Jake Anderson Workshop

Growth as a creative is an incredibly important thing. It is tempting, when you see your own designs day after day and work alone without criticism, to become complacent, or even worse, arrogant. While I love owning my own business, one of the things I miss most about working for someone else is the constant opportunities for thoughtful critique and tips for improvement. We don't really have that in the wedding industry, at least not anywhere I have experienced. A workshop is perhaps the closest thing I've found to a critique; it's a wonderfully unique experience for vendors and attendees alike. The attendees have a chance to learn from a carefully selected team of wedding professionals, but the vendors themselves have a huge opportunity to grow, expanding their knowledge by learning from each other, the experience, and the attendees, as well. 

 

Jake Anderson Workshops was just that type of experience for me. I was thrilled when Jake asked me to create some materials for him; he is a talented photographer and works with so many amazing vendors. While creating the suite for his workshop, I found myself feeling pushed to expand my horizons and try something new, something unique. I strive for excellence in all my work, but this...this had to be my very best. The source of the pressure I felt was applied entirely from my own mind and desire to succeed, but sometimes that is the most effective motivator! The mood board for the workshop was full of soft, gorgeous neutral colors, rich texture, and light details. These were the things that I decided to incorporate into my suite.

When creating texture-heavy stationery, my starting point is always handmade paper. These sheets from Saint Signora, Share Studios, and Silk & Willow were the perfect canvas for the rest of the textural elements I incorporated: smooth vellum, wispy, carefree calligraphy, thick-yet-subtle strokes of paint, and dried flower petals. I also created some small hand-embossed details, and finished the whole suite off with minimal typeface.

Creating this suite was definitely out of my comfort zone! I usually specialize in more simple styles and rely on my illustrations to add that extra touch of je ne sais quoi. Using more texture and loosening up my calligraphy style were huge growth opportunities for me. However, I found myself learning just as much on the day of the workshop as I did while I created the stationery! I picked up film photography tidbits from Jake and his attendees, and I loved watching each photographer style stationery in her own unique way. It was so refreshing to watch other people working with my stationery instead of styling and photographing it myself! 

Ashley Fox, a wonderfully talented floral designer, was another huge source of knowledge and inspiration on that day. Ashley has spent lots of time in the wedding industry, has developed a clear style and voice in her work, and has creativity galore. Her words of wisdom and kind instruction were so valuable! I'm grateful to Jake for bringing together so many wonderful humans and creating an environment that fosters learning and improvement. An environment that brings loads of creatives together and then requires them to use and increase their skills is a wonderful thing indeed.

Photography: Jake Anderson / Event Planner: Blush & Whim / Florals: Ashley Fox Designs / Model: Allison Brown / Dress: Mira Zwillinger / Makeup: Heather Trachsel / Hair: Leah Anderson / Table Linens: Shasta Bell / Ceramics: Dust & Form / Styling Surfaces: Pilgrim & Co

Inn at Barley Sheaf, New York

The East Coast is, without a doubt, one of the most romantic and lovely areas of America. The rich history, the plentiful trees, and the gorgeous architecture all contribute to the beauty of this part of our country. When Kayla Barker contacted me and asked if I wanted to create some stationery for a New York styled shoot she was doing, it was a no brainer! This shoot captures everything I love about the East Coast: historic buildings, stunning trees (in early autumn colors, no less), and rambling country scenery. Pair that with a gorgeous Sarah Seven dress, incredibly lush florals, and breathtaking autumn light, and you have the perfect recipe for some stunning wedding inspiration!

I wanted the stationery for this shoot to be very classic and elegant. I decided to use soft white handmade paper as the backdrop for everything, and used only one other color to keep things simple. I knew that the florals were going to be a big part of this shoot, so I chose to use big, ruffly, romantic peonies to compliment the calligraphy in the invitation suite. I tied a delicate silk ribbon around the main invitation and sealed it with rose-pressed white wax, then finished off with distinguished presidential stamps. 

I couldn't be more obsessed with the marbled fondant covering the wedding cake, and I love the way the cool blue tones contrast with the greens and rusty colors in the seeded eucalyptus! The jasmine vines wrapped around the chair (and also in the bouquet) add such a whimsical and garden-y feel to the whole thing.

This whole shoot just felt like a fairytale! From the flowy dress to the blue and pink tones to the beautiful colonial-style inn, everything was utterly magical. I'm so glad my stationery could be a part of it!

Photography: Kayla Barker Photography / Photography Mentoree: Christina Piombetti / Design & Florals: Sebesta Design / Venue: Inn At Barley Sheaf / Dress Courtesy of: The Dress Theory / Dress Designer: Sarah Seven / Chairs and Rentals: Dove Tail Rentals / Hair and Make-Up: Janelle on Location / Model: Wilhelmina Philadelphia / Ring: Susie Saltzman / Cake: Queen Bee Pastry / Ribbons: Frou Frou Chic

Pacific Northwest Collaboration

Sometimes, you find a photographer, and their images just speak to you. There is something about them that is magical, moving, and completely emotive, and you're hooked. That is what happened to me when I saw Alyssa Wilcox's photography. I loved the way she captured moments and images, the way she edited, all of it. I knew I had to work with her! Funnily enough, she contacted me at the exact same time I was going to contact her, and we quickly decided on a collaboration!

I have mentioned before that I absolutely love collaborations, because they give me the freedom to do whatever I want with an invitation suite. This case was no different, and it was oh-so-refreshing to put into reality a suite that had been floating around in my mind for awhile. I used Arpa Handmade Paper in several hues, custom-mixed watercolor ink, vellum, and Silk and Willow twine. I am totally obsessed with vellum; I love the way it adds depth and layering within an invitation, and in this particular suite, I love how bits of the text underneath interact with the illustration on the translucent vellum. The whole thing is sealed with copper wax and pressed with a rose stamp I designed.

