Happy New Year & On To 2018

Hello! It's been a little while – almost a year, actually.

2017 brought my family & I plenty to celebrate as well as cause to mourn. All in all it was a good year, full of unexpected turns – wonderful, exciting, unbelievable, and heartbreaking. We made some big decisions and I think it definitely looked different than we imagined, in good and sad ways. Here's a recap:

  • We lost two loved ones in the Russell family; one in March and one in April
  • We almost lost a third, but thankfully she's recovering
  • We went to Tijuana to build houses with our church and decided to serve on the high school ministry team
  • We celebrated our first wedding anniversary 🥂
  • I started a new position at my company that has been both challenging and rewarding, and was not something I expected. Tommy & I talked it through on a road trip to Rhode Island in June and decided to go for it; I started my new role in August, and my company also took on two new, big clients
  • Tommy grew his real estate business while finishing a big flip - see it here!
  • We bought a house! (!! also not really expected, but wonderful!) Now, we're working on making our house a home and a place where others feel welcome
  • Tommy added a brand new kitchen to our walkout basement level so we can have housemates 🎉
  • I failed at my goal of starting an etsy shop for lettering from @emilykateletters. It doesn't feel good to say I failed, but I'm also ok with it because as I noted above, life took some unexpected turns this year and I know that failure is a part of growing if you don't get bogged down in it. Now, I'm thinking through my goals for designing in 2018; I have a few ideas, and hopefully will share something about it in January.

Somewhat ironically, I included a quote about failure in my post from January 2017, where I announced that I intended to start an Etsy business. It seems that goals like that often fall by the wayside unless the goal-setter is reaaaally determined to keep it going; but, surprisingly to me, I'm ok being one of the people who didn't succeed. I'm not sure why. I still have goals/ideas for a creative outlet, but maybe I'll go in a different direction that I envisioned a year ago. I guess I'm just ok with not having that side of me figured out yet and with being a work in progress.

So this year, I'm not going to make any promises. I do have an idea I'd like to try, but I'm going to keep it to myself for now ;)

Other things I'd like to do more of in 2018:

  • Read my Bible
  • Exercise (I have this great idea to listen to my Bible while exercising and also while driving)
  • Read (mostly for fun other than bullet #1 above)
  • Listen to more podcasts (also something to do while driving or exercising)
  • Actually go grocery shopping! and cook dinner!
  • Who knows? Leaving a bullet open for possibilities. None of these are set resolutions, but they are general goals that I'd like to turn into habits, whether that's this year or another year. But hopefully sooner than later. Feel free to ask me how I'm doing with them!

Happy new year! I'm hoping 2018 brings more joy than sorrow, a spirit of generosity, new habits, and plenty of growth, fellowship, and new experiences.

Failure, Gifts, Letters, & an Announcement

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of Godʼs grace in its various forms.” – 1 Peter 4:10

I love hand-lettering! I’ve enjoyed it for a long time – I remember lettering song lyrics freshman year of high school during my math class. I know it’s very trendy right now, but it’s something I really enjoy doing and that relaxes me. Tommy will sometimes notice that I’m trying to go go go all the time during the week, and he’ll tell me I need to find something to do that relaxes me. Well, I think I know what that thing is. And for about two and a half years now, since around September of 2014, I’ve had a strong desire to do something more with the artistic tendency God’s given me, and honor the time and desire He’s given me to cultivate it.

Before now, it wasn’t the right time to start something and I wasn’t ready (I'm still not sure if I am, but at some point you have to go for it). In September of 2014, I was settling into full-time work. I got engaged the summer after that, which was a wonderful and amazing thing, and planning and preparing for a wedding is a fun, beautiful, at times stressful, involved process. And, it takes a lot of time and effort! Our wedding day was the following summer and was joyful and beautiful and a bit of a whirlwind. Our honeymoon was amazing. After that we got to settle into our apartment and begin married life. And on and on. Now, I feel like I have a little more direction and have finally worked up the courage to start this thing!

