Back in my element

When I returned from my brief trip home in June, I felt very uninspired for some reason. Demotivated. I didn’t feel like applying to jobs because I wasn’t feeling confident about my skills. I didn’t feel like doing anything at all. It was very unsettling – I knew I was not myself, but I just couldn’t shake off the grey cloud that seemed to follow me wherever I went.

I was ‘stuck’ in this limbo for an entire week. Then I snagged an unexpected two-week internship in central London, thanks to a family friend, and an even more unexpected paid weekend gig as a freelance web reporter, thanks to a classmate.

The internship and weekend work gave me something to do, but didn’t completely take me out of my funk. They were fulfilling, but also tiring. Dear me, I’m no longer used to a five-day work week!

Anyway, after 14 consecutive days of working (the weekend job takes up all of my Saturdays and Sundays), I took last Monday off to just veg out. It was pretty nice, I must admit! But I had work to do, because I’d started feeling like my real self was finally peeking out from the behind the grey cloud. So on Tuesday, I went to Knights Park, a.k.a. Kingston University’s arts campus, to experiment with digitising my lettering. I followed this tutorial and was chuffed to discover how simple digitising is, at least for flat, black and white artwork! The “Friday” vector below is the second thing I ever digitised. I’m super excited to keep going!


Since Tuesday, I’ve been back in my element and back at work on my big year-end goal. Work – which, to be honest, feels more like play – means dreaming up products, creating drafts and prototypes, and soaking up inspiration from my favourite blogs. Stay tuned, folks!

I’d also like to share a couple more things that helped me get back on the creative track:

1. This article on getting out of funk town by writer Leo Babauta. It’s definitely worth reading and won’t even take five minutes, but here’s an excerpt:

When you’re in Funk Town, don’t believe what your mind thinks about yourself and your work. It will say, “I don’t want to do that!” or “I can’t do that” or “I’m not good enough” or “I don’t care about that anymore.” None of that is believable, simply because the mind that’s saying these things is in a state of panic and fear and extreme discomfort. That’s not a believable mind.

I don’t know about you, but this insight was pretty mind-blowing to me. I’ll definitely remember it the next time my mind is suffering and tries to lie to me.

2. This interview with writer and artist Austin Kleon (Steal Like An Artist, Show Your Work!) was very inspiring and practically sent me off on my merry way to Knights Park. It’s rather lengthy but you can listen to it during a solo meal or on your commute.

Thanks for reading my update, and do something fabulous this weekend!


Magic In A Stamped Envelope


Confession: I’m really bad at correspondence, whether it’s instant messaging, email or snail mail (unless, of course, I’m on holiday and have no choice but to send postcards before flying home). So along with an “I’ve been meaning to send this forever” line, I’ve been including a little wish in my outgoing mail: that it’ll land on the recipient’s doorstep on a day when she can use a little surprise.

The magical thing is, some of those cards did – and hearing about it is my favourite part.

Sometimes it’s as simple as the recipient posting a photo on Facebook saying, “I haven’t been checking my mail lately but today is a good day to get this one.” Sometimes it’s extra special.

Welcome HomeOne card went out to a friend who was moving back to Canada in a few weeks. On this occasion I actually had a deadline for mailing my cards (postal rates were about to go up so my stamps were going to ‘expire’), so I decided to send the card to Canada to welcome her home. A couple of months later, I received a thank you card in return (yay, surprise mail!). She wrote that my card “couldn’t have arrived at a better time” and described the morning she’d been having before she opened that envelope. I didn’t really think of my card as an act of kindness (I just love sending snail mail!) but that’s what it was to her, on a rough day when kindness was exactly what she needed.

Another card went to one of my oldest and closest friends, who had not passed the bar exams. I lettered ‘DETOUR!’ on the card – a word that resonated with me as well. I wrote that it wasn’t her time to shine yet, “but when that time comes… BOOM! Everyone better wear shades!” Apparently that line made her cry! (Ooops.) When she sent me a photo of the card (and then posted it on Instagram) I could tell she was truly moved and encouraged. Mission accomplished.

I woke up the other day, still unwell after presumably catching a virus last week, to a string of messages from another very dear friend. We had both gone through breakups and bouts of depression in the last year, so I had sent her a card on which I stamped my favourite Doctor Who quote:

The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things but vice versa, the bad things don’t necessarily spoil the good things or make them unimportant.

The card, bless the Philippine postal office, had arrived on her ex’s birthday. “It was a very good quote for a bad day,” she said. “Thank you so much.”

It’s amazing what a piece of paper can do. I didn’t set out to bless these friends, but I unwittingly did and their heartwarming messages have blessed me back.