When these photos arrived in my inbox, they quite literally took my breath away. When I receive images of my stationery, I am used to seeing it all perfectly styled, wonderful and portfolio-perfect, but without a story. And indeed, it had never occurred to me that there might be a story behind styling stationery before! But, Alyssa captured not only beautifully styled paper goods, but also the story behind it. I felt like I was there in the room, watching as the invitations were laid this way and that. I could almost smell the delicate fragrance of the flowers, and feel the velvet paper with its softly deckled edges and buttery smooth wax seal.

Alyssa also talked her friend Carey, of BleedFoot Florals, into providing some flora for the shoot. The perfect selection of delicate flowers Carey chose, as well as the way she carefully styled each bloom and leaf with the paper, floored me! I can't stop starting at the florals in each photo, and yet, despite all their beauty, they somehow manage to compliment the stationery, rather than detract from it.

I feel so, so blessed to be able to work with talented artists of all kinds all over the USA. This collaboration is the perfect example of why! Alyssa and Carey, you blew me away. 

Photography: Alyssa Wilcox / Florals: BleedFoot Florals

Big Sur, California

Big Sur is renowned for its beauty. The rugged cliffs, the miles of beach stretching out into the endless ocean...it's one of the most memorable and mystical coastlines in America. It's the perfect setting for a wild, free spirited, and organic photoshoot.

The sun flares, soft, misty ocean light, and wide expanses of sand and water make this, quite simply, the most dramatic and exquisite shoot I have been a part of. The natural beauty of the area shines on everything else around it, casting a glow upon everything it touches.

The invitation suite is meant to be just as organic and free-spirited. Created on handmade paper in dull blue-grey ink, the suite captures some of the natural, wild beauty of Big Sur. Each piece of stationery is decorated with whimsical foliage illustration and hand-dipped in steely watercolor paint, which recalls the rushing waves of the ocean. 

The envelope liner of the suite is a hand-painted watercolor ocean scene reminiscent of the landscape that inspired it. The style is soft and painterly, the colors of the ocean and sky meld and blend together, and smudged white highlights create the impression of rolling waves.

I honestly don't have much more to say about this shoot, because the photos speak for themselves. Why try to add beauty through words when there is so much beauty present already? Big Sur, you are pure magic.

Photograpy: Kayla Barker Photography / Photography Mentee: Jennifer Clapp Photography / Design: Spreading Lovely / Florals: Michelle Lywood / Venue: Big Sur Bakery / Dress Courtesy of: The Dress Theory / Dress Designer: Bo & Luca / Hair and Make-Up: Beauty by M / Model: Diana Rykun / Rings: Trumpet & Horn / Cake: Lana Yarkin / Runner: Silk & Willow / Ribbons: Frou Frou Chic

Brittany Village, Berkeley, CA

When you step into the Brittany Village District of Berkeley, CA, you might feel as though you've walked straight out of Northern California and landed in Europe, instead. The streets are lined with Tudor-style houses, and the streets are curved and rambling. Pair that with a soft blush dress, a garden-style bouquet complete with ferns and wild strawberries, and two gorgeous models, and you have a recipe for a stunning styled shoot! 

When Natalie Papova of Styled and Inspired asked me to create a botanically themed invitation suite for this shoot, I couldn't have been more excited. I started out with clean and modern black typeface on crisp white paper, but softened the look with hand-painted, delicate watercolor foliage and shimmery champagne calligraphy. Vintage stamps in various shades of green added to the character of the suite, and a sharp black wax seal was the perfect finishing touch!

This styled shoot was so elegant, yet effortless, classic, but with the perfect modern twist. It was a pleasure to work with such a talented team, and I can't wait for more shoots in the future!!

Vendors: Photographer: YourDreamPhoto / Scans: PhotoVision Prints / Creative Direction + Styling: Natalie Papova of Styled and Inspired / Florals: Amanda Vidmar Design / HMUA: Beauty by Jasmine Chan / Models: Sami Swanson and Jeffrey Dean Moran

Esther Clark Co: An Artists' History

I’ve always loved art, ever since I was a little girl. My mom tells me that when I was young, I didn’t like coloring books; I preferred to draw my own outlines and then color the picture in. Some of my best memories are molding dollhouse-sized food out of clay, drawing horse after horse after horse, illustrating my own “books,” and learning how to shade with a pencil.

When I entered fifth grade, I forgot about art a little because I started playing the clarinet. Music took over my free time, especially once I entered high school. Art was such an impractical avenue to pursue, so I turned my attention to English and clarinet (although I’m not sure how much more practical that was, in hindsight!). I didn’t really return to art until my senior year in high school, when I picked up Photography I and Drawing I as an easy way to fill in my schedule. It didn’t take much; as soon as I was back with my art supplies and connected to a creative community, I was hooked.

I did major in art, and the more I learned, the more I yearned to experiment and grow as a creative. I dabbled in nearly everything: painting, photography, sculpture, drawing, and printmaking, and even considered taking my art history courses further into some sort of museum career. Here are a few of my early art school pieces (the painting on the left is a study of one of Monet's Cliffs of Etretat paintings).

But when it came down to it, it was always the process of creating that truly fueled the flame in my heart. I fell in love with woodcuts; the feel of my tools carving the wood, the smell of the ink, the soft crispness of a beautifully made sheet of paper, the sight of my inked block rolling through the press, the success of seeing an image transferred smoothly from block to paper. I also fell in love with the darkroom, with seeing my images come slowly to life from a blank sheet of paper dipped into the correct chemicals. My senior show focused around black and white woodcuts - a huge influence in my work still - and photographs.

When I graduated, I didn’t really know where to go with my art. I worked as a receptionist for awhile, then found a job decorating wedding cakes (which served as my creative outlet). I worked at several different coffeeshops, and there - again - found inspiration and community that led me to spend more time creating. I decided I wanted to get a tattoo. I knew I wanted to draw it myself, so I spent time searching through image after image and finally settled on a black and white floral piece done mainly in delicate linework. As I carefully drew each line of my tattoo, I knew I had found my style. I loved sketching the curvy, gentle lines of each petal and leaf, and loved even more how they came to life when I added in shading. Two years after I graduated, I had a show at the coffeeshop I was working at and felt proud of my first cohesive body of work since college.

