How one woman uses her way of caring for her soul to speak life to others
Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch
“How can I speak life to the people that follow me?” Holly Stavness, owner of Holly Anna Calligraphy reflected in her Facebook feed.
I no longer remember how I first heard of Holly Anna Calligraphy. In July of 2017, with some bonus income, I signed up for a beginner calligraphy class, wearied from the grief of losing our daughter in March. I felt anxious and frazzled that day, not quite accustomed to going out without my kids, of doing something with them at home, indulgent and just for myself.
Marie from Tailor Made Events first encouraged Holly to rent a space for her workshops. “I wanted it to be safe and beautiful. I was blown away at how beautiful it was,” Holly said of the first time she saw the studio that would be hers through a friend at her church.
Stepping down the brick path, with draping bougainvillea blooms, I stepped into another world. Opening the white antique door, one walks not only into an attractive studio, but a space that Holly created, filled with peace.
She shared the story of how calligraphy became her calling. With each workshop, Holly wants to give to her guests a taste of what she refers to internally as “that dining room experience” when she fell in love with it.
Holly was never the artist during childhood in Hughson, California. One of four siblings, given the choice for one activity, she chose soccer. After an injury and surgeries prior to college, plans changed. After she attended college at CSU Stanislaus, Holly transferred down south and met her husband, supporting him through a Masters degree in physical therapy by working as an administrative assistant. “It was hard coming out of college and thinking I’m going to get this great job,” she recalled, “As a college student wanting to conquer the world that wasn’t my first choice—to pour myself out.”
To pour oneself out is the theme that runs through Holly’s life. Raised in a family that taught her the value of helping others, Holly’s value of the other she encounters fills her workshops and projects with something that becomes life-giving to others.
That gift of self led her and her husband to foster care. She described it “a season of heartbreak. The Lord was calling us to break our hearts. That changed some theology in my mind that you’re never going to go through trials, that God will never ask you to broken-heartedness. It’s a different concept that he wants us to pour ourselves out for others.”
In the midst of seeking to serve her family, care for her daughters, provide a secure environment for her foster son, as she encountered the consequences of generational neglect, drugs and alcohol for the first time, Holly found herself drying out. She needed a way to fill her cup.
“I found myself really dry, especially with children, not really loving my life. I wanted to love my life, I wanted children and wanted a husband and a husband who loved his job. With foster care, we wanted to do this. I just wanted to be present in the moment, to just love it, to find the joy in the moment, even in the mundane.”
Calligraphy was new on the social media scene. Holly purchased lettering samples by Molly Jakes on Skillshare and materials online. “As I was struggling with this in my heart, calligraphy was my outlet for emotions I don’t know that I’d ever experienced before… calligraphy was there for me to write things out. I’d put the kids down, my husband goes to bed early, and I would just write, and those were the most beautiful moments when God met me at my kitchen table with calligraphy… It was slow and therapeutic and just enough to keep my mind there and in the emotion— to not put the emotion aside but work through it.”
At the request of friends, Holly hosted her first workshop teaching others. With each workshop, she adds hospitable touches to her studio though name cards and refreshments. “All of a sudden, halfway through, it will start to get really quiet and I know that is where the magic has happened. They are actually breathing life into their souls.”
Holly acknowledges, “you know, I have no idea what they’re coming in, what burdens…” but she knows that each person walks in with his or her own story.
That was my experience. Holly’s workshops became a part of my story of healing through grief.
“This is just, like, my happy place where I can help people. They are the ones doing it. I just give them the tools.”
To learn more about Holly’s work, visit www.HollyAnnaCalligraphy.com.