DESIGN FEATURE: Hand Lettering Artist Chris Wright

Handlettered 1A few months ago my brother turned me on to this company called Hand Lettering Co. I checked out their site and was immediately drawn in by the many wonderful designs of artist Chris Wright. He takes inspirational quotes and transforms them into hip pieces of art. His eye for design, balance and very cool fonts is exquisite, and his ability to execute his ideas is even more impressive.

I was surprised how inexpensive his prints are, and immediately ordered four 8 X 10 designs. They did not disappoint. In person, they were even cooler than online. Included in the packaging was a Handlettered 5charming little bag that contained a couple of stickers of his designs, and a Thank You note that said, “Our desire is that these goods that have made their way into your hands would be a blessing to you.” I thought to myself, “wow, this is a really special artist that not only takes great care with his work, but obviously cares about people as well.” I decided to reach out to him and see if I could do a blog feature about his work. He graciously agreed to let me interview him, and here’s what he had to say….

Handlettered 31. How and when in your life did you first become exposed to the art of hand lettering, and start to practice it yourself? I have always loved art and been particularly drawn to vintage/retro signs and their unique lettering. About two years ago, when I decided to branch out and start my own business, there were a number of hand lettering artists whose work I began to follow and keep up with. This inspired me to the point where that Christmas I started practicing the art myself by drawing various Scripture prints as gifts for family and friends. It just grew from there with more practice, trial and error, and an increasing enjoyment of the art.

Handlettered 22. Did you study something design or drawing related in college, or are you completely self-taught? I have mainly been self-taught. I took a few design classes in college, but nothing quite like what I am doing now. I like to keep growing in knowing and perfecting the art of hand lettering and design, so I enjoy taking various online classes and tutorials, as well as learning from other artists online and what they’re doing. There’s a wealth of wisdom available now in this age of internet and technology!

3. Do you have a muse? What inspires you? Much of my inspiration comes from old signs, labels, and packaging. I love the typography and the flourishes and detailing that can be found on some of the most random and likely forgotten pieces of the past. There are also so many brilliant lettering artists out there. I love to follow their work and that keeps me very inspired as well.

Handlettered 44. Currently, what is your process for creating a new piece? Do you start with a freehand sketch or work with a digital program? I always start with a hand drawn sketch. Then, once I’m happy with the sketch I will ink it. I like to have it as complete as possible while still in my sketchbook. After that I scan it, bring it into a computer program where I will add various textures or colors, depending on the piece and the style I am going for.

For more of Chris Wright’s process and work, go to the source. Visit Hand Lettering Co. and purchase some of these hip, uplifting, and beautiful designs. And as always, let me know what you think.

 

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Spicing Up the Office

Office ugly 3Those of you faithful dear-hearts who have been keeping up with Design Cents probably noticed the sad lack of new posts the last few weeks. I offer you my apologies for my silence, along with my primary excuse: which is that I started a new full-time job three weeks ago. This new job came with many perks; a stable salary, benefits, the ability to move out of my parents’ house, AND my own office!

 

Office ugly 2Now, let’s be honest, my office is not exactly glamorous. There are no windows, it is quite small, and when I moved in the overall vibe of the space was “bleh”. Some words that come to mind are gray. Bland. Cave. You get the idea. The good news is that it gave me the challenge of finding ways to brighten up the room with limited money and space.

 

Office from doorMy three main goals were to make the layout more functional, bring some color into the room, and to personalize the space. The person who inhabited the office before me was apparently Olive Oyl, because she had arranged the desks so there was as little space as possible for one’s body to fit. So the first task was to separate the two units and push them against different walls so that I have more room to breathe.

 

Next I focused on color. I had a field day at TJ Maxx and picked up frames, vases, a pot, and a throw pillow. I matched everything up in my shopping cart to make sure the overall scheme worked. Then I ordered an inexpensive poster of Monet’s Water Lillies to break up the white wall. If I had wanted to step it up I could have framed the poster, but by that time my coffers were empty.

 

Office- top of cabinetsThe easiest way to personalize the space was by bringing in pictures of my husband and family. When things get really tough at work, having pictures of your loved ones close by can be so helpful in reminding you that “there’s life beyond these four walls”, “this is a means to an end”, “that little mistake is not going to alter the course of the universe”, and ultimately, why you do what you do. It helps to ground me in reality and puts a smile back on my face.

Office cardsAnother personal touch was displaying some birthday cards that meant a lot to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Office pillowA throw pillow might be unexpected on an office chair, but why not? It makes the space feel more comfy and homey. Also adding an indoor plant was a good response to not having a window. It’s always lovely to have something green and living in your space.

 

I hope this inspires you to have fun with your office space. If we have to spend 40 hours a week there, why not add those personal touches to make our work environment a place we enjoy being? What are ways that you’ve spiced up your office?

