Rachel Johnson of PS Lettering Shop is a full-time 4th grade teacher, newlywed, start up calligrapher and my second cousin, if I'm doing that math right. She just started her hand lettering shop and we had a lot of fun collaborating and shooting a few of her custom and holiday pieces this week! I was curious about her motivations behind hand lettering, as I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be able to sit still long enough to learn, so she answered a few questions about her process to share along with some photos I captured of her work below. Read on for more from Rachel, along with a special code to get 20% off anything in her shop through January!
What drew you to calligraphy and hand lettering?
Creating things is something I really enjoy. I was initially drawn to hand lettering and calligraphy because It is so incredibly beautiful. I thought “I have decent handwriting, maybe I could practice and get it to look like that.” I really was under the impression that calligraphy was just extremely gorgeous and elaborate handwriting, so that is where I started. Interestingly enough when I started researching and reading blogs like a crazy person about how to get my handwriting to be beautiful...I quickly realized that calligraphy isn’t handwriting at all. It really is more of an art form that I had originally thought. It involved many more strokes, and picking up my pen a whole lot more than you would if I just wrote in cursive.As strange as it sounds part of the enjoyment of teaching myself, was realizing how much I had to learn.
There is a lot of content out there on the subject of calligraphy, but most of my inspiration started with Lindsey Bugabee’s The Postman’s Knock and her incredible talent with a dip pen and ink. Perhaps the most inspiring part was her story of how she got into what she does now for a living--teach people how to make stunning creations! The whole process started close to a year ago, and I just opened my Etsy shop psletteringshop three weeks ago. There is still so much for me to learn though! Calligraphy is such a fascinating craft and it’s completely captured my interest.
How does an idea move into a created piece?
Because of my rather focused and type A personality, when I create things it tends to be all at once. I get inspired and I sort of channel all my energy into the idea that I got. Most of the Christmas pieces in my shop were all designed and created within a couple of days. Currently I have at least 4 lists in my phone of things I thought of while out and about that I want to try with calligraphy. Not all of them actually make it into my etsy shop, but some of them do! On a day when I’m feeling more patient, I start by practicing letter forms to keep my skills up, and then using my Rhodia grid paper to letter what I’ve been dreaming up. Then, it gets transferred onto higher quality paper. I’ve just recently been experimenting with new inks and variations of my dip pen. Most of the time, the pieces I’m most proud of come completely unexpectedly-- whims that end up on paper.
What is your favorite thing to put on a print?
My favorite thing to put on a piece is quickly becoming anything custom. I have received quite a few customs since I’ve opened and each one of them has been different and unique. The most fulfilling part for me, is hearing the stories that go with them. Of their own accord, most customers have asked for particular custom pieces, and then told me why they want it, or what the phrase or word means to them. If it’s a name, they’ve included whose name it is, and the reason they want it on a print. I had one order recently from a teacher in Georgia, who wanted to remind her students that each day is new, free of mistakes and unkindness--so she had me design her a piece that said “Begin Again” to put up in her classroom. Creating with those things in mind makes putting my heart into a print almost effortless because it feels like I get to connect with the person receiving it.
How do you stay motivated to be creative when life gets busy?
This IS the question of life in general. Sometimes I wonder… if life will ever NOT be busy?!? Teaching has been an incredible growing experience, in which I have learned that time management and balance are the keys to being a sane person who actually has a life. I think this really applies to most things… being creative included! I give myself time to do it, even when things are busy. When things are particularly chaotic, I try and get innovative with how this happens.
What do you do when you’re not creating?
I enjoy being outside and getting active. Also, food. Seattle and it’s surrounding area is an incredible place to discover new food and just eat good things. I’ve been getting into cooking; I’m an amateur and fairweather runner. It’s not really that I don’t have the skill (I have run one full marathon and countless small races), but I’m honestly just a wimpy runner that doesn’t like to be cold and wet.