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  • Writer's pictureHelen Colebrook

Interview with Abbey Sy

Abbey Sy
Abbey Sy

I'm so excited to share this interview with the Artist, Author and basically Super Star, Abbey Sy. I have several of Abbey's books and have followed her on social media pretty much since I started using Instagram. Abbey lives in Manila, in the Philippines and shares beautiful lettering, illustrations and journal pages. So, let's find out more.

Please could you tell me about your journey and how you got to where you are today?

It’s been quite a journey! I started my career in 2015, when I decided to quit from my Advertising job and wrote my first book on lettering. I never really intended to work as an artist and author but somehow I found myself building this career through learning as I go.

Growing up, I knew I loved drawing but always kept it as a side hobby (it wasn’t considered a job from where I come from). In college, I put up a blog and started selling handpainted tote bags (this was around 2010). A few years later, after shifting degrees (I went from Liberal Arts to Business), I learned about Advertising and loved it so much (so much that it still applies to my job now!). In the midst of schoolwork, I did freelance work and discovered lettering.

Months after graduation, I still worked freelance while balancing my day job. I started teaching workshops as well and selling at craft events (this was around 2014). From 2015-2019 it’s been a whirlwind of projects that I got to work on: books, freelance work (seeing my designs on flip flops, packaging, and even on pitchers!), workshops, live events, and even getting sent abroad.

Right now I am in my 5th year of running this career, so I am consciously taking a step back and analyzing what I want to do next. But it’s an exciting process and I’m looking forward to it.

Abbey Sy's Books
Abbey Sy's Books

I would love to know what a “typical” day looks like for you, if there is such a thing!

Every day is never the same. Currently I’ve been catching up on work (I was in Berlin for the summer) and beating jetlag so I start my days usually at 9 in the morning, checking e-mails. Then I try to keep myself focused on (more) work after lunch until the evening. There’s always a 30-minute break in between to keep myself sane: I usually clean my room or watch something on Netflix.

A big chunk of work is actually doing the technical stuff than the creative ones— such as accounting, content planning, and shipping orders. So as much as possible it depends on my capability / energy for the day. I’ve accepted now that I don’t want to max out my energy because it affects my performance for the next day.

Abbey Sy Lettering
Abbey's Lettering

What have been your top 3 highlights of the last 12 months?

(wow, what a question!) 1) Relaunching Shop Abbey Sy I’ve been delaying this for years until I finally gave myself a deadline last March 30 for a pop-up event—and finally just went for it. I’d like to think it’s still in incubation mode, but I’m glad I am now hands on with running the shop and I’m so excited to keep designing new merch for the holidays.

2) Taking up an art residency program in Berlin I learned so much over the summer about my artistic practice, and developed a deeper connection with myself. It has been a crazy journey so far but through this experience I created a new way of understanding how I make art and how I want to execute it moving forward (albeit this is different from what I currently do!).

3) Acknowledging my mental health problems I developed anxiety late last year while I was in New York, and it had affected my daily life and creative work. Recently I started becoming more open about it and seeking professional help. I’d put this as one of my highlights because it helped me understand the circumstances that come with it and being responsible for my own well-being and mental health.

Abbey Sy Washi Tape
Abbey's Washi Tape

Do you have any tips you could share for people looking to follow a similar path to yours?

I would say: just go for it and really cheer yourself on. It’s really quite a tough path to follow—for years I have been swamped with self-doubt because I thrived in an environment that did not initially accept this kind of career. But I wished I had believed in myself more the same way the people I’ve worked with did— because it really made all the difference.

Also: never settle. Keep discovering new things about your craft and about yourself because it’s the only way you will grow further and expand it.

Abbey Sy Travel Journal
Abbey's Travel Journal

What exciting plans do you have coming up?

I’m currently super packed! I’m working on a travel zine that will be released together with my newsletter this September. I’m also organizing PaperCon, a paper + stationery event in Manila where we gather artists and small business owners to sell their merch to paper and journaling lovers (like us!). Apart from that, I’m also developing new products for the shop: more washi tape designs, and a lettering workbook that I’ve been planning for years. I’m also traveling in the next couple of months until the holidays so it’s going to be quite an exciting ride.

Is there anything you could tell us about yourself that not many people know?

I actually wanted to be a musician! Growing up Avril Lavigne was a huge influence to my music taste—also One Tree Hill’s soundtrack. I have a guitar at home and I learned to play when I was sixteen. Ten years later, I still find myself picking up my guitar every now and then whenever I’m stressed from work.

Abbey Sy Brush Lettering
Abbey's Lettering

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Literally everywhere—but mostly when I’m traveling. Train rides, packaging, street signs, architecture, nature, mostly. And book covers!

If you had to pick your top 5 art supplies, what would they be?

Does a journal count? I would say: a pencil, a paint brush, a brush pen, watercolor pans, and washi tape. Is washi tape considered art supplies? (Lol)

Abbey Sy Travel Journal
Abbey's Travel Journal

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Napping, cleaning my room, meeting up with friends, or mostly traveling. I actually don’t have that much free time in Manila so I like to travel and consider it free time (and a little bit of work!).

Abbey Sy Pin
Abbey Sy Pin

Do you have any guilty pleasures?

Yes!!! I love Netflix. I’m currently obsessed with RuPaul’s Drag Race and Shark Tank. I didn’t realize how much I love entertainment but it’s great because I rarely laugh (what) and RuPaul is the best! I also binge watch Korean drama if my schedule permits, because I end up not sleeping for 2 days finishing up a series. Haha!

Abbey Sy Books
Abbey's Books

I hope you've loved learning about Abbey as much as I have. I find her work really inspirational and I was so honoured when Abbey agreed to be interviewed. Let me know what you think in the comments down below.

Where can you find Abbey?

Here are all the links you need:

Abbey's Shop (Phillipines)

You can also subscribe to Abbey's newsletter here.

Abbey Sy
Abbey Sy

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