If you love sending snail mail, I hope this inspires you to keep mailing those magical envelopes!


Brand by Hand: Student Creates Hand-Lettered Counterparts of Popular Logos

Source: Behance, © Sara Marshall

Source: Behance, © Sara Marshall

Auckland University of Technology design student Sara Marshall has reimagined iconic logos as beautiful, hand-lettered designs – adding a personalised, accessible feel to the brands while retaining key elements of their identities.

Marshall describes the project, dubbed Brand by Hand, as “an experimental lettering project” that injects “the personal, hand-treated and flowery nature of hand lettering into the cold corporate world”.

Brand by Hand was inspired by two design trends. “Major brands such as Apple and Google have steered corporate graphic design towards a flat, minimalist style… Alongside this minimalist movement, there has been a huge rise in the popularity of hand lettering that, in contrast to minimalist ideals, is characterised by imperfections, texture and embellishment,” she says.

Source: Behance, © Sara Marshall

Source: Behance, © Sara Marshall

Source: Behance, © Sara Marshall

Source: Behance, © Sara Marshall

Source: Behance, © Sara Marshall

Source: Behance, © Sara Marshall

Source: Behance, © Sara Marshall

Source: Behance, © Sara Marshall

I think all the redesigned logos are brilliant, but my personal favourites are Skype, YouTube, Burger King and FedEx. I especially like how Marshall has kept the FedEx arrow!

What are your favourites?


London Progress Report 3: The Best Year of My Life

Now that classes have ended, I finally have more than enough time to dedicate to this blog and add the one ingredient that’s sorely lacking: Me!

“I’m sorry for the things I said when it was winter” is a brilliant line I first stumbled upon on Instagram and I’m stealing it (like an artist!) because I can’t think of a better sentence to sum up my current frame of mind. (Note to self: This will also make a perfect title for my autobiography if I ever decided to write one.)

I’ve made no secret of how depressed I was from November to February. Shit got so real, there were times when I was genuinely afraid I could/would actually harm myself. I’ll never forget being in the airport for my flight back and having a huge anxiety attack; when I wasn’t hyperventilating, I was forgetting to breathe. My mother started telling me I could drop the course anytime and return home, but I told her I’d finish it – mostly because I had too much pride to quit.

I’m glad I rode it out, because sometime in March, things made a 180-degree turn without my orchestrating or even noticing it. As I’m typing this I realise I’ve already written two blog entries about this happy turnaround – it seems I can’t stop talking about it, but that’s because it was a real shock to me, and until now I haven’t completely wrapped my head around it!

In fact, the last two weeks were filled with pub lunches and club nights as my entire class scrambled to spend more time together before the end of term rolled around. Here we are at Pryzm Kingston:

Ready to dance the night away after dinner and pre-drinks at Spoons! Photo by Pryzm Kingston.

Ready to dance the night away after dinner and pre-drinks at Spoons! Photo by Pryzm Kingston

After one-on-ones with our module leader on our very last day at university, we all headed to the local Spoons again (not that we go anywhere else, really), and some of us went for ice cream afterwards too. When I got back home, I had such mixed emotions – joy, relief, separation anxiety – that I couldn’t get started on my features portfolio, the next big assessment that was due in a few days. I was still on a post-pub high, looking at group pictures and chatting with my friends on Facebook. We all couldn’t believe classes were over.

All smiles after the last day of term!

All smiles after the last day of term!

Of course, that only means it’s time for other fantastic things, and this week is an exciting one for me: I’m thrilled to share that I’m meeting with a London-based calligrapher tomorrow for a potential internship at her design studio. Eeeeeek! I’m so nervous and excited at the same time! I’ve also received a handful of commissions for an upcoming bookazine by my old company. They’re fun assignments and I’m looking forward to writing them! Finally, I’m delighted that two incredibly talented ex-colleagues and dear friends agreed to participate in a still-secret project – to be revealed in a few weeks’ time.

A few months ago I would have said I regretting coming to London to pursue post-graduate studies. Now? I can only say that 2015 is shaping up to be the best year of my life, and I’m incredibly grateful.


Instagram Favourites 03

Whooops, an entire week flew by without any new posts! My bad. I’ve been dealing with an insane body clock, which has me awake and mentally active until 3:30am (or even later). I’m hoping to correct it slowly without any medication, because my melatonin tablets have done nothing for me recently.

Anyway, here are my Instagram faves from the past week!

I have to admit I’ve been doing very little calligraphy practice, but I’ll get back on board as soon as I hand in a big writing portfolio on Monday. I can’t believe term has ended — but that’s another blog post for another day!

Have a lovely weekend, everyone!