A year and a half later, I got married and decided to drop down to working four days a week, so that I could focus more on art. I had received commissions here and there, and cherished a dream of doing freelance artwork full time. I had no idea how to achieve my dream, but knew that the first step was to pour more of my time and effort into creating artwork. 

In June, we moved to Grand Rapids, MI. I faced a career change, didn’t know a soul except my husband, and had lots of extra time on my hands. If I’m ever going to take the plunge and do this, I said to myself, why not now? I started posting my work on my social media accounts, and I was determined to learn calligraphy in an effort to make myself more marketable (my first efforts are below! So funny to look back and see those). Slowly but surely, the commissions started coming in, my Instagram following started growing, and I became more refined in my technique. I started to build a brand for myself, launched a website, and began to market my work in earnest. My husband - who is ever so much more business-savvy than I am - helped me write a business plan, I set some goals, and I started learning how to turn my passion into a proper career.

A few months later, I had another show, this time at Madcap Coffee Company, where my husband was working. My body of work felt more cohesive than ever, and I decided to launch an online shop of prints created from the originals that were hanging at the cafe. By this time, I was down to working two days a week, and my goal of being a full-time freelancer finally seemed to be within reach! I was taking on branding and wedding clients - my ideal target market - as well as the tattoo designs and custom artwork commissions I had received at the start of my business.

We decided to move again that May, and as we left Grand Rapids for our hometown of Sioux Falls, SD, I faced questions I couldn’t answer. Sioux Falls would only be temporary, and our final destination was the Twin Cities; I wouldn’t need another job just yet, but should I look for one in Minnesota? How much could my business support us through our moves and the start of my husband's own business? I kept taking commissions and selling pieces through my shop, and tried to be content with waiting to see what would happen.

We settled into our St. Paul apartment in July, and I half-heartedly looked for part time jobs while we got accustomed to our new city. I met up with creatives in the Minneapolis area, started taking on more styled shoots, and built my portfolio. It soon became clear that I was too busy with my own business to really be able to get another job. I couldn’t believe it!! Here, four years after I had left college, I was pursuing my dream. I was a full time freelancer. To be honest, I still can’t believe it sometimes! Being in the Twin Cities has been such a gift; I’ve met so many wonderful creatives, been involved in some amazing collaborations, and been fueled so much by the community here. I still worry that there will come a time when I’m no longer receiving commissions - that there won’t be a place for me in the vast world of creative small business lady bosses - and it’s never easy not having a regular paycheck. But my heart is so full, and I take on every new project with so much joy and thankfulness.

My style is pretty well established now, although I am still experimenting with new things. For example, I started dabbling in watercolor over the summer, and have loved seeing how subtle color brings my florals to life.

I’ve received quite a few questions about my favorite materials lately, so I’d like to add some of those to this post. I’ll divide the supplies into three sections:

Black and White Illustration

When illustrating in black and white, I always use either printmaking or multimedia paper, usually Strathmore. I like to draw on something that has subtle texture, but also isn’t too rough - watercolor paper, for example, tends to break up the fine lines that I use to shade my florals. It’s also important to me that the paper is about 100 lb, so that it has some nice weight to it. I always start out with a pencil sketch - a mechanical pencil with high-quality lead is my favorite here, since the tip is more fine and pointed than lead in a wooden pencil - and then trace over my rough graphite lines with Micron pen. My favorites are the 01 and 005 - I use the larger tip for outlines and the smaller tip for detail work and shading.

Watercolor Illustration

In regards to watercolor illustration, paper is the most important thing. My favorite is watercolor paper by Arches. It’s more expensive than some other papers, but the quality is incredible! Most of my paints are Blick Artists' Watercolors, and my brushes are a mix of Princeton and Master’s Touch - usually round, to help blend easily and squeeze into small corners or areas of detail. Again, I always start out with a pencil sketch and trace over that with Micron pen. Adding color is the final step! In all honesty, I still have lots and lots to learn about watercolor - this was the one paint that we didn’t cover extensively in my art classes, so I’m self-taught and am not always confident in my technique.

Calligraphy

There are so many tools that I love to use for calligraphy. I strongly prefer oblique holders over straight holders. I have always used a simple Speedball plastic holder, although I hope to upgrade to a beautiful wooden model at some point in the future. My favorite nibs, in order of preference, are: Leonardt General, Blue Pumpkin, Leonardt Principle EF, and Nikko G. For black ink, I use Speedball, for white ink, I use Winsor & Newton, and for gold ink, I use the Finetec palette. Other favorites are walnut ink (so good!) and Iron Gall ink. I prefer to custom mix any other colors from watercolor paint, and I always thicken them with a small amount of gum arabic. 

Paper

Paper for calligraphy deserves a whole category by itself! My love affair with fine paper started in my freshman year of college and has stuck with me ever since. Some of my favorite brands, in no particular order, are:

Arpa Handmade - wide range of colors, lovely velvety texture, and so easy to write/print on.

Silk & Willow - beautiful, ruffly deckled edges, fine canvas-like texture, and also wonderfully easy to write/print on.

Fabulous Fancy Pants - gorgeous soft, fabric-like texture, perfect deckled edges, and excellent to print on (although not so easy to write on with a nib).

Share Studios - so unique, completely gorgeous, and superbly textured. Available in both shimmery whites/pastels and dark, rich colors. Perfect for stunning accent pieces.

These are all of my favorites, and my standbys when it comes to styled shoots and wedding invitation suites. You can’t go wrong with any of the above, and I’m sure there are plenty of other excellent companies out there that I haven’t discovered yet!

