It is said that when you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.
Emily Kahler, a freshman at Arizona State University’s College of Health Solutions, learned this lesson even before entering college, as a hobby born from her creativity turned into a way to earn extra money throughout high school.
“I’ve always had a creative side, but I started actually doing stuff with it in my sophomore year [of high school],” Kahler said.
Kahler’s path to the lettering style included bouts with other mediums, but she never focused on anything like she did with calligraphy.
“I tried drawing for a while, but that didn’t go well,” Kahler said. “Then I realized that I really liked to write things and make them really pretty. I saw a video on Instagram. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh! I want to try that.’ And I tried it and I was good at it.”
“I think what happened is Angie [Emily’s mother] has really good handwriting and she can do certain kinds of lettering and I think she [Emily] just started to see that and then thought, ‘Oh, I wonder if I can do fun lettering,’” said Nick Kahler, Emily’s father.
Once she honed her interest in lettering, she began to teach herself the proper techniques and dedicated time to bettering her skills.
“I would watch YouTube videos and teach myself,” Kahler said. “I got a bunch of fancy markers for Christmas and then I just practiced like every day. That was all I would do.”
At first, calligraphy was just a hobby – a way to express her artistic side. She never knew she could one day monetize her creativity.
“It started with my grandma,” Kahler said. “She asked me to make her some Christmas cards. I’ve now done that three years in a row. She told me, ‘Emily, you could totally sell this to people.’ So, I made an Instagram account that no longer is active and I sold my stuff on Etsy.”
As she started selling her work, Kahler would create any design requested, whether it be a Bible verse or a Latin phrase.
“Other people liked it, so I started making them for other people and I just enjoy doing that,” Kahler said.
“It was like the intersection of you can have something that you enjoy, and you can make money for it,” Nick Kahler said. “That’s perfect. And she used the money to go places and do things. She’d use it for camp or to fund whatever summertime activity or trip she wanted to go on.”
Kahler’s calligraphy has touched more unique canvases as well. Her mother, Angie, had a word meaningful to their family – ‘more’ – tattooed on her arm in Emily’s handwriting while traveling in Israel.
“It’s always, ‘I love you more,’” Nick Kahler said. “’I miss you more,’ that kind of stuff and a whole bunch of other ways. Angie had Emily write in her lettering ‘more’. And when she was in the oldest tattoo parlor in Israel, in Bethlehem, she got a tattoo on her arm.”
Even though her college schedule has limited the time she can spend practicing her craft, Kahler still takes requests for people who want her work.
“If somebody asks me for something, I’ll do it, but I don’t make things and put them online,” Kahler said. “It’s really just if somebody asks, then I’ll do it.”
Aside from calligraphy, Kahler, a Valley native and a graduate of Higley High School, was a competitive pole vaulter and is now a fitness supervisor at ASU’s Sun Devil Fitness Complex in Tempe.
She is studying exercise and wellness at ASU and loves athletics as much as her creative pursuits.
“I get bored really easily,” Kahler said, when asked about her wide range of interests. “I enjoy being active and occupied. I like things that make me think. I like meeting new people.”
Sid Martin, Kahler’s boyfriend, is not surprised that she constantly finds new interests to pursue.
“She’s very talented and when she puts her mind to something she can accomplish it,” Martin said.
Nick Kahler agrees, saying his daughter’s many interests sparked from her never shying away from life’s experiences.
“It started as a little bit of fearlessness, right?” Nick Kahler said. “She was never afraid to talk to people or to ask somebody a question or to make a joke or run around anywhere. And I think that fearlessness turned into the desire for variety. Because when you’re fearless you see lots of different things and lots of different people and after you do that for a while, I think it becomes part of you.”