So with that, I am (finally) going to start my own little business! I’m in the process of working on designs and products, and am working to set a launch date within the coming weeks and months. I'll probably start off with an Etsy and maybe a few products on this site. In the meantime, I’ve been working on rebranding my website – this includes a new (slightly different) name and logo! I’ve decided to call my business Emily Kate Design & Lettering. Here’s a look at my new logo and brand colors:

I’m excited, and also a little nervous. There’s a lot to learn and figure out! Keeping that in mind, I saw this quote a while back:

“If you aren’t failing sometimes, you aren’t taking enough risks.”

I’m not really sure where I saw it or who said it originally, but I think it brings up a great point and encourages introspection. If we see failure as something to be avoided at all costs, something that is embarrassing and difficult to overcome, it’s likely we won’t take many risks. But we don’t have to see it that way.

I spoke with a mentor, Debbie, back in November when I was starting to really decide to go for the small business idea. She offered so much encouragement and wisdom, and one of the things she shared with me and asked me was, “what is failure?” She noted that it looks different depending on the situation and who you are. And, failing isn't necessarily bad, because it produces fruit either way. For example: if I launch an Etsy shop and nothing really happens (quite possible), it’ll be a lesson in humility, perseverance, and patience, as well as a reminder that success isn’t the source of joy (I think I'll learn that lesson either way).

And along with that, success looks different for different people. I’m thinking about my goals and what I’d consider success to be, and am reminded of something else Debbie said: be mindful of where you get your strength – not from looking at the affirmation and cheers of others. Fellowship is good!! But, remember to look to Jesus first.

I’ll be honest – of course, if I’m starting a (small) business, I hope it will be successful. I also hope that I can keep what I said above in perspective, successful or not.

In November, I found myself thinking about the parable of the talents. We talked about it in church recently and it was always something that scared me a little bit. but here’s the thing: that’s what Jesus is getting at in this parable. You can’t live your life in fear; He calls us to a life of boldness, and even says in 2 Timothy 1:7 that “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”  With that, He has given us each unique talents, gifts and abilities and desires for us to use those talents to grow the kingdom of God. I’ve been thinking about what that would look like for me. I want to encourage other people. I need encouragement and I love to receive it in the form of artwork.

When I hand-letter a verse, it's often because I need the reminder or want to be an encouragement to others. I figure if I need a reminder, there’s a good chance others do too! I want to be conscious of choosing verses that express the truth and remind others of that, as well as encourage deeper thought. While every single thing may not be that way, I want to be mindful of what I’m creating. Some days I feel like I’m bursting with ideas and some days all I want to do is create them.

As I said before, I have a lot to learn and figure out, and my hope for this year is that it’ll be one of BOLDNESS (one of my words for 2017!) and growth.

I’m looking forward to all that's to come this year! If you want to join in, you can follow along on Instagram at @emilykateletters. Thanks for reading!

“Be who you were meant to be, and you will set the world on fire.” –St. Catherine of Siena

Thankful for 2016, Ready for 2017

2016. What a year! It certainly had it's ups and downs, but it's a year I'm thankful for and one of my best yet.

2016 will always be the year Tommy and I made a promise before family and friends to love each other always, through the good and the bad times. I'm really thankful for that!

Here are a few other highlights from this year:
• we spent a good bit of time preparing for our wedding & marriage; we went on a pre-wedding retreat and also met with an awesome couple who went through pre-marital counseling with us;

• we attended lots of weddings and got to watch many good friends make the same promise we made;

• we finished planning our own wedding and the day finally came!!;

• we enjoyed an amazing honeymoon, my first trip to the Caribbean;

• we moved into a cozy apartment and get to start and end each day together;

• we spent a lot of time with family;

• we went to the beach a handful of times (always something to be thankful for in my book);

• I passed the one year mark at a job I love and took on some new responsibilities at work;

• I found time to hand-letter more;

• I saw a lot of growth and progress in my lettering;

• I got to do some great freelance design and lettering projects;

• friendships grew;

• we studied the Bible and really became part of an awesome small group community and church;

• I got a mentor! and there's a really cool story that goes along with that. Feel free to ask me about it.