I think that covers everything, from my humble beginnings as an art-crazed toddler to my favorite tools of the trade today! I hope this post has been helpful and encouraging. To anyone out there who wants to start their own business - go for it. If I can do it, anyone can. I have the stereotypical artists’ personality: highly impractical, a little dazed and dreamy (think Luna Lovegood), scatterbrained, emotional, and very introverted. I never thought I could be where I am today, and I’m the first to admit that it’s due to so many other people as much as it’s due to my hard work. I’m forever thankful to my husband, who has supported me and helped me since before we even started dating. I’m so humbled by and grateful to each and every person who has ever commissioned something from me or purchased a print from my shop, because it is entirely due to them that my business survives. I'm so thankful for the thoughtful and thorough education I received from three very talented art professors, and I use pieces of the knowledge they passed on to me daily. And I’m so thrilled to be a part of an amazing community (both in Minneapolis/St. Paul and online) of talented artists that inspire, encourage, and motivate me daily. Without all of those people, my business wouldn’t exist. Most of all, I am thankful to God, who orchestrated my journey and chose to place the gift of creativity in my hands, then helped me to nourish and nurture it over the years. The freelance life isn’t always dream projects and pretty pictures - in fact, a lot of the time it’s about financial stress, late nights, and self-conscious doubting - but it is so. worth it. Every minute of panic and every hardship is worth it. I can’t wait to see where this wild ride takes me, and it’s my goal to cherish and drink in every second.

Thanks to BethCath, YourDreamPhoto, and Alyssa Wilcox for the above photos of my prints and wedding work.

2016: A Year in Summary

2016 was such a huge year for me. It started out in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which was the first place I had ever lived besides my hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Aaron and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary and started our second year of marriage in our new city, both of us in new jobs, 12 hours away from all of our friends and family. We experienced tremendous growth as a couple; being isolated from all we had ever known caused us to rely and depend on each other in whole new ways. Here are some photos from our wedding day - January 23, 2015, complete with our "unity pour-over" and the first wedding invitation suite I ever made: our own! It's so funny looking back on that and seeing how my style and process have changed.

2016 also saw the launch of my online shop, where I started to sell prints of original artwork I had created over the winter. My business and website launched in December of 2015, and by March I was excited to expand my scope from strictly client/commission work to retail, as well. Throughout the year I developed some card designs, expanded from solely black and white illustrations to watercolor pieces too, and also created my first botanical calendar! I'm so excited to develop more new products throughout this next year.

I worked with my first logo and branding clients as a professional business owner/designer, and was able to develop a process and several packages that I love. I'm so thankful to each and every one of the branding clients I've worked with: it's an incredible honor to create permanent artwork for your brands that will stick with you for years and years. I'll always be humbled by and so grateful for your decision to work with me!

At the beginning of fall, I launched a huge new project as a part of my shop: my semi-custom wedding invitations. There is so much thought, effort, time, and work (both design and logistical!) behind these suites, and they are definitely a product I am proud of. I learned so much about figuring out proper pricing, back-end website work, and persisting through frustration and exhaustion while creating these suites. I can't wait to see how 2017 brides use and customize them!

I was also ecstatic to work with a handful of brides this year, creating lasting and meaningful wedding stationery for their special days. Making wedding invitations and other paper pieces is so fulfilling and creatively stretching for me! Again, I feel so blessed to be working with people who trust me and appreciate my art enough to use it as part of such an important life event! After getting married myself and dwelling on that perfect day time and time again, creating wedding stationery for other lovely couples will always hold a special place in my heart.

This was the year of my first styled shoot, and the first time I saw my work published (both in print and online). I had the opportunity to work with so many amazing creatives and wedding vendors, and I am so happy I got to "meet" and collaborate with each of those people! Styled shoots are wonderful because they not only provide beautiful photographs of your work, but connect you so well within the industry and get your name/work out much farther than you ever could on your own. I also love styled shoots because they leave the artist with complete creative freedom (maybe with just a few limitations on color scheme and what pieces are needed). While I will always love working for clients, it's also so refreshing and important to sometimes be able to come up with my own vision for my work and then see it to completion. Creative freedom fuels my passion for what I do and rejuvenates me when I am feeling burnt out or tired, and is therefore a necessity for me throughout each year. To see each shoot in its entirety, look back through the archives of this blog!

We chose to move from Grand Rapids to St. Paul, Minnesota in late spring of 2016. Lots of factors went into our decision: we hated being so far from our friends and family in South Dakota, I wanted a larger and more developed creative community, and I had always wanted to live in the Twin Cities (it was the main destination of both of our high school/college road trips, lots of my extended family live here, and the art, food, and coffee scenes are all thriving). However, our biggest reason for the move was because my husband wanted to fulfill his years-long dream of opening his own coffeeshop. We had considered lots of possible locations over the years, but we always kept coming back to Minneapolis. The cafe hasn't opened yet, but keep a lookout for updates and announcements! Aaron's vision for this shop is wonderful, and you'll definitely want to check it out! Here's a preview of some of the design work for the cafe:

With our move came a new apartment: a beautiful one-bedroom space in historic St. Paul, complete with gleaming hardwood floors, antique built-ins, and crown moulding. I've never enjoyed decorating and styling a living space so much! It's been so much fun making this space our own, and I can't wait to continue doing that as long as we live here.

When we moved into our new apartment, I insisted on getting a pet! Anyone who knows me at all knows that I am totally dog-obsessed, but any animal can easily work its way into my heart. Our landlord doesn't allow dogs, so we decided to get a bunny! Cromwell is a seven-month-old Flemish Giant rabbit, and he is hilarious. We get endless entertainment from watching his silly antics and amusing mannerisms. He's so soft, snuggly, and cute - really pretty impossible not to love.

