Washington, D.C. — My niece Claire has always exhibited a strong interest in drawing, coloring and writing. It is obvious that she is a natural artist. When she came to visit us during the summer, she was so excited to see my big desk with all its supplies of inks, markers, paints, pencils, and papers. She was very enthusiastic to try her hand at using a calligraphy nib. I have to say she took to it really quickly. Perhaps I need to groom her as an intern!
Washington, D.C. — In my spare time, I volunteer tutor for the Reading Partners school program at Dorothy Height Elementary School. At the end of the school year, we are allowed to give our reading buddies a gift book. It made total sense to me to give them bookmarks too. I loved seeing their surprised faces when they saw their names done in calligraphy with fancy flourishes.
A little bit later in the summer, my sister asked me to make bookmarks for her first-grade students. She asked for a simpler, unflourished style. There was such diversity in the names of her students. She picked a bright orangey-pink for the accent ribbon.
Raleigh, N.C. — I love any opportunity to collaborate with my super talented sister-in-law Nikelle Orellana-Reyes, owner and floral artist of Wylde in Raleigh. When the discussion came up to do something together for Valentine's Day, of course, it made perfect sense--little notes and flowers go hand-in-hand.
Customers stopping by Nikelle's downtown shop on Martin Street were able to pick up personalized cards to accompany her fabulous florals. Shoppers finished the sentences on each card--a la Mad Libs--with words and phrases meant for their Valentine. Some sentences were heartfelt and earnest, while some were cheeky and clever. No request was ever out of bounds, even when a customer asked me to calligraph an illustration of a butt with hearts. Sometimes you just got to laugh when it comes to love.
New York, New York — One of my favorite experiences in 2016 came at the very end when I teamed up with Haerfest at the holiday Pop Up Flea in the 69th Regiment Armory (a really cool historical site).
I've known brothers Tim and Dan Joo since 2011. They are the hardest working—not to mention nicest—guys in the fashion business. It was my sincerest pleasure to collaborate with them and hand-calligraph gift tags for their clients. The whole team (Tim, Dan, Susan, Tai and Zoe) was great and we managed to keep our holiday cheer despite the snow and the cold.
Looking forward to our next time working together!
Haerfest x Handmade Letters
@ Pop Up Flea NYC
New York, NY — Stop by the Haerfest pop up shop this weekend and get a free personalized gift tag* with every item purchased. I'll be on site hand lettering names and festive words for your special ones.
Pop Up Flea NYC
The 69th Regiment Armory
68 Lexington Avenue at 25th Street
New York, NY 10010
Pop Up Flea Hours
Friday, December 16, 3-8 PM
Saturday, December 17, 11-7 PM
Sunday, December 18, 12-6 PM
Friday, December 16, 3-8 PM
Saturday, December 17, 11-5 PM
*Personalization includes a name or a short phrase like: For You, With Love, or Merry Xmas!
Washington, D.C.—A wedding client asked me to paint little Lithuanian flags on her wine bottle table cards. It's amazing how a little bit of color (especially when dispatching some Finetec gold) can add the right touch to an already whimsical piece.
Washington, D.C. — I find it very instructive to browse through my old practice sheets to see where I was before and where I am now. It's important to keep critical eyes on our work; otherwise, we can never improve. Even though the difference between my lettering then and now is encouraging, I can see that there is a lot more work to do. We can never be perfect, but we can strive to do our best. But of course, it's always good to remember to laugh and have fun along the way.
Song lyrics are meant to be sung to the Thomas the Train theme song. My nephew played the song incessantly, so it always got stuck in my head. My husband and I turned what could've been a pesky thing into something useful—lyrics about our cat Frances. Regretfully, this description of her personality is very apt.
Rye Brook, New York — Last year I had a wonderful opportunity to collaborate with my sister Maria Reyes and our friend Mami Sato, who hosted a sewing party for her daughter Hibiki. Not only is Mami an amazing and patient mother but she is an imaginative artist and seamstress. It was fitting that she should share her crafting talents with Hibiki's friends.
Mami, with Maria and I serving as assistants, set out to teach the girls how to sew a felt patch into a fashionable clutch/purse. Articulating how to do a loop stitch is not an easy thing, but the girls really took to the task and created really inventive and individual designs. It was nice to see the girls make something with their own hands. Hopefully, Mami planted a creative seedling in the young ladies to pursue handmade work into the future.
Calligraphy and lettering by Handmade Letters; food and prop styling by Maria Reyes; and floral arrangment and prop sourcing/styling by Mami Sato.
Annapolis, MD — Last June, Tina Byland of What's Up? publications in Annapolis contacted me to do onsite calligraphy at historic St. John's College. The campus was chosen as the site for their Fall weddings issue. Playing with the classroom theme, Tina requested a few romantic literary quotes to be lettered on the chalkboard. I hadn't touched a chalkboard since 8th grade math, but I figured with a sketch in hand, how different could chalk be from a calligraphy pen or marker.
Indeed it's very different. New chalk pieces come in cylindrical shapes and are more challenging to produce the fine lines and dramatic shades associated with script calligraphy. After doing a little research, I set out to sharpen new chalk pieces with an X-acto knife and a pencil sharpener, while watching The Flight of the Conchords. I worked out a few different sketches and felt ready to wing it.
The next day I met Tina, her adorable son Max, and her photographer Tony Lewis. We walked over to the historic McDowell Hall to see the classroom and my chalkboard. The building itself was beautiful, lots of natural wood, large windows, and brass classroom numbers on the doors. We discussed the game plan and Tina and Tony left me to do my thing.
Overall, I had a lot of fun doing the chalkboard. I saw it as being very similar to the envelopes that I do where I fill in all the negative space of the paper surface. In fact, it was the perfect training. Doing all those envelopes helped me strike the right balance between the words (which among themselves required equal visual weight) and the leftover space for flourishing. I was well aware that the flourishes should enhance, and not dominate the overall piece. After a while, I got the hang of drawing in the letters to achieve those thicks that the chalk couldn't create in one stroke. Adding highlights of color also helped to flesh out the letters and give them dimension. After doing the big guy, the little chalkboards seemed like no big deal.
Special thanks go to Tina, Tony, and especially Gregory Shook from St. John's College, who referred me to Tina. I look forward to seeing the final photos of the shoot.