What To Do With Cards That Are Too Beautiful To Throw Away

Hals CardMy wonderfully generous mother-in-law loves to send us cards. It is not uncommon for my husband and I to each receive five beautifully curated cards for any given holiday. Now, these are not the kind of cards that you might pick out at the grocery store with a big “Happy Birthday” on the front, and a generic message inside. No, no. She has a knack for finding unique, high-quality notecards, that are blank inside and have a picture done by some fine artist or local photographer on the front. They are truly special and worth saving. But what to do when their initial shelf time is spent? I couldn’t bear to throw them away, so I’ve come up with some alternative options for artistic display.

Goodwill framesThe first is obvious, but worth demonstrating- frame them and display them as art. For an affordable and sustainable option, I went to Goodwill and scrounged up three rather outdated but cheap frames. I sanded them and painted them with a very inexpensive craft paint from Michaels.

darker purple pic

 

I wanted to combine two cards in the larger frame, so I asked about getting a custom matte cut and was quoted over $20. This was much more than I intended to spend, so I settled for the poor man’s matte- a 79 cent piece of heavy cardstock that I laid the pictures on top of. From far away you can’t tell the difference.

Two blue pics

 

 

 

 

 

Another alternative is to string a few cards together with twine and clothespins. This has a quirky, homey look and can be displayed vertically or horizontally. I recommend grouping cards with a similar look and feel.

Cards on string 2Cards on string

 

 

 

 

 

 

The third option I was unfortunately unable to demonstrate for you because it only works with a particular kind of furniture. If you happen to own a coffee table or side table that has a glass layer over wood, you can remove the glass, lay out a few beautiful cards as a collage and place the glass on top. This will add personality and uniqueness to your furniture, and it’s easy to change out.Card Dreams

So let’s put an end to throwing away those special cards just because the holiday has passed. Displaying them as pieces of art is sustainable, personal, and fun. What are some other ways you reuse cards?

One of Life’s Simple Pleasures That’s Worth Making Time For

Tea tray 2“Tea is like balm for the soul,” Emma Thompson’s character said in the recent film, Saving Mr. Banks. If this is true (and I do believe it is) why do not we as Americans soothe our souls more often by partaking in the practice of tea? Certainly the British identify with the ritual of taking afternoon tea, but many Americans are so busy trying to survive in a fast-paced society that seems to require blood, sweat and tears to succeed, that they forget to breathe, let alone make a pot of tea.
Teacup and pot

When I lived in New York City and was pursuing acting, I felt such a pressure to constantly be doing something productive- always taking that next step towards achieving my goals. The city hummed with ambition and high-expectation. I literally had to stop and preach to myself, “It’s OKAY to REST!” I may not remember all of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, but the one that always stuck with me was the importance of “sharpening the saw.” If we take the time to refresh our bodies and minds, then we will be much more effective in everything that we undertake. What better way to sharpen the saw then by drinking a spot of tea?
GardeniasHot tea must be sipped slowly or it will burn your tongue. This gives you permission to take your time, allows your body to relax, and opens up your mind for contemplation. Lin Yutang wrote in The Importance of Living, “There is something in the nature of tea that leads us into a world of quiet contemplation of life.” How can we avoid repeating mistakes if we do not reflect on the past? Likewise, how can we move forward wisely if we do not take time to evaluate our purpose in the scope of the universe?
Scone

Tea is a simple pleasure that acts as a gateway to us identifying and appreciating other simple pleasures in life. Or as Muriel Barbery said it better, “When tea becomes ritual, it takes its place at the heart of our ability to see greatness in small things.” I like to embrace this little luxury by setting up a pretty tea tray, complete with flowers, a candle, a proper china teacup and a scone. With a tray like this you can easily bring it to bed with a good book, set it next to a bubble bath, or enjoy it out in the garden. Ah, my stress is falling away even at the suggestion of these delightful scenarios.
Tea tray 5

Hopefully you too are inspired to whip up a concoction of loose-leaf lucidity and sympathize with writer and theologian, C.S. Lewis, who said, “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”

What are some of your favorite tea related quotes? Do you have a special teacup or a particular type of tea that you use to unwind?

A Garden Transformation You Won’t Want To Miss!

weeds 2Do you have a section of your yard that you just don’t know what to do with? Perhaps over the years it has slowly accumulated the old trash can, the cracked pots, the broken lawnmower, the half empty bags of mulch you just didn’t know where else to put, until it finally became your own personal junkyard? Well, this was the case for my clients. They have a large, lush yard with a pool, but there was one section tucked behind a fence that had become quite a forest of weeds and clutter, including- but not limited to- a faulty tractor, rotting wood, cement blocks, pipes, buckets and even roof shingles.WeedsMy assignment was to not only weed and remove the debris, but turn it into something attractive and useful. The first half of the task required several hours of sweat, strength, and some dramatic encounters with the local wildlife (mostly creepy crawlers). This work was spread out over a few days, until eventually, the whole area was stripped to the dirt.DirtOnce I had a clean slate, it was time for the fun to begin. What to do with that awkward section of the yard? How about plant a garden? A raised bed garden can be a very manageable way to grow vegetables without getting in over your head. With a quick trip to Home Depot, I was able to pick up wood, soil, mulch and a bunch of plants and flowers for under $200.Garden 4I planted several herbs, marigolds, tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumber and watermelon. Along the fence I planted two rows of sunflower seeds and Astor seeds that will take a few months to grow and will be a pleasant summer surprise. Layering red mulch around the raised beds helped to give the area a clean, finished look.