This past year was so full. We moved across the country, both started our own businesses, adjusted to life in a new city, got a pet, and Aaron started a new job. We have been through periods of extreme change and busyness, and it hasn't always been easy. However, while it's been the most challenging year of my life, it's also been the most exciting and fulfilling. I can't imagine a better gift than life lived with Aaron by my side. I couldn't be more grateful that I get to do what I love every day for a living. And I couldn't be more in love with the vibrant, diverse, and exciting city we live in! Things haven't always gone according to plan - in fact, our lives look so very different now than we thought they would. But I've never felt more clearly that God's plan is greater than ours, that he loves and cares for us perfectly, and that he teaches us good and valuable lessons in trust and dependence through years like these. At the end of 2016, my heart is so full. I couldn't be more excited to see what's to come in 2017!

Credits:

Wedding Photos: BethCath

Portfolio Photos and Semi-Custom Suite Photos: BethCath

Selections of Styled Shoots from: YourDreamPhoto, Emilie Anne Szabo, Emily Kirke Photography, Alyssa Wilcox Photography, Kayla Barker Photography, and Jake Anderson Photography

Glamping in Northern Minnesota

Back in August, I had the opportunity to work on stationery for my first styled shoot! I was so excited, and also a little nervous. I so badly wanted to capture the essence of the mood in the art I created, and I poured lots of time and effort into each piece. The team was incredible, and the shoot was to be published in MyWedding Magazine. I had never seen my work in print before, and I couldn't wait for December to roll around!

The theme of the shoot was "glamping." I didn't - and still don't - know much about glamping, but the resulting photos are so, so gorgeous. The table is rustic, yet so elegant, overflowing with lush florals and smooth candles. There are sheer, flowy tents, bohemian details, and classy bridesmaids dressed all in white. Every last detail - from the gorgeous tablescape to the delectable s'mores - is perfect.

I wanted this invitation suite to feel every bit as organic and elegant as the rest of the shoot, so I used understated, graceful foliage illustration and free-flowing walnut ink calligraphy. Everything is hand-done on Meredith Spradley's soft, fabric-like paper. I painted in shimmery gold detail here and there throughout the illustration, and finished the suite off with green vintage stamps and a gold wax seal. The hand-drawn letters and delicate illustration really create the natural feel I was going for!

And can we please just talk about how amazing Jake Anderson's photography is?! The soft film texture and the stunning way he captures light is breathtaking.

I could not have dreamt for a better team or concept to work with on my first styled shoot! This suite is still one of my favorites, and I feel so honored to have been a part of such a lovely set of images. If you want to see the photos in print, pick up MyWedding Magazine's spring issue!

Photography: Jake Anderson / Styling and Planning: Blush & Whim / Florals: Munster Rose / Event Rentals: Collected Rentals / Desserts: North Mallow / Hair: Julie Swenson Beauty / Dress: The White Room / Tux: The Black Tux

Autumn in Elko, Minnesota

I've participated in a fair number of styled shoots at this point, and almost all of them have been far away. I love sending out my finished stationery and imagining it on the coast of California, somewhere in the historic East Coast area, or off in Mexico. But as much as the destinations of my paper goods tempt the wanderlust in me, I also found myself wishing I could actually experience a styled shoot, rather than simply seeing the photos that are the result.

The perfect opportunity came to me earlier this autumn, when the talented team from Maven Events here in Minneapolis asked if I wanted to be a part of a foraging-themed rehearsal dinner shoot in the picturesque town of Elko. Of course I said yes, and was so excited! They had such a perfect vision for the shoot that included some very unique elements for me to work on, and I couldn't wait.

One of the paper pieces Maven asked me to create was a cocktail recipe! I really enjoyed not only creating illustration and calligraphy for this suite, but also experimenting with different fonts as elements of the overall design. 

When it came to creating the invitation suite, I wanted to really capture the earthy, foraged feel the shoot was going to have. I used creamy white handmade paper and rich brown ink paired with wild, reaching branches of foliage and a left-aligned text. I normally stick to center-aligned designs, but I wanted to experiment on the overall layout as well as with different fonts. I used a blue-grey envelope with coordinating vintage stamps for the main envelope, and created an RSVP envelope out of stunning feather and kozo paper by the amazing Share Studios. The final touch was an antique gold wax seal, pressed with a foliage stamp I designed.

The beautiful natural light, sumptuously laid table, and gorgeous linens and dishes were all so perfect! We all had a difficult time restraining ourselves from nibbling on the bread and hand pies provided by The Copper Hen!

One of the Maven girls had a really great vision for a specific part of the shoot, and this was the main reason I actually got to go along. We took a variety of foods and placed them on butcher paper, and then I hand-lettered labels alongside each individual item. It's so fun for me to see my own work in action; I've never had photos taken of me while I work before! I loved the way this turned out!

The final piece I created for this shoot was a vendor list. Once again, the Maven team was full of wonderfully unique ideas! I loved that they thought of a vendor list, and hope that I am able to make more for shoots in the future! 

Photography: Kristen Dyer / Venue: Krista Reynolds / Planning and Styling: Maven Events / Florals: Maven Floral / Dessert and Bread: The Copper Hen / Accouterments: Williams Sonoma / Place Settings: General Store of Minnetonka

Farm and Garden Estate, Connecticut

Although I've only been in the summer, I have heard countless times that the East Coast in the autumn is spectacular. This styled shoot took place in Connecticut, and it certainly made me long for a fall East Coast road trip more than ever before! The shoot is earthy, organic, and full of rich, autumnal color; the perfect set of photos to share at Thanksgiving! There are so many talented vendors that pulled together to create this shoot, and it turned out so beautifully! There is a lush, textural bouquet full of gorgeous peach roses and burgundy dahlias. The table is laden with a sumptuous feast of farm-to-table goodness: cheese, bread, berries, cocktails, and a stunning pomegranate-topped cake. The dress is full of lace, the models are beautiful, and the estate is absolutely gorgeous!