As I’ve reflected on 2016, I've also been looking forward to 2017. There's a growing trend to choose one word to focus on for the year, and I've decided to hop on board! And, I’m going to give it a slight twist. Call me indecisive, or as I prefer to think of it, creative – I’m going to go outside the one-word idea and choose two.

There are several reasons I'm choosing two words, but it comes down to the idea that I want to focus on growing in different ways in different areas of my life. There were a lot of related words I was considering – here are some of my brainstorming notes:

one word:
gracious / grateful / content / grace
adventurous / bold / not afraid / make moves
growth / maturity / take a deep breath
patient/ content / understanding / generous
kindness / thoughtful / hold your tongue
transformation / perseverance / building

While different words are particularly meaningful and a particular growth goal in different areas of my life, they can also be applied in different ways to each area – they seem the most relevant for where I am in life in the most ways. I'm mostly thinking of this in terms of work/my job/profession, and hobbies/personal life/family/friends. These words compliment each other well and I'm excited about how they apply to me personally; where I am and where I’d like to be going. I sat on them for a couple of weeks and still feel pretty good about them.

So, here are my words!:

Bold & Gracious

Here's why I decided to choose them:

• because i want to be more understanding;

• to talk less, listen more;

• to pause before I speak;

• to be consciously aware of my words and the impact they have;

• to be patient and think of myself less;

• to be content with what I have;

• and to use my gifts well.

• To have grace to know I won’t always be right;

• to be able to accept when I’m wrong;

• to be able to be kind if it turns out I’m right and someone else is wrong;

• to have grace for others and myself.

• because I want to stop letting fear hold me back;

• to speak up and reach out;

• to share my thoughts more;

• to use and steward my gifts well.

• to start something new (more on that next week!)

• to not be afraid of failure;

• to be bold in the way I love others, whether I know them or not;

• bold in the way I speak;

• bold in my willingness to try something new, to step outside my comfort zone;

• bold in my/our goals, with a growing confidence in myself.

There is a kindness and graciousness that requires boldness, and a boldness that is softened and magnified by a gracious spirit. That’s what I hope to grow towards.

Cheers to 2017. I’d love to know what your word (or words) is/are!

Our Wedding Invitation Suite & Details!

It was so fun to combine my love of color with my love for lettering while designing our save-the-dates, wedding invitation suite, and reception details. Tommy & I have been married for a little over 3 months and together for 5 years! Our wedding was in July, so we got to choose our favorite summer-y colors for our invitations and details. That meant lots of peach, blues, blue-greens, and navy shades (and a tiny hint of maroon in the bridal bouquet!), as you'll see below.

I took these photos, but any photos you see that include prints of our wedding photos are by Anna Grace Photography. Check out her blog of our wedding photos here!

One of my favorite wedding photos!

Wedding Invitations | Ruth & Alejandro

My cousin and long-time friend Ruth married her sweetheart Alejandro on June 19, 2016. She asked me to design their save-the-dates, wedding invitations, table numbers, and a few signs for the wedding, which of course I loved doing! 

Something that made Ruth's invites extra special was the fact that we were engaged together! She got engaged in May 2015 and I got engaged in August 2015. She and Alex got married just under a month before my own wedding! Which meant I got to design our save-the-dates and invitations together. Needless to say, it was a fun month for our family (our moms are sisters). 

Here are some photos of the invites and designs! I took all photos except for the last two; the last two are from the wedding and were taken by Kharis Photography.

Erin & Matt's Engagement Photos | Savage Mill, MD

At the very end of March, I got to tag along with Kelsey (of Kira Nicole Photography) as her second shooter. While I don’t brand myself as a photographer, I enjoy photography and took a couple photo classes in college as part of the design curriculum. One thing I have always enjoyed about both design & photography is the compositional challenge–finding a way to anchor your work so that it is both interesting & pleasing to the eye. 

