Last week The Letterist turned three. And sure, three may not be a worthy or large enough number to call for celebration...but this is now officially the longest I've ever held any job, not to mention, sustained reasonable interest in pretty much anything...so, I celebrated. Or "celebrated." I'm busier than I've ever been, so there wasn't really time to plan the big champagne soirée I quite often envision - let's save that for ten? no, no, too far away, five! - so I scaled that way, way down...to a week of Instagram posts instead. A mini-retrospective of sorts. The very first thing I did when I came up with the idea and name for this little venture was set up an Instagram account, so this seemed fitting: a week of posts featuring some memorable, some successful, and some downright scribbly work from the last three years. After all, the work is the joy and the joy is the work...so I thought I'd let it speak for itself. [If you don't already follow The Letterist on Instagram, get it together].
I also thought I'd write a long blog post...featuring some of the weird and wonderful emails I've received, bizarre client meetings I've had, lessons I've learned and never stop learning along the way. But I was about 4 pages into that when I realized it was getting a little creepy, over-indulgent and emotional so I decided to save you from that. In design, words, make-up and just about everything else, less is always, always more.
So I scaled that way, way down too...and landed on this other idea. What if I just went all the way back to the beginning and told the story of how this crazy little venture started. In the words of Joan Didion, "It is much easier to see the beginnings of things than the ends..." and as you're about to learn...the beginnings were vague, uncertain...and let's just say questionable. Of course in hindsight...they were also funny af. Enjoy.
It was 2014. I was spending sweltering New York summer nights in a beautiful loft in Williamsburg surrounded by stacks of aquarelle paper and hundreds of pens, pencils, markers, nibs and paintbrushes. It was a phase marked by wild exploration and severe [artistic] insecurity in equal measure. I was so unsure of myself as a creative and what I was doing, that I would literally hop on the L train or East River Ferry every other day and trek to an art store in search of some new paper, ink or writing implement, in the hope that it would catapult me to amazingness. I even recall stealing a crappy permanent chisel marker from the US Post Office after labelling a box. This is it! This is the tool that will make me! I laugh at this now because my favourite tools three years later consist of a pen, a stylus, and a single calligraphy holder with two go-to nibs. [Nikko and Tachikawa if you're curious. Calligraphy, like whiskey I believe, is always smoothest from Japan]. I still explore new toys once in a while - but for the most part, I tend to [as do we all, I think] defer to my steady squeeze.
Anyway, I digress already. The first piece I made at the time, for someone other than my portfolio or the dustbin, was a gift for my sister-in-law: a tiny 5x5" hand-lettered and framed print with gold leaf that read "DON'T WORRY, BE YONCE." [Don't say I didn't warn you...the beginnings are a little umm, shaky].
Anyway, she posted it on Instagram, and besides the handful of orders she immediately sent from her friends, I also got an enquiry from a cute boutique that wanted to stock my prints. My prints? I don't have any prints! WHAT ARE PRINTS!? How would I invoice you? I need a business! A name! A website! An Instagram account...
It took me about five minutes to come up with the name, ten minutes to check no one else had it and set up Instagram, and about 48 hours to scrap together a website. Cool and all, but platforms aside, I still had absolutely no idea what I was doing or how I was going to do it...so the exploration and insecurities continued. I made it my simple mission to create and post something - anything - every day...but I was so terrified of sharing work I had created with the world...and absolutely convinced! that no one would ever take me seriously...as an artist, business or human...so I came up with a simple grammatical solution. [As a LOT of start-ups do, btw].
Problem: I suck. My work sucks. Everything sucks. Solution: I know! I just wont say "I," I'll say WE. Look what we're working on. Here's our favourite quote of the week. Contact US! Bullshit. There was no we, there was no our, and there was certainly no US. It was all me (unless of course you to take into account the hundred markers as part of our census). But as with the pens and markers, in the world of high insecurities, plurality was king. It gave others a sense of confidence and it gave me a way out. You don't like this? Jane made that.
This achieved two things. One is that people very soon started emailing me saying, hey, love the work you guys do...are y'all taking on any new clients? YOU BET WE ARE! Check. Fake office buzzing with employees and the smell of good coffee created. And false sense of customer confidence instilled. The other thing it led to was my friends constantly making fun of me. Yo, Savic! How's the team? Can you ask your people to reach out to my people about a project we might do together? Bastards.
To be fair tho, it was a little coo-coo. Exhibit A:
Man, that was exhausting. Anyway, there are a couple of poignant points to this story. One is that it took me close to two years to find my voice and vibe and finally be able to say, hey - check out this thing I'M working on. Like it? Cool. Don't like it? Sorry, not sorry. The other is that, from day one - though they may not identify as part of the team - I've definitely always had one. Mom and dad here, and my brother and sister-in-law in the US. It started with a crappy Yonce print, and just last week they were penning their signatures on the Operating Agreement for the US-based Letterist LLC! Yes, that happened!! Ok, a few more...[!!!!!!!!!!!!]
As for mom and dad, I recently took a friend to see my parents' house and we found my father busily trimming wedding invitations. Without stopping, he looked up over his glasses and with his best customer service smile said, Welcome to the Woodlands Branch of The Letterist.
So yeah, not only are we a we, we're nationwide bitcheeeees!
But the real coup de grâce of this whole story is that today, three years later, (besides my relatives who were never really given a choice), I am proud to announce that I have two other fantastic people working with me. I love the perfect, seemingly astrological alignment that it has taken three years to grow to a team of three. And I love that in this momentous era of female empowerment, both of these people are women. But most of all, I love that we have finally become WE.
PS. All Letterist blog posts usually include a musical interlude, so I couldn't leave this out. It was an especially easy and obvious pick because the original version of this song governed the radio all through that infamous summer of 2014. Happy Friday, stay inspired...and all that jazz.