When creating this invitation suite, I wanted to keep the dark, moody fall tones in mind, as well as let my decisions be inspired by the natural, earthy theme of the shoot. I used cream handmade paper, hand-mixed burgundy ink, thin Saint Signora paper twine, and a soft green watercolor crest to add a delicate feel. I used black envelopes for contrast, and lined them with beautiful Share Studios kozo blend feather paper. The final touches were red-toned vintage stamps from Vintage Postage Shop, gold wax seals, and shimmery hand-written calligraphy on the envelopes.

I also created a menu for this shoot, and used black abaca paper and gold ink for consistency with the invitation suite. This paper is also from Share Studios, and I cannot say enough good things about it! If you are a handmade paper geek like I am, you have to purchase some items from Share. The textures, colors, and overall quality are incredible.

This invitation suite was a bit out of my comfort zone; I usually stick with light neutrals and cool tones, and hardly ever venture into warmer hues. But I absolutely loved working with burgundy, black, and gold, and I am so pleased with the way this suite turned out! I hope you enjoyed looking through these photos as much as I did.

Photography: Emily Kirke Photography / Event Planning: Gathered Vintage / Florals: Jakkelyn Iris / Dress Courtesy of: Everthine Bridal Boutique / Dress Designer: Romantique by Claire Pettibone / Rentals: NECR Rental & Design / Hairpiece: Emma Katzka Bridal / Jewelry: Local Eclectic / Model: Amy Brandi / Hair and Make-Up: Upstyle / Cake: Erica O'Brien

Collaboration with Emilie Anne Szabo

As an artist who works mostly on a commission/client basis, it's not often that I get to call the shots and make all of my own decisions about a piece of artwork. I absolutely adore working with clients to make their creative visions come to life - there is nothing like it, and I'm grateful every single day that this is the work I do! However, as is true in so much of life, balance is essential, and I find that my creative juices flow so much more freely if I make sure to create for myself sometimes. 

This collaboration with Emilie Anne Szabo was a breath of fresh air for me! I have followed Emilie's photography for a long time, and have always been inspired by her simple, organic styling and impeccable taste. So when I moved to St. Paul and realized she was only a city away, I had to reach out and see if she'd be interested in collaborating! I was thrilled when she said yes, and the resulting shoot was so. much. fun.

I came up with a simple, elegant invitation suite inspired by minimalism and simple, delicate lines. I decided on relatively plain type and un-fussy calligraphy, and chose to stay within a black and white color palette. I added some interest with champagne calligraphy on the envelopes and presidential stamps that the post office recently came out with. 

However, the element that really makes the whole suite is the vellum overlay! I used a lovely marbled vellum, and carefully drew delicate poppies in a graceful pattern all over the paper, creating a wrapper that I tied with Silk and Willow twine. Emilie paired the invitation suite with some amazing, textural greens from her garden and blushing bride proteas, a personal favorite from my florist days! She used several different backgrounds, one a gorgeous white and grey marble, and the other a dark grey linen. 

As Emilie shot, we chatted about art and life, sipped on tea, and snacked on clementines. It was so refreshing to not only be able to follow my own creative vision for the invitations, but also to spend time with another artist and create something beautiful together just for the joy of it! If you haven't checked out Emilie's work yet, you definitely want to. She is so talented, and her portfolio is full of inspiration! See more here.

Finca El Rosario, Mexico

Creating an invitation suite for this beautiful, colorful styled shoot in Mexico was a dream. This was one of my first styled shoots ever, and it was such a good way to get started on my journey collaborating with other creatives!

This dress, though. Can you believe all that stunning beaded detail?! I'm completely obsessed.

When creating the invitation suite for this shoot, I tapped into the lush landscape and earthy tones of Finca El Rosario, while also considering the beautiful detailing of the table scape and wedding dress Maria had chosen. I kept the overall feel of the suite fairly neutral, but hand-painted in touches of shimmery gold ink to add interest and a little glamour. I used a watery grey ink and soft grey stamps to compliment the beautiful beading of the wedding dress. The simple gold edging on the envelopes was one of my favorite things about the whole suite!

All in all, this was such a wonderful concept, and is still one of the most unique shoots that I've been a part of! Check it out - and hear Maria's take on everything - on Utterly Engaged!

Photography & Concept Maria Corona Photography | Location Finca El Rosario | Wedding Planner Paula Balderas | Floral Designer Paulina Soberon Flower Studio | Wedding Gown Natalie Wynn Design | Grooms Suit Galo Bertin | Groom’s styling for Galo Bertin Nabila Hurtado | Valeria García | Desserts & Cake Chef Silvana Zanella | Decor Rentals Diez14 | Jewerly The Land of Salt | Calligraphy & Invitations Esther Clark | Hair & Makeup Artist Denise Ibarra

Bonnie + David

Bonnie is one of those brides who has simply impeccable taste. She and David had a New York City wedding complete with stunning views, beautiful weather, and a magical brick and ivy venue filled with twinkle lights. The sweet love Bonnie and David share is so evident! Each element of the wedding was thoughtfully planned, so that the day melded together into a mirage of soft greys, joyful smiles, white lace, romantic florals, and tender kisses. It was such a pleasure to create some stationery for this sweet couples' wedding day!

The first piece I created was an illustrated map of the venue and nearby NYC locations, such as iconic Central Park and the striking Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge. I loved illustrating each of the three locations and their beautiful architecture.

The couple also ordered a seating chart for their reception. Bonnie had a unique vision for the seating chart: instead of writing everything on one big piece of material, she asked for the guests' names to be grouped alphabetically and listed on separate cards. Gorgeous grey linen acts as the background for the cards, tying in with the theme of gentle textures and soft, muted tones. Finally, Bonnie requested place cards in antique gold calligraphy, which were written on long, elegant rectangular tent cards. The place cards were complemented by large gold and cream table numbers.