Taking photos as a second shooter adds to this “compositional challenge," because you also have to make sure you stay out of the lead photographers way! I had so much fun second shooting with Kelsey, especially since she's one of my roommates and bridesmaids, and ALSO because Erin is one of my roommates from college and we're in each others weddings this year! It was a rare opportunity and I'm really glad I got to tag along.

Erin and Matt are an awesome couple--they're both very funny and fun-loving, as well as caring and genuine. I always have a good time when I hang out with Erin and I treasure her friendship, and am so excited to stand by her when she marries Matt this fall.

Here are some of my favorite photos (if you want to see Kelsey's photos, go here)!

Patience & Sketches

Patience & sketches: two things I seem to simultaneously have a lot of and yet none at all. I have so many things I want to create and share (sketches), but it just feels like there aren't enough hours in the day to create/design/finish/photograph/share them. Which makes me feel really impatient! At the same time, it also means I can't help but be patient, because I can only do so much in a day and need to patiently wait for the right (or available!) time.

I DO have several sketches in the works, as well as recently completed lettering projects! I'm really excited about them and can't wait to share. But, it will require some patience before I can show them; gotta wait until clients receive & share the final artwork before I can share it too!

In the meantime, I'll share one of my recent sketches, along with someone who takes up a lot of my time, though I don't mind ;)

Until next time!

Tommy, my fiancé!

Tommy, my fiancé!


"Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength."

I love this quote by Corrie ten Boom because its so true. I also love that it offers a subtle hope, because when you think about it, you realize you have the strength each day to overcome it.

The Progression of a Hand-Lettered Quote

Since my first blog post two Septembers ago, I've developed my own process for hand-lettering. It's been fun! So, on this snowy day I thought I'd share a little bit of that process via photos--here we go!

First, I sketch the letters in pencil. Once I have the lettering at a good spot, I ink it with pen.

Next--sometimes, I'll instagram my sketch and leave it at that, as you'll see in the bottom left photo. But often, I decide to take it a step further and digitize the letters! In this particular case, I was in the zone when I finished instagramming and decided to digitize the quote as well. To do that, I first clean it up in Photoshop.

After that, it starts to be really fun! I take the cleaned up sketch into Illustrator and make it digital. I often spend a good bit of time cleaning up the curves, but in this case decided to leave it be. Then I play with the letterforms & decide whether to leave them blank or fill them in, what color they should be, and whether I'll add any illustrations or photography.

This time, I decided to use a photo I took of the ocean last summer as a background, because I wanted to experiment with gradients and it fit nicely with the quote.

At some point in my experimenting, I land on a design I love and decide it's finished (sometimes that takes me a while!). Once it's finished, I create print-ready files, take a trip to the printers, and then photograph my work, as you'll see below. I hope you enjoy it!

Lastly--for the first time, I decided to turn my lettering into a lock screen (you can see both below)! If you are interested in the lock screen, feel free to contact me (you can text, email, or submit a form through the site) and I'll send you the file! :)

Come Alive

Whew! It's been quite a couple of months--I somehow managed to land my college dream job, got engaged, started planning a wedding, and am still in the midst of exciting plans that may or may not involve my hand-lettering. 

While I haven't found much time lately to letter for fun (though I HAVE been working on some other projects, which will show up on the blog soon!), I did manage to make this and take some photos of it. It's a line from a song by Rend Collective and features what have become my characteristic floral doodles. Enjoy!

My First Styled Shoot

This August, I got to participate in my first styled shoot! Kira of Kira Nicole Photography asked me to design beautiful blush and gold invitations, as well as a hand-letter a quote, for a photo shoot she and her team were doing for a couple whose wedding day happened to occur simultaneously with a crazy rain storm. Because of this, Kira and Kelsey graciously offered to re-take the wedding photos on a non-rainy day (so sweet!), and turned it into a styled shoot.

