I GREW UP in Wichita, KS and studied Design + Illustration at KU. My love of drawing letters led me to Hallmark, where I have been a lettering artist for 10 years. My husband and I met in 2nd grade, both teach at KU, and live in Lawrence with our son Walt (3) and pugs, Wilbur + Violet.
Describe how you got started as a lettering artist.
I STILL REMEMBER THE BUZZ I FELT the first time we traced letters in Type class. I have always loved words, and have always loved to draw; and type class was where it all came together for me. Studying graphic design + illustration at KU, I found myself looking for ways to incorporate words into whatever I was working on. My feeble attempts at handlettering apparently showed enough genuine interest to land me an an internship in the lettering studio at Hallmark. It was here I got to shadow 15 artists who I still revere: all formally trained and experts in the craft of lettering. Making cards is a relatively quick process-and in the early years of my career, I had a steady stream of quick-moving assignments in a wide range of styles. This allowed me the time to experiment and try things before I started to find my voice.
What type of tools do you like to use when drafting letterforms? What's your process?
I have different tools I favor at different times. I like how the brush or cut paper or pointed pen give me surprises and expressive line qualities. But a lot of the time I am just using regular pens & pencils in a sketchbook. Half of my process happens in the computer where I clean things up and correct problems, but I always start with drawing.
“being part of a large creative community means being connected to a huge web of talented people, and there is a lot to learn.”
DOES WORKING AT A LARGE CREATIVE COMPANY IMPACT THE WAY YOU WORK CREATIVELY?
DEFINITELY. Being creative in a corporate setting at first felt like an oxymoron to me. I didn’t want to feel “a dime a dozen;” I wanted to make an impact with my work and feared I wouldn’t be able to in such a large sea of people. The flip side of that is being part of a large creative community means being connected to a huge web of talented people, and there is a lot to learn. The culture at Hallmark is very nurturing of artists; it not only gave me the training I needed to find my niche in handlettering, but has also encouraged me to keep growing as an artist (studying watercolor from one of my neighbors, taking workshops in embroidery, woodworking, etc.) It has also given me a lot of experience collaborating with people from all different creative backgrounds.
“The culture at Hallmark is very nurturing of artists; it not only gave me the training I needed to find my niche in handlettering, but has also encouraged me to keep growing as an artist.”
Is collaboration a natural part of the way you work?
EVEN THOUGH I DO IT EVERY DAY, and I want to say yes, I don’t know if it comes naturally to me. I am a little bit of a hermit, little bit of a control-freak, so that part of me says no. I always hated group projects in school. BUT: I think when a small group of people with different skill sets and a similar vision collaborate, it can be very powerful and make the end result exponentially better. I have a handful of art-buddies who I trust and feel like when our creative energies are combined, good things happen.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON NOW?
Some exploratory embroidery pieces and a gift wrap collection.
What advice would you have for young people wanting to make lettering their career?
1) Take classes! When I was in school, there weren’t very many available to me—now there are a ton of great workshops and online classes.
2) Find a niche & get your work out there. Clients that commission you often don’t know what they want until they see it—you’ll get work you like by putting out work you like. And by figuring out a way to be memorable.
3) Don’t define yourself too tightly. Be a creative problem solver—we make our best things when we’re using all parts of ourselves.
4) Addressing envelopes for weddings is one of the fastest ways to get better. Even if formal lettering is not your thing, you learn a lot about patience, control, spacing and consistency. And, you can make a few bucks.
5) I really love what Ira Glass says about the creative “gap”: how your taste level is light years ahead of your ability when you start out. Like anything creative, it doesn’t happen overnight—you get good by putting in lots of time and sticking with it until you start to catch up to your taste.
“...you get good by putting in lots of time and sticking with it until you start to catch up to your taste.”
WHAT'S YOUR GUILTY PLEASURE?
I really hate the whole PREMISE of the Bachelor/Bachelorette, the pitting people against each other, the way everyone always ends up in swimsuits and crying. And yet, I watch. I also get myself Starbucks way too much.
WHAT'S THE BEST THING TO HAPPEN TO YOU THIS YEAR?
My son Walt ‘happened to me’ three years ago, but he’s still my best thing.
UNIQUE TO KANSAS CITY, WHAT IS ONE LOCAL RESTAURANT, STORE, OR SPACE YOU LOVE?
Westport Flea Market may not be the most artsy choice, but I have so many good memories there. I just love the feel of Westport in general—how long it’s been there and the history. We were part of a trivia team at the Flea Market for a wonderful 2 years with cheap pitchers of beer and Magna-Doodle answer boards every Thursday night! Also, Happy Gillis! This is my favorite KC lunch spot to meet friends, and I always find myself craving their delicious sandwiches, unique salt & pepper shakers, & their “Abandoned Art of the Week” wall where they display customer drawings.