Time flies when...

Life in Austin has had a slow, deliberate pace to it. Matt and I came in search of it, and found it for a few months. It was lonesome at times for an extrovert like myself, especially long hours working from home with no one to talk to. Visits from friends punctuated the spring and summer but largely our schedules have been wide open, devoid of "have to" obligations and schedule-filler type activities. I was learning to love it and enjoyed that I felt in control of my time. For the first time in my life I was able to practice yoga at least 3 times per week, as well as cook most meals from scratch, read extensively, lay by the pool at my leisure and have a clean apartment, all while freelancing as much as I could.

And then late August rolled in and we decided to:

- foster two, 4 1/2 week old black lab puppies (!)
- both take on new jobs (!!)
- get engaged (!!!)

These things have been fantastic and life changing and wonderful of course, but oh man, may I recommend not doing them all at the same time? We ended up having those pups for about a month, during which time we were basically housebound, despite them not being housebroken (so yeah, there was a large volume of pee cleanup involved). Matt's taken on a huge role at a new startup, and I - initially in search of a part-time job with a good discount - accepted a position at Paper Source, which immediately turned into a Supervisor role. I'm there 30 hours a week while still freelancing.

Also, we are trying to plan some big chunks of our wedding (you know, like, the date, and the venue).  

As soon as we got the pups adopted out to loving, stable homes, I tried to start clawing my way out of the freelance hole I'd let myself fall into. I had surprisingly found it hard to focus when, every ten minutes or so I'd be wiping up a lake of urine, trying to keep them from chewing on our baseboards and/or each other's tails, letting one or the other up into my lap (on a bar stool. While doing calligraphy.  Yes, I am a total pushover and puppy dog eyes are a real thing). 
Just this week I finally feel like I've got my head above water in that department, when the physical reality of working in retail for 30h/week descends upon me in the form of powerful nap attacks. 

But I am not complaining! This is what life is, and I am so grateful for every moment of it. Especially the part where I am engaged to marry and be a lifelong partner to my favorite person. This is the part where I share part of what makes him just so perfect for me: he pretended via email to be a new client, requesting a wedding invitation design and quote from me. After a bit of email back and forth, later that evening this client provided the following "example" of what the invitation should look like .

It took me a few seconds of staring open-mouthed at the email before I thought to look up and ask Matt what in the actual heck was going on when I saw him walking across our kitchen to me with a small blue box in his hand. I promptly burst into tears.

I am going to admit that I was initially a bit disappointed not to be getting that new business. But I think I came out ahead. Plus, check out that man's Photoshop skills:

There are so many aspects of wedding planning I am dreading (seriously just let me throw a dart in the dark about what the silverware is going to look like), but more parts that I am looking forward to because I am a crazy person who loves DIY projects and a good party. The detail I am most excited to tackle? Our invitations, duh. (Though part of me thinks we should just use Matt's original design).

Wedding Goodies

I love when one project spirals into several for one client. No, not just because it puts tacos on the table, but because it allows me to learn more about her and her occasion, I can build a little bit of visual similarity into the multiple pieces if called for, and cultivate an actual relationship with her.

That was the case with this rustic Montana ranch wedding - the bride's sister got in touch with me and coordinated a few different details of the day to be calligraphied by me, and soon, the bride and their mother were also on the email chains as we collaborated on ideas for the pieces.

They were trusting enough to let me do their 200 escort cards, the menus for the reception and a separate lil' bebe menu for the cake table (uh. How good does that cake look?). My favorite part about doing the escort cards, aside from getting to know my new Hunt 101 nib, was seeing a bunch of mutual friends' names on the guest list! I give every card my full attention, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't spend an extra minute on those names I know. Plus, then they text me pretty things from the reception so I can spy on my work. 

Watkins Wedding Place settings.jpg

Cheers to this bride and groom! 

Paper Gifts - Not just for first anniversaries

I was just home for almost two weeks in Portland, Oregon and one of the questions concerned family members and friends kept asking was, "Are you getting enough work?"  It's a valid question, so I think there was a fair amount of surprise, on their part and mine, when I could honestly answer, "Yes!"  The understandable follow-up question was usually, "That's great!  What kind of stuff are you doing?"
And then I'd go kind of glassy eyed as I rattled off the variety of projects I've been lucky enough to do in the last 6 months:  digital work, logo work, design for letterpress, giclée printing, gouache painting, handwritten, hand-calligraphied, envelopes, cards, signs, chalkboards, mugs... I hope the list never ends or gets less varied.   

I've only recently discovered gouache paint, despite all of the art classes I've taken over the years.  It was recommended to be a good ink for practicing calligraphy with certain nibs, and then after building up a bit of a color collection, I figured I should learn how to paint with it, too. It basically serves as a more opaque watercolor.  It dries quickly, maintains its color nicely and has a consistency easily manipulated by water instead of expensive oils like some other paints I've used over the years.    So I was excited to bring it into some calligraphy pieces as a way to enhance the designs with color.  

