sure I’m giving enough time to family and to our marriage so I’ve learnt a lot. I know that what I put in I will get back with Line and Leaf so I want to give it my best alongside loving my family and myself well.
Why “Line and Leaf”? Does it have a special meaning?
Steph Leadbetter wasn’t making the cut, no matter how many arty words I was putting alongside it so one evening on a family holiday my mum tried to help me out. We all had four bits of paper and wrote words to do with me/calligraphy/design and put them in a bowl and then sifted through them to see if any words stood out or matched with other words… and ‘Line’ and ‘Leaf’ came up and it stuck! ‘Line’ has the freedom to incorporate all of the pieces I make, and to be honest I’m a major plant lover so ‘Leaf’ worked perfectly!
How would you define the Line and Leaf style?
Personal, timeless, and hopefully elegant.
Where do you get your inspiration from? Are there any lettering artists in particular that you admire?
Cardiff has upped its game in the art/creative/independent business scene and I feel part of a family here. I feel inspired by being around them and their passions. I also LOVE a good house programme and follow a lot of interior designers, which is where I get inspiration for colour and shape. Inspiration for me also comes from nature and the season of life I’m in. I particularly admire Belinda Love Lee, Liz Moseley, Minortismay, Jenna Rainey at the moment!
What is the lettering piece you made that you’re the most proud of?
It’s not a conventional piece but my Calligraphy starter kit, which I’ve been working on for a loonngg time. It’s been a real achievement for me and a labour of love. It’s leading me onto some exciting things for 2019.
Where do you go or what do you do when you feel the need to relax or get inspired?
Away from my phone is a good start. I love getting out for a walk, especially to a beach. My hubby and I have Fridays off together which is definitely relaxation, usually involving brunch at The Early Bird, Penylan Pantry or Waterloo Tea. Taking time to read, listen to worship music and getting early nights are all signs of a relaxed Steph! Connecting with others inspires me and gives me life.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
“You don’t have to go to University”. I would not be an adoptive Mum, foster carer, or small business owner if I weren’t told this.
Dream BIG. “If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough” (Ellen Johnson Sirleaf). I want to dream bigger than myself, always.
What’s the most important lesson life has taught you?
Everyone is someone. We all have our stories, our highs and our lows, but we are all capable of love and we are all capable of change and transformation, not by our own human strength but by God’s love. We hold power. Our words, actions, attitudes and thoughts really do impact this world.
What are three questions you do not have an answer for?
1. What will happen tomorrow?
2. How does our government plan to tackle the growing number of children in the care system when cuts are being made everywhere and support services left without funds?
3. What will our family look like in a few years?
What are you working on at the moment?
A wedding invitation, website, new designs and plans for beginners calligraphy workshops… I’m SO excited about those!!
What are your dreams and ambitions for Line and Leaf?
To continue to create meaningful pieces, stay true to myself, build community through workshops, keep practicing and refining my skill, roll out event signage and look towards bigger shows and see my stationery in a range of shops. That’ll do for now!
Thank you, Steph for your time and lovely company.