It was a crazy day creating the invitations for the shoot, I'll tell ya. This summer has been both wonderful and crazy! If you know me, you may know that I tend to fill up my schedule and free time with lots of projects and time with friends; I had a handful of other freelance projects going on that week. In addition, the shoot was actually supposed to happen while I was away on vacation, so my deadline happened to be the day before I left (aka packing day). Uh oh! Good thing I'm a fast packer, because I spent the better part of the day inking letters, choosing colors, illustrating details, at the printers, and adding final touches of gold leafing--8 hours, no joke! But I'm glad I did it, really excited about how everything turned out, and thankful that Kira asked me to be a part of the shoot.

The photos you'll see below are my own personal photos that I took of the blush, pink and gold invitation suite and quote. It was so fun to collaborate with Kira Nicole Photography-- you can check out the full shoot photos right here!, and to make things even more exciting, the shoot was featured on Bayside Bride. You can see the article right here--enjoy! :)

Liz & Kyle's Wedding Programs

One of my roommates, Liz, recently married her college sweetheart, Kyle, in June of 2015. I got to design their sweet and simple wedding programs!

Liz and I weren't really friends before we were roommates--we had met once or twice, but didn't really know each other. However, over the course of the year we lived together, we became good friends (thanks in part to our frequent and unplanned "kitchen talks"), so when it came time to figure out the programs, Liz asked me if I would design them for her.

I'm glad I was able to be a part of their big day in this small way, and am also glad I can call Liz a friend! To see some of her wedding photos (and also a few photos of same hand-painted signs I also got to help with), check out the photos by Anna Grace Photography.

You Have 48 Hours (Gifted Note Cards)

"I want something pretty and original. Any chance you have something in your portfolio? "

With these words, the whirlwind began. My boyfriend's aunt was looking for unique cards to give as a gift to a close friend who was retiring, and who loves to write personal notes. I received a text on a Tuesday morning asking if it would be possible to leverage any existing designs I might have and whip up some note cards in time for the retirement party that Thursday, two days later. I had just waltzed in to work, but agreed to take on the challenge because, you know, I love things that are pretty and original. Why would I pass up the opportunity?

I was off to the races. Later that evening, I started pulling illustrations and details from some of the lovely wedding invites and programs I've gotten to design recently; you might recognize some of the pretty peonies, hydrangeas, daisies, and lemons from previous blog posts. Aunt Peg and I agreed to meet the following evening to get the note cards printed, which meant my goal was to finish the design and run it by her at lunch on Wednesday via text (check), run to an event after work (they had Chick-fil-a nuggets, so thumbs up for that), and round everything out just before printing time (check).

Unfortunately, however, we got to the printers at 10:57p.m., and they had already locked their doors. A minor setback; so, I was up early the next morning and at the printers first thing (well, after I got my favorite breakfast sandwich to help wake me up for the eventful morning ahead). Thankfully the queues weren't busy yet, so I was able to get the note cards printed, cut them out, score them, and put them together in a pretty little package. They were finished in time for the party, and I'm told the retiree loved them! Success!

Despite the 48 hour turnaround time, I'd say they turned out pretty nicely! Leave a comment below and let me know which one is your favorite!

Molly & Kevin's Wedding Invitations

Recently, two of my good friends, Molly & Kevin, gave me the opportunity to design their wedding invitations. Molly had seen Kate & Ty's invites (a few blog posts below), and after searching for templated invitations for a bit, asked me to design custom ones for her. I was so excited!

The design process with Molly was similar to the process with Kate and McKenna; we sat down and discussed relevant wedding details (such as colors, flowers, centerpieces, location, & more), looked at inspiration, and then reviewed some early ideas. From there, Molly and I worked together to refine the invitations. I also kept her sister and maid of honor, Kylee, in the loop (we lead Young Life together, so it was hard not to!).