Garden 5Next to the garden there still remained an open area that I didn’t want to go to waste. I decided to turn it into a hangout spot. By bringing in a bench, a couple of potted flowers and a fire bowl, I was able to create an inviting area to sit and roast marshmallows. So don’t be daunted by that overgrown clutter corner you’d like to pretend doesn’t exist; with a few bucks and a little sweat equity you can turn it into a space that people actually want to spend time in.Garden 11

 

3 Quick Tips on Setting an Elegant yet Informal Easter Table

photo 2 (4)The average American is not accustomed to sitting down to a five-course meal on fine bone china, so setting a very formal Easter table might have the negative effect of making your guests feel uncomfortable and out of place. Would you rather have your family and guests be worried about being on their best behavior, or feel completely at ease and have a wonderful time? Here are 3 quick tips on how to find the right balance between beautiful elegance and casual comfort.

photo 2Pick a simple theme and stick to it. There are many common symbols and themes surrounding Easter. Rather than incorporating a cross, bunny, bird, nest, eggs and a chick into one Easter table, just pick one idea and build your table around that. Then try a different theme next year. This year I used a porcelain bird, a nest of eggs, and a couple of flowering branches gathered from the backyard to create a simple, nature-inspired theme, that to me represents new birth and joy to come.

photo 2 (1)Use everyday materials. It’s okay to use less expensive place settings, just lay them out in an elegant manner. Rather than just using the typical dinner plate, fork, knife and spoon with a disposable napkin, layer in that extra salad plate, salad fork and top it off with a pretty cloth napkin. Here I used my mother’s everyday-ware called Spring Bouquet and topped it off with some charmingly embroidered napkins from Panama that my grandmother had given my mother many years ago. Another way I dressed it down and continued with my nature theme, was by using twine instead of traditional napkin rings.

photo 1Lastly, add something quirky and fun. Remind your family and friends that this is a celebration by throwing in something unexpected. Instead of typical water goblets, I used mason jars with bendy straws. How often do you drink out of a bendy straw at home? I don’t know why, but they just make me smile. Perhaps they’re just nostalgic for me. What’s something quirky that puts a smile on your face? Use it in your design, and it will probably be everyone’s favorite piece.

What are some other fun and elegant ideas for the Easter table this year? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

How To Keep Your Easter Decor From Being Too Cheesy

Ah yes, Easter is almost here- a time to celebrate the Resurrection, spring, new birth and chocolate. Apart from spiritual symbolism, what are some images that come to your mind when thinking about Easter? For me it’s oversized waxy-chocolate bunnies and cheap, tacky objects in the most horrific array of neon and pastel colors. Just walking past the Easter section of a Walmart is enough to send me into a dizzying nightmare where ephalumps and woozels dance around throwing marshmallow chicks at me. Here’s just a couple of suggestions on how to keep the cheese out of your Easter décor this year.

Don’t mix too many pastel colors. Try to keep your color palate simple and classy. I recommend choosing one pastel like a lavender or yellow and grounding it with a couple of earthy neutrals like white, green, beige or gray. Imagine your entertaining space decorated with just lavender and sage green accents used repetitively throughout. This would definitely come across more elegant than a basket of eggs representing the entire pastel rainbow as your design inspiration.

Sculpted Ceramic Bunnies from Pottery Barn

Sculpted Ceramic Bunnies from Pottery Barn

Avoid the plastic, disposable, cheap and tacky. Invest in items that have beauty and weight, which you can re-use year after year. Rather than buy a plastic pink bunny that will be thrown out very shortly, why not purchase an antique silver rabbit or porcelain object that has some character, which you will enjoy bringing out year after year and might even become part of tradition with your family? You might be tempted to buy that pre-packaged, cheaply-made, brightly colored plastic basket full of candy for your children, but try to resist the temptation. Why not use a beautiful basket made of natural materials, dress it up with some ribbon and stock it with goodies lovingly hand-picked by you?

Lastly, replace the fake with the real. When it comes to flowers, nothing beats the real thing. Very few silk flowers actually look believably real. They just don’t compare to nature’s colors, textures, scents and imperfections. A beautiful bouquet of flowers is one of the most effective pieces of décor in any room at any time of the year.52_1_FA74_330x370

May our Easter décor this year reflect the weight and beauty and reality of what this season is actually about, rather than the blinding plastic commercialism that awaits us every time we walk into a store. Let me know your thoughts. Do you have any special pieces that you enjoy using year after year?