I got that opportunity when McKenzie contacted me to do an anniversary gift for her husband of five years.   After going back and forth with a few ideas, we thought that taking some lyrics from one of their songs and arranging them into three compositions, to be displayed together, would work best.  McKenzie mentioned the colors of the room in which they'd be displayed and I was a little nervous at first about incorporating gold - metallic inks are notoriously fidgety, but once I got everything down on paper, including some gouache detailing for the embellishments, I was really excited about the final products.  

And I heard yesterday from McKenzie that she and her husband are, too!  Which is the best part of what I do.  

Here are a few shots of how they turned out, and one that McKenzie sent after getting them gorgeously framed!

Working Locally

When I moved to Austin, I had no idea how to meet anyone new, let alone actually turn those people into friends.  I did have time to kill, an empty apartment, and a $200 giftcard to Anthropologie, though, so I spent the better part of a full day there in February.  

I think I stalled because it was cold out, and I was avoiding the bus, and because any excuse to leave the apartment was a welcome one, but another reason I ended up there for so long was that I chose some knobs for a dresser that, of course, weren't in stock.  One of the sales women on the floor helped me order them, and in the process of doing so, ended up getting to know all of my past addresses, credit card information, &  current address while we entered all of the necessary information to get the rogue knobs into my possession.  

Long story short, we ended up being friends, and she has since left her position at Anthro to pursue her talents as a children, family, and lifestyle photographer in Austin full time. 

Laura Morsman Photography is light-filled and whimsical.  She has an eye for what's on trend while managing to capture timeless images.  It has been fun to encourage each other while building our businesses this year and last week I was lucky enough to supply a chalkboard for her Winter Solstice shoot featuring a bunch of adorable children romping around in a clearing at the golden hour.  The final product is what I imagine Arcade Fire would look like in miniature.  Below is my contribution - the Laura Morsman Photography logo rendered in chalk - and a link to the rest of the shoot.


Photo Credit: Laura Morsman Photography

Photo Credit: Laura Morsman Photography

Photo Credit: Laura Morsman Photography

Photo Credit: Laura Morsman Photography

Photo Credit: Laura Morsman Photography

Photo Credit: Laura Morsman Photography

This was my first experience with local collaboration and I am looking forward to do more of it! 

Bridesmaid Gifts - Customized Mugs

Let's be honest.  Coffee, or tea, tastes better in a good mug.  It's got to fit in your hands just right, and hold plenty of the good stuff, and of course it's the most special if it also holds a good story.

A sorority sister contacted me a while back to see if I could help with her bridesmaid gifts with the idea that I could make a customized mug for each one.

Having been in my share of weddings and received all kinds of bridesmaid gifts, I couldn't believe how simple and thoughtful and great this was.  I never would have thought of this, myself, which just goes to show how important it is to collaborate in this line of work.

I requested that she provide me with each woman's name and a few notes about them, sent her initial sketches for approval, and then got down to business on all ten mugs.
Working on each one was so much fun for me, especially for the girls I know personally.  

The bride is a self-professed tea and coffee junkie who is very picky about her mugs (girl, I hear you.  In our email exchanges setting up the project, I admitted to actually having stolen a mug from a well known coffee retailer who wouldn't sell me their (PERFECT) in-house mugs) so we had a good time picking them out.  I hope the ladies who received them will be cupping them to their chests on cold days, or sharing stories over coffee on porches with them for years to come, all while remembering the wedding celebration of which they were an important part.

The Best Thing

A few years ago my friend Jeff was asked to sing at his cousin's wedding.  It was up to him to choose the song and he was feeling a little stuck.  We were driving up to Whidbey Island for a long weekend and brainstorming songs, pulling up potential contenders on our iPods to test them out, and it hit me.

"What about 'You Are the Best Thing' by Ray LaMontagne?"  

We put it on, Jeff belted it out perfectly, and he called his cousin right away, who okayed the choice.

I am told the song went over beautifully at the ceremony and since then, I have heard it as many a couple's choice for their first dance.  It's a special one for me and my honey, too.  

So this spring when I was commissioned by a friend to do an anniversary gift for his wife, I was delighted when he suggested the lyrics to this song (as it was their first dance, too!)  

Below is the personalized original art I did for him, in their wedding colors.  I've redone the color treatments on the other 3, which are now for sale in my shop.

Tell someone they're the best thing that ever happened to you today!

Escort Cards for a Special Wedding

As a child, I was in the right place at the right time to be in a lot of weddings.

I've documented this unusual childhood career elsewhere, but, I'll just say that I got my start in the wedding biz thanks to my mom being the eldest and first child-bearing cousin of her forty (40) cousins.   ...Yep.  Forty.

One of my first aisle-walks was in cousin Geoff's wedding, as his flower girl.  

This weekend, his daughter got married, and they asked me to do to the escort cards for the reception.  


You can click through the gallery below to see a sampling of the 125 finished cards.

Cheers to the bride and groom and here's to people knowing where to sit at your (super fun wouldn't have missed it for the world) party!  

Logo Design + Redesign

I've been lucky enough to work with two very different clients on their logo projects this spring. 

The first is an entrepreneur who knew exactly what she wanted to represent her brand - a luxurious, feminine, strong monogram.  

