This year was surprising in the best of ways. I like to keep my expectations low and my goals manageable–a bit of self-preservation so I don’t get too disappointed. This year, I either set my goals too low in January, or I just lucked out. Either way, I’m delighted with how the year turned out!
At the beginning of 2019, I wanted to stay realistic. I didn’t plan on anything too big for The Nerd Lady. I figured I would build up my blog and online presence. I was working on that with book reviews and a few “evergreen” posts about crafting and lettering–until two big turning points happened: an opportunity to be a vendor at a school Comic Book Fest, and the chance to be a founding teacher for American Studies at my school.
I lucked out with the Comic Book Fest. As an introvert and busy toddler mom, I never imagined I would want to sit at a weekend event, hoping and wishing and waiting for people to come by and like my stuff. But the festival coordinator found me on Etsy, invited me, and it was free. The stakes were low, so I figured why not? And I loved it. I loved it so much that I signed up for three more arts and crafts fairs this year. The North Texas Wine and Beer Music Festival was the biggest and most exciting.
I closed the year with two back-to-back school festivals, right when I was drowning in end-of-semester essays to grade. That was a test of how much I could handle at once–and I survived!
I love the high of being a vendor at a festival. The rush to get things set up in time for the event, the anxiety of waiting for buyers, then the flood of relief and joy when you meet people who “get” you. It’s exhilarating. It also added to my inventory this year and help me build up my online storefronts. I created digital designs for stickers and posters. The extras went up on my Etsy, and the digital pieces all went to my Society6 and Redbubble stores.
I am so very grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had this year. Thanks to friends, relatives, and followers, my nights were joyfully consumed by projects that grew me as an artist. I now have new skills under my belt thanks to you wonderful people. Here are a few of my favorites:
Dinosaurs Didn’t Read
A HUGE shout out to my librarian for commissioning this chalkboard piece. It was so popular that I turned it into a digital design. It’s been one of my most successful pieces ever since.
Kalleigh Ryan – I Love You to the Moon and Back
I learned how to paint on a chalkboard AND how to ship off a large piece! It prepared me for other large pieces that needed to be mailed later in the year. (Behind the Scenes Blog Post)
The Peter Pan Canvas That Almost Wasn’t
I almost gave up on this one. I didn’t think I could do it. And then I did. And it felt amazing. (Behind the Scenes Blog Post)
The Khan Wedding
This was a huge project that I was so very happy to do! I still need to blog about the whole experience. I had to convince the bride that doing this huge mirror was actually fun for me, and no, she was not inconveniencing me by asking me to do it. Y’all. I almost didn’t get to do this:
AND AREN’T WE ALL GLAD I GOT TO DO IT?!
Custom Handlettered Ornaments
I started too late with ornaments in 2018. I committed to starting at the right time this year, and I waited all year to launch in November. I’m so glad I was ready this time! I absolutely loved creating ornaments for friends and followers this year! I even offered live lettering on ornaments at my December arts and crafts fairs. By the end of the day of one event, a kid ran by and asked, “ARE YOU THE ORNAMENT LADY?” Why yes, child, yes. I am, in fact, The Ornament Lady. hahaha!
And finally, my babies, Literary Skulls, actually took off this year.
For those of you who have been following my lettering journey since I started in 2017, you were there when I launched my first Literary Skulls. They were my first pieces on Etsy: three white papier-mache skulls with “Alas! Poor Yorick!” in gold lettering. I thought they were going to be HUGE. They weren’t. No one bought them, and I took the listing off after a while. (And I guess I was so embarrassed by the failure that I archived the original Instagram post… so here are this year’s skulls instead.)
I tried them out again while I was preparing for the Wine and Beer Fest. I needed more pieces to sell… I found spare papier-mache skulls at the last minute and–once again–figured why not? They ended up being just the right kind of lure for my kind of bookish weirdos, not just at the festival, but on Instagram and my Etsy store. I finally found the people who understood my desire to put book quotes on skulls. I found my people.
My other turning point this year was related to my day job. I am now teaching what is pretty much my dream job: American Studies, a GT interdisciplinary course that mixes AP US History and AP Language and Composition. This is the first year of the course on our campus and in our district, which means we get quite a bit of creative autonomy when it comes to putting the course together. I have loved every bit of creating content for this course… but it has been exhausting. Unlike my other A/B-day classes, American Studies meets every day. Which means we have to create 90 minute lessons every day. In case you haven’t had to make presentations and activities for adolescents–that’s a lot. I have gladly given much of my creative energy to this class this year… it just meant that my blog and other creative goals had to take a back seat when the school year started.
After school started in August, my lettering business has been focused on the festivals, sending out Etsy orders, and working on a handful of custom pieces. Now that Christmas is over, I’m hoping things will slow down a bit so that I can play around with lettering and try some other crafty projects.
So much happened this year. I was in no way ready for it all. But I’m so glad I said, Why not? and tried on new adventures. 2019 kept me just the right amount of busy with new projects and experiences. I had a few moments where I thought I couldn’t do it all, but more moments of thinking, “I’ve got this. This is a lot, but I know my shit and I’ve got this.” That is an awesome feeling.
I’m hoping to continue growing in 2020. I enjoy keeping lettering as a side hustle and second passion. My life feels surprisingly complete with teaching by day, lettering by night, and reading in between. That means that my challenge with 2020 will probably be finding balance. I’m hoping to find more projects and opportunities this year, but also time to breathe, learn, and grow as an artist.
I honestly won’t complain if 2020 ends up being a slow year, just because I may get some time to relax and get bored enough to let my creativity grow… but that could also be me doing my thing again–keeping my expectations low so I don’t get disappointed. I am filled with gratitude for everything that 2019 brought. 2020, let’s do this! I’m ready for ya!