Today, “The Postman’s Knock” is synonymous with calligraphy. Once upon a time, though, I was terrified of dip pens. I didn’t foresee them becoming a huge part of my everyday! Instead, I focused on various flavors of projects, and each one of those projects brought me closer to TPK taking its current form. Today, I’d like to share some old — but inspirational — creations that helped to shape this website and its wares.
1. “Energetic” Watercolor Prints
In 2012, hardly anything could stop me from creating DIY stencils, filling them in with watercolor, and blowing the excess paint around! I especially loved the energetic effect that this lent to university logos.
What I learned from this project: I thought that “energetic” prints of college logos would be so cool to sell! I got a reality check when I reached out to my alma mater (University of Kansas) for licensing information, however. Licensing is expensive and, if I remember right, the person in charge was wont to give me a license anyway. That’s when I realized that it’s almost always best to pursue original ideas instead of putting a small spin on someone else’s!
2. Wax Crayon Portraits
Have you ever tried drawing people? It’s simultaneously one of the most rewarding and frustrating projects you’ll ever take on! I love drawing people using wax crayons (yep — the Crayolas that kids use) because wax is so vibrant and easy to blend. In 2013, I made nearly 10 of these portraits for friends and relatives.
What I learned from this project: For a long time, I didn’t let myself use grids or guides to draw. For these projects, though, I gave in to utilizing a grid and got amazing results! That was when I realized that it’s okay to use aids — the end justifies the means. This epiphany led me to purchase a light box, which has been a game-changer.
3. Painted Furniture
Sometimes, I come up with ideas that perhaps aren’t realistic, but they’re exciting and fun! Resisting the urge to try out these ideas is absolutely futile. (I’m sure that you can relate to this feeling; it’s part and parcel of being a creative person!) At one point in 2013, I decided that I’d try painting second hand furniture with intricate designs. Then, I would become famous for my ornate furniture-painting abilities and local shops would beg me for my beautiful yet practical masterpieces!
What I learned from this project: It’s not possible to pursue every good idea. This table could have been incredibly cool, but it would have taken too much time to make! Even getting this far burnt me out from intricately painting furniture ever again.
4. DIY Greeting Cards Made from Vintage Paper
There’s something magical about upcycling vintage books and magazines! I know that there are some people who are firmly against cutting up reading material, but if the material can be utilized in a new and joyful way, I say why not? In 2013, I started experimenting with using vintage paper to make greeting cards and envelopes. I’ve always loved using vintage materials — and you can see that today in my TPK Modern Calligraphy Starter Kits, which feature nib backings made from vintage paper!
What I learned from this project: Making DIY greeting cards in TPK’s early years formed the basis for many card tutorials! I tried selling cards on Etsy for a hot second, but quickly realized that they’re not profitable (for me, at least). Cards take quite a while to make and you can only charge so much for them! As a result, I make cards to my heart’s content — but only for personal use.
5. Illustrations for Sweet Meadow Farms
In 2014, a wedding planner named Melanie approached me about making custom illustrations for her website. This was one of the first times it clicked with me that I could make money doing things I love to do! I got to work with charcoal to draw a sunflower, use pen and ink to make a milk cow, and paint with watercolor to create a sprawling tree.
What I learned from this project: Melanie ended up being a valuable contact to have as I built my business. She sent a few clients (mostly brides) my way after we finished working together on her illustrations! The experience reiterated the fact that if you do a good job for one client, they’ll usually let others know.
6. Illustrations for Six Hearts Photography
After I worked with Melanie, her acquaintances Schellie and William of Six Hearts Photography reached out to ask for a custom illustration suite as well. Their photography style is elegant yet quirky, and they wanted their illustrations to reflect that. The illustrations I developed for them were cartoon-like, which was a first for me, and it was a lot of fun!
What I learned from this project: Mostly, I learned that stylistic versatility is possible if you keep an open mind! I’d never drawn cartoon-like characters before, but I gave it a shot and loved it. You can see all the characters that I drew here! After I completed the project, I experimented with animation. I found that it’s actually pretty easy to make little movies — like the blinking robot — using Photoshop!
7. Printable Planners
I know I’ve talked about TPK printable planners before! However, they’re worth mentioning again because they were integral to the development of this website and its offerings. Basically, I came up with three different planners: a general planner, a university edition, and an Etsy seller edition. The planners were chock-full of organizational tools like birthday cheat sheets, financial planners, and goal trackers!
What I learned from this project: I had to learn how to use Adobe InDesign, which is a layout software, in order to make these planners. That ended up being important because InDesign is what I use to make nearly all of the printable sets on the TPK website today (and projects like the workbook in the modern calligraphy starter kit)! InDesign was frustrating to use at first, but now it’s second nature. If you already understand Photoshop, it’s a pretty simple transition!
8. My First Wedding Invitations!
In 2013, I designed my very first wedding invitations. They were incredibly simple, but that suited my skill set and — luckily — the couple’s preference! I calligraphed the invitation, formatted it in Photoshop, and provided the file to the client. The bride took care of printing the invitations off on Crane’s cotton paper. I have an envelope pictured below, but I don’t actually remember doing the envelope calligraphy for this wedding … I think I might have just included it for modeling purposes!
What I learned from this project: This project was one of the first paid projects that I used my dip pen calligraphy skills for! It hinted that perhaps the calligraphy path would be a good professional one to go down. It also just goes to show: your calligraphy doesn’t have to be perfect for you to take commissions. If you’re considering selling your calligraphy for a profit, it doesn’t hurt to put yourself out there and see if anyone “bites”! (See: 8 Tips for Starting a Calligraphy Business)
9. My First Printable Calligraphy Worksheets
In May of 2014, I released my very first printable calligraphy worksheet. It was a 2-page freebie with questionable formatting and without slant lines! Even with the poor design, however, people enjoyed it. In fact, the photo below (and a mini TPK worksheet) even appeared in the Dutch version of Flow Magazine! Really, this is the little printable that started it all!
What I learned from this project: My first worksheet taught me a lot of things, mainly through the feedback I got from worksheet users! Among other things, I became aware that not all printer papers are created equally (and 32# laserjet is the best one to practice on). I also realized that slant lines are helpful, as are directional arrows so people know how to form letters!
Compiling this list of projects made me realize: TPK has come a loooong way! I hope that in reading it, you find some inspiration — whether it’s creative inspiration (those “energetic” watercolor pieces are so fun to make!) or business inspiration. If you have any questions about these projects, please feel free to ask in the comments!
Thanks a million for reading TPK, and enjoy the rest of your day!