Artist Guest of Honor – Ariela Housman

Ariela Housman is a Hugo-nominated artist and one half of two woman team that is Geek Calligraphy.

Ariela first learned calligraphy at age ten in art class; it was the start of a life-long interest. She kept practicing on her own and the following year attempted to calligraph her own Bat Mitzvah invitations (it didn’t go well). Frustrated but undeterred, she kept up her interest until, at age 17, she fulfilled a high school senior internship requirement by apprenticing to Mickie Caspi, a renowned calligrapher and artist who specializes in Jewish marriage documents (ketubot). After graduating, she was invited back as a summer employee for two years, and then went freelance.

After college, while taking commissions for ketubot, which are usually lavishly decorated and hung on the wall of a marital home, Ariela received two requests for Star Trek art, two for Star Wars, one for steampunk, and one for zombies in the space of 18 months. Realizing that there was an under-served niche market lurking here, Ariela enlisted the help of her best friend, Terri Ash.

Terri spent a number of years working in a Judaica store where she handled nearly all the orders for ketubot. Many of the orders were for ketubot by Mickie, which meant that Terri spoke to Mickie’s business partner and husband, Eran. Terri combined her experience with the wholesale and retail markets for ketubot with her knowledge of the Caspi’s business model to become the business manager of Geek Calligraphy.

Geek Calligraphy was launched in early 2016. From January to May 2016, Ariela put out a new product every other week; by May, Terri had convinced her that this was, in fact, a bananapants production schedule for someone with a full-time day job, and reined her in to a more sustainable pace.

As it says on the tin, Geek Calligraphy specializes in calligraphy and art with a geeky bent, spanning a range from tech nerdery to licensed art for speculative fiction novels to Judaica. Some of the their best beloved pieces are the “Coder’s Oath,” inspired by Ariela’s former day job where she was not a programmer but “played one on TV”; the “Lady Astronaut Nouveau,” based on The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal; and “A Wonderous Woman,” a calligram which shapes the words of Proverbs 31, most famously “A valorous woman, who can find her?” into the Wonder Woman logo.

Ariela and Terri are also enthusiastic supporters of and advocates for artists’ rights to fair compensation for their work. Though Ariela spends less time yelling about it on the internet, both Ariela and Terri are dedicated to encouraging both their current colleagues and newer artists to charge what their time and skills are worth.

Geek Calligraphy has two branch locations, one in Ariela’s studio in Skokie, IL, and one in Terri’s home in Seattle, WA.

In 2021, Ariela ran as far away as possible from her day job in nonprofit technology, becoming a full time Torah scribe who spends all day writing with a quill on parchment. She finds the lack of constant system updates to her work operating system restful.