Once the design was finished, I got to do something I hadn't done yet--coordinate the printing! Molly and I went to a local printer one night and got the invites printed, trimmed, and ready to go. We had previously ordered lemonade yellow envelopes to send the lovely invites out in. Finally, one other thing I was able to help with, which you'll see a sample of in the photos below, was address the envelopes.

The last thing left to do was wait to receive my own invitation in the mail, and now I'm looking forward to having a great time at the wedding!

McKenna & Nathan's Wedding Invitations

I had the pleasure of designing custom wedding invitations and wine labels for McKenna, a friend  I met in college, and her now-husband Nathan (I actually went to high school with his sister--small world!).

McKenna had a general idea of the look and feel she wanted for the invitation, but was pretty open about the details and graciously trusted my judgment. So, after we looked at inspiration and discussed relevant wedding details, I designed the invitations you'll see below. Rather than a printed RSVP card, McKenna used an online RSVP; however, she did ask me to design something a little bit uncommon, but very fun--wine labels! My college roommate (Erin's) dad actually made the wine for the wedding, and from there I designed the labels to complement the colors of the glass and wine (red wine was in green glass bottles, and white wine was in clear glass bottles).

I'm thankful that McKenna asked me to design these pieces of her beautiful wedding, and for the experience I gained in the process. I'm looking forward to many more custom projects to come!

Kate & Ty's Wedding Invitation Suite

Back in September my friend Kate, who I'm involved in the Young Life community with, asked me to design her save-the-dates and wedding invitations. Well, if I'm being honest, I asked her if I could design them, and she graciously accepted my offer. This was a really exciting step for me, as this was the first save-the-date and invitation suite I was creating for a friend (or at all).

Kate and her now-husband Ty, a good friend of mine from college, got engaged in June 2014 and married in March 2015. Overall, it was a great experience to see the process through from start to finish; during the fall, I designed the save-the-dates and excitedly received one in the mail. Next came the invitation suite, which included the invitations themselves, RSVP cards, and pretty pink envelopes. Kate found a great deal on printing, which relieved me of handling that aspect of the design process (however, I'm happy to report I am in the process of figuring these things out for current and future clients!). The invites were mailed in February; finally, in early March, I got to design the programs for the ceremony, as well as have a blast at the wedding!

As for the process itself, Kate and I sat down and discussed what she wanted the look and feel of her save-the-dates and invitations to be. She sent me a few images for inspiration; we also discussed her wedding colors and the flowers she was planning to have in her bouquet. After our discussion, it seemed she wanted something simple and beautiful, so that is what I strove for. Lucky for me, Kate was really laid back and open about the design, so I got to be creative and create something that was unique and personal to her.

I'm so happy I got to design these beautiful invitations, and am excited about more invites and projects currently in the works! Take a look at some of the photos below to see the full suite!

My [New?] Passion

Recently, I've developed a new passion. Or perhaps I should say that an old passion has resurfaced, and it's commonly referred to as hand-lettering. I have very much enjoyed creating hand-written typefaces since the ninth grade, when I used to illustrate song lyrics (via various hand-drawn, bubble-letter-esque, scripty, stacking typefaces)  all over my algebra notes (on lined paper, no less). I'm happy to report that my doodles have greatly improved (as well as my choice of sketch materials--helloooo moleskine and micron pens). As they should, now that I'm backed by a professional degree and much more practice, experience, knowledge, and, yes, passion. I absolutely love this stuff. I can't believe it took me this long to really get into it, but it has become an enduring interest and something I think about constantly--no matter what else is going on, I'm collecting ideas and quotes and mental pictures everywhere I go (and I have the scattered and scribbled notes to prove it). I know that the more I practice, research and develop this passion, the better I will become at it. And so I've started to pull inspiration. I see design in everything (I've been told I can't look at anything without critiquing it.. oops). My instagram feed has become a constant source of inspiration, my cousins and friends have started to send me links to design websites because I talk about it so much, and I've started to dream. But enough about that for now. I'm thankful for my abilities so far and am looking forward to what's to come. Here's to passion.