Bonnie had a wonderfully clear and artfully curated vision for her wedding, and it couldn't be clearer how much she and David enjoyed their day. It was an honor to create pieces for this special couple! See more of their wedding on Style Me Pretty.

Photographer: Sawyer Baird / Venue: The Foundry / Florals: Designs By Ahn / Cake: Baked NYC / Dress: Monique Ihuillier / Hair and Makeup: Agata Zmudka + Sachiko Yanase

Show at Madcap Coffee

It's hard to believe that Aaron and I have been living in Michigan for nine months now – almost a whole year in our new city! We've settled in well, and I'm forever thankful for the experience of moving, partially because it gave me the push I needed to delve deeper into the style of artwork I have been dabbling in for the past three years.

When we moved, I needed to get a new job (obviously), and I had no idea what that job should be. I applied for everything, from administrative assistant positions to bakeries to flower shops. For our first month in Grand Rapids, I didn't have a job. 90% of our possessions were still in South Dakota, so it was just me and a hotel room – or me and an empty apartment – for those first few weeks while Aaron was away at work. Even when I did find a job, I worked less than forty hours a week, so I had plenty of spare time on my hands. I had carried a few commissions over from South Dakota when we moved, so I worked on those, and before I knew it, I was creating detailed botanical drawings whenever I had the chance.

By the time October rolled around, I knew that I wanted to pursue being a freelance illustrator and calligrapher with as much energy as I could muster. With my patient husband's help, I came up with a business plan and started putting it into action. Luckily for me, starting up as a part time freelancer is basically risk-free financially, so I knew that I didn't really have anything to lose. In December, I launched my website and was officially available for business! Since then, I have been surely and steadily getting more and more clients, and I'm completely thrilled. Working creatively and being my own boss is so fulfilling and fun!

Since we moved, we've also fallen in love with Aaron's place of work, which is Madcap Coffee Company. Aaron attended Calvin College here in Grand Rapids for a few semesters and first discovered Madcap while he was a student. He was impressed with their coffee and their beautiful downtown space, but most of all by their customer service. So, when we saw that they had a job opening, we knew he had to apply! He has learned so much, and I have loved watching him grow. We've also been incredibly thankful for his coworkers, who have become friends and the closest thing we have to family in Michigan!

I'm thrilled to have my artwork up at Madcap this month! I haven't done a solo show since college, and it's so exciting to see everything matted and framed and on the walls. Madcap's minimalistic, light, and open space is the perfect background for my black and white illustrations. It's been a lot of work preparing for this show; I've done twenty three pieces in total, two of which are quite large at 18 x 24 inches, and it's so rewarding to have it all finished and up for viewing. I wanted to write this post as a way to give our family and any friends who aren't in Grand Rapids the chance to see the show second-hand! Stay tuned for more new things coming in the next few months:)

illustration & calligraphy

It has been a terribly long time since I posted anything on here. I'm happy to say that the reason for my absence is that I've been kept busy with custom artwork! I've been doing lots of tattoo designs for people; my black and white, vintage-botanical style lends itself very well to tattoos. And as I loved designing all of my own, I'm very happy to work on pieces for other people! 

I also created some signs for my best friend's baby shower. I can't wait to meet her darling little boy!

As I wrote about in my last post, I've found a lot of joy in calligraphy lately. I'm looking forward to doing wedding stationary for some beautiful brides in the next few months, and I've been getting plenty of practice in so I can write as well as possible for their big days! I created a styled shoot in order to really picture my calligraphy in a wedding day setting. Here are a few of my favorite shots:

As always, I am accepting commissions, and not just for tattoo designs or wedding stationary! I love to hear ideas and work with you to create one-of-a-kind pieces; original drawings, prints, logos, special text, and more. If you have any questions or thoughts, please drop me a line at estherrclark.art@gmail.com!

Calligraphy/Hand Lettering

Way back in eighth grade, I was in ULE at my Sioux Falls middle school. We had quite a few options of classes to take, and one quarter, I chose calligraphy. I spent my lunch hour once a week learning the basics of making beautiful script. 

It has been over ten years since I took that calligraphy class, but I still love the art of beautifully crafted handwriting. Since moving to Michigan, I have had more regular hours and more time to spend on creating outside of my job. I've done several hand lettering projects in the past year or so, but in the past few weeks I've started practicing a lot more. And it's been a BLAST. Paired with the vintage-style flowers and leaves I love drawing, hand lettering is one of my new favorite things. Here are a few little pieces....plan on seeing more in the future! These will be added to my Etsy shop; watch for them if you are interested.

Lake Michigan

Aaron and I have never been hugely outdoorsy people. I have only been camping once in my entire life, and we aren't particularly athletic individuals! However, when we moved to Grand Rapids, we realized we were suddenly only 45 minutes away from a lake the size of a small ocean, and our interest in the outdoors instantly became deeper.

Our first trip to the lake, we went to Saugutuck Dunes beach on a Sunday evening to watch the sunset. As we sat on our bench and witnessed the sun slowly slipping down past the horizon, I fell in love with the immense, majestic lake and the wild dunes and forest surrounding it. I have never been much of a beach person, to be honest, but this one captured my heart. It reminded me of the beaches I have visited with my family in England; cool, windy, and forested, with multiple dunes and ridges instead of flat stretches of sand.

The sunset-watching part of our first lake trip was magical. However, the night didn't end as well as it had started. At Saugutuck, there is a small forest that one has to hike through in order to get to the lake. The forest was well-lit with beautifully filtered sunlight when we hiked to the beach, so we didn't even think about what it would be like to walk back in the dark. It was definitely dusk by the time we started our hike back to the car, and the forest was black. We took a wrong turn somewhere along the way and didn't realize it until we emerged from the woods into an open field, which was clearly NOT where we had parked our car. 

We spent the next fifteen minutes or so trying to find our bearings and figure out how to get back to the car. We set out again along the only trail in sight, hoping it would lead us closer to where we needed to be! I was a little bit nervous, but I also had full faith in my husband's ability to get us safely back to the parking lot. There was still a glimmer of light on the horizon, and I was hopeful. 