Original rough pen sketch of the monogram.

Original rough pen sketch of the monogram.

She offered good feedback that aligned with her vision that allowed me to take the draft to the next level.  I presented two options:

A version not ultimately selected that I still really like!

A version not ultimately selected that I still really like!

But this one came out on top!

The winner!

The winner!

We did a few different options depending on where the logo will be presented:

The final files were sent in both of her signature colors, but I think this blue is my favorite.   

The other project was a logo redesign for a tour company.  Their original logo is based on a famous drawing of a giraffe transitioning into the Eiffel Tower done by a friend of theirs years ago.  


They wanted to preserve everything about this aspect of the logo, so I was restricted in what I could update, but, by adding the stamp shape to create a badge-style logo, modernizing the type treatment, image, and color palette we were able to bring the logo into 2014 with some consistency, and enhance their core identity.   

Notes from the field - March 25

Notes from my process this week, as breadcrumbs to follow later:

Learning how to work out of a coffeeshop. Huge part of this is finding the sweet spot between spending enough money to merit sitting here for six hours, and not ingesting so much coffee that I can’t draw anymore. Seriously, getting a straight line to come out of a pen after 2 large cups of coffee is some kind of voodoo miracle.

Getting comfortable with criticizing popular work, and turning that criticism on my own work.  It’s easy to get worked up about this one- that so much work I see posted by type and design Tumblrs and Instagram accounts is technically not good. And I can say that, because a lot of it is rule-based work and not just art. Type and logo work HAS to be functional. And if it’s not functional, it’s not good. One of the biggest issues I has as an art student was getting on board with the whole subjectivity of art thing. I would look at some of the work on display during a peer critique and would grimace. But in general/conceptual art classes you can get away with terribly rendered perspective and poor color theory and weirdly unrepresentative abstractions of simple things (how you can be an art major and fail to draw a reasonable chair astounds me, but, it’s a real problem, people). 
One of the reasons I am so drawn to type and design work is that there is less leeway for subjectivism to win out.  If you want to make some statement and paint a dog and title it cat, fine. I will read your artist’s statement and consider it while I drink my free wine at your show.
But if you need to make a sign that says dog, and all I can make out from it is cat, YOU DID PISS POOR WORK.

And that runs all the way down the line of things that could be done poorly. Kerning could be off, letter style doesn’t fit the subject, curves are messy - and THAT is the kind of thing I need to be able to apply to my own work.  It’s so easy to shoot something off to a client and chalk up the imperfections to “a hand drawn effect” or to post a picture of a piece and make excuses for my messy curves by telling myself it’s “just practice” or that it’s a work in progress.  But moving forward I would like to exercise some discipline in that department. Not that I won’t allow myself to share sketches, but if a piece is worthy of it, to do it until it’s done and done well. 
Jessica Hische, her holiness, reminds us young upstarts not to post every little sketch of every little thing we do. No one needs to see it, and we cheat ourselves out of doing good work that way.

Know your tools Turns out, there’s a thing in Adobe Illustrator called the Width tool, that literally anyone who uses the program to make letters knows about, except me, who dove in so frenetically to the program I couldn’t be bothered to learn the tools of the trade. I have wasted lots of hours fiddling with things that I could have done in seconds with the Width tool. How I thought I could survive in the opus of software that is Illustrator without even being able to identify 6-7 buttons in the tool panel is forehead-thumpingly dense (and so…so very much like the uncoachable lady I’ve always been).

Bridal Shower Invitations

Just finished a set of bridal shower invitations for a client, Laura, who is throwing the shower for her friend in the Pacific Northwest.  This was the first full suite I've done soup-to-nuts, as they say, from design to sourcing all the materials to vectoring and printing and addressing them.  Laura gave me total creative freedom, which can be a little daunting, but she was also very easy to work with and provided quick feedback, which really helps the process along.  Inspiration came from some gorgeous printed Smock paper, which I ended up using as the envelope liners and border motif on the invitations themselves.
Popping them in the mail tomorrow with love!


Happy Galentine's Day from Career Contessa!

Career Contessa is a digital platform and publication that provides career guidance and inspiration to millenial women.  The beautiful site showcases a series of regularly updated interviews with successful women in interesting, challenging, rewarding career paths.

I was honored to help them spread some lady love this Valentine's Day by teaming up to do five custom illustrations for their social media channels.  Throughout the day, they posted one note at a time to deliver each illustration, each carrying a different message of self-love from one of our favorite Career Contessas.

Amy Poehler, Comedian, Actress + Writer

Amy Poehler, Comedian, Actress + Writer

Michelle Obama, Lawyer and FLOTUS

Michelle Obama, Lawyer and FLOTUS

Marissa Mayer, President + CEO of Yahoo! and the twentieth employee/first female engineer at Google

Marissa Mayer, President + CEO of Yahoo! and the twentieth employee/first female engineer at Google

Jenna Lyons- J Crew Creative Director + Brand Savior

Jenna Lyons- J Crew Creative Director + Brand Savior

Beyonce - she pretty much runs the show around here

Beyonce - she pretty much runs the show around here