We wandered until we came across a giant brick house and started to wonder afresh how we were going to find our way back. It turned out that we had accidentally stumbled across the Felt Mansion, a beautiful, stately old home that has now been turned into a popular wedding and reception venue.  

At this point, though, I was starting to get worried. The sun was all the way down, night was settling in fast, and we had no idea where we were. We also didn't have great cell phone service. In my moment of panic, I started freaking out a little bit and worried that we would end up spending our night sleeping on the side of the road. Ha. Aaron started walking again and said he was pretty sure he knew how to get us back to the car now. I asked if he was positive, to which he responded, "no!" How comforting, Aaron. 

But since we didn't really have an option, we set off. We had to walk all the way out to the highway, follow that for awhile, and then take the turn onto the same street that had led us into the state park area earlier, when we were in our car. The parking lot came into view and I could have almost cried in relief! 

Fortunately, since that time, we have not gotten lost again at Saugutuck! We've enjoyed the beach both in the burning afternoon sunlight and again in the cool of sunset. And even though my first Lake Michigan experience was a little bit traumatic, it has only deepened my affection for it, if anything. I am looking forward to many more lake trips!

Spaghetti with Garlic, Parsley, and Sausage

When living the gluten and dairy free life, it's not easy to sit down and enjoy a big, hearty bowl of delicious pasta. Eating at Italian restaurants is almost impossible, and it's difficult to find recipes for homemade sauces that are free from butter, cream, and cheese.

Enter my next recipe challenge: flavorful, satisfying noodles that would make my tastebuds happy without causing my abdomen to kill me later. I got my inspiration for this recipe from the movie "Chef." If you haven't seen it yet, you definitely should! It's an amazing movie about the life of a talented but struggling chef who completely remakes his life through a food truck and the use of social media. It's full of humor, memorable characters, and mouth-watering food. Basically, it's the perfect feel-good movie!

When I watched Chef for the first time, there was one scene in particular that stuck with me. It shows the main character frying thinly sliced garlic in a puddle of olive oil, adding a mound of pasta and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes to the pan, and finishing off the dish with fresh parsley and a dash of lemon juice. I was practically drooling by the end of the scene and knew I had to try the dish for myself!

When I first made this recipe, I did not yet know I couldn't eat gluten. So I bought the highest-quality ingredients I could find (quality is important, in a recipe so simple) and happily whipped up pasta that closely resembled the dish in the movie.

After making drastic changes to my diet, I didn't know if I'd be able to enjoy this recipe again. But I've tweaked it a bit, and come up with a slightly different dish that I'm happy with. The biggest change I needed to make was finding the right gluten-free pasta. I've tried quite a few types and brands, and I've discovered that noodles made from a blend of corn and rice are my favorite (Aaron agrees - neither of us can tell much of a difference at all from normal wheat pasta). I usually buy Barilla brand because it is also the cheapest! 

I am also not able to tolerate garlic very well now. Although I LOVED the delicate, crispy garlic chips the original pasta recipe used, I knew I had to get rid of them. My solution? Start the recipe the same way - slice up a few cloves of garlic as thinly as possible and fry them until golden in olive oil - but I strained the chips out at the end and just used the garlic-infused oil. It still tastes enough of garlic to impart good flavor to the dish! I save the garlic chips and offer them to Aaron, since he can eat them without difficulty. 

Then, to make up for the loss of some of the garlic flavor and texture, I added sausage to the recipe. You could use pork sausage if you prefer, but turkey sausage is much lighter and always sits better in both of our stomachs than pork sausage does. I cook the meat in part of the garlic-infused oil in order to make as much use of the garlic flavor as possible. The addition of meat also makes this meal much heartier, which is great for those with larger appetites, like my husband. :)

Since this recipe was already naturally dairy-free, those were the only changes I needed to make! This pasta is now one of our go to meals. It's reasonable, simple, and delicious! Don't let the short ingredient list fool you; this dish is packed with flavor and texture. The pasta is chewy and smooth, the red pepper flakes add heat, the meat adds salty richness, the fresh lemon gives wonderful acidity, and the parsley creates a nice crunch and a gorgeous pop of color. It's also a very flexible recipe. I never measure, so the recipe below uses estimates. The level of spice is easily controlled by the amount of red pepper flakes you add; you can also add the parsley according to taste. Make sure you buy high-quality olive oil and use real lemon - the quality of the overall recipe really relies on the quality of each individual ingredient.  

RECIPE

12 oz rice/corn blend gluten free spaghetti

1/4 C extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

3 - 4 cloves garlic

1 lb turkey or pork sausage

1 - 2 tsp red pepper flakes

1 lemon

Handful of chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley

Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions. I always heavily salt my water to season the pasta, and I also add a small dash of olive oil to the water to prevent the noodles from sticking to each other. While the pasta cooks, pour the olive oil into a large sauté pan and warm over medium heat. Peel and slice the garlic cloves as thinly as possible, then add to the hot oil. Fry until golden brown on both sides - watch closely, because it can turn dark very fast! Pour the oil out of the pan, straining out the garlic chips, and save the oil. Add just enough oil (a few teaspoons should do) back into the pan for cooking the meat. Add your meat of choice to the pan and cook until brown. The pasta will be finished cooking by the time your meat is in the pan - drain and set aside until the meat is cooked. Drizzle the noodles with a little bit of oil to prevent them from sticking together. When the meat is done, cool the pan slightly and pour the spaghetti back in. Add red pepper flakes according to your heat preference and toss with the noodles and meat. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze both halves over pasta, tossing again. Roughly chop the leafy portion of the parsley bunch, discarding the stems. Sprinkle a generous handful of parsley over the pasta and toss one more time. Make sure pasta is heated through, then serve immediately, drizzling each portion with olive oil.

Enjoy!