To Top

Conversations with the Inspiring Shelly Kim

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shelly Kim.

Shelly, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Growing up, I always loved doing DIY projects and crafting in general. I remember feeling so proud of being able to sew my own tote bags at the age of 10 as well as create hand-made cards throughout high school. However, I never realized I could pursue a career in art because I never knew that was an option. Although I loved arts and crafts and being creative, I was always told that it would only be a hobby and nothing more. Because of this, I never pursued it since I didn’t realize it was something I could pursue or even major in during college. I definitely lost my creative drive all throughout college and later found this creativity again after college during my full-time job.

I came across this beautiful art called Modern Calligraphy around mid-2015, and then again around late 2015 because the first time I dabbled into it, I totally gave up for about 5 months until picking it back up again. Thank goodness I did because, at the time, I had no idea that lettering would change my life and give me the chance to work and meet so many amazing people all around the world.

The reason I started lettering was that when I was working full-time after undergrad, I realized that this job was not my passion and I couldn’t picture myself staying at a job that I was not in love with. As the months & years went by, I noticed the simple things in life I once enjoyed were no longer enjoyable. I found myself burnt out, exhausted, stressed out, and very lonely during this process as I was counting down the days. I felt as if no one understood me. During this time, I started to look up positive affirmations again on social media and this is where I came across the beauty of hand-lettering! My life changed at that moment because I have always loved typography, I used to write various types of block lettering and art deco lettering styles, so when I saw hand-lettering, this creativity inside of me exploded with joy and happiness. I wanted to learn everything about it, understand the different mediums, and basically become an expert in it. I wanted the chance to write positive messages about self-love and positive vibes to help me get through the days.

There was definitely a reason behind it though. I wanted to learn this because, more than ever, I needed this creativity and positive drive in my life all over again. I needed some sort of escape from reality and a chance to only focus on me. I desperately wanted to remind myself to enjoy the little things in life again. I also wanted to share this positivity that I was excited to share on a bigger platform such as social media – Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, you name it. I told myself, I know I am not the only one who is exhausted, stressed out, and feeling alone. I wanted to connect with others on so many levels and let them know how amazing, beautiful, strong, and worthy they were. And that they could pursue anything and everything they wanted too!

This is now my main purpose in doing what I love, having the chance to share my journey with others in hopes of also inspiring them along the way by helping them pursue what they are most passionate about.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
This entire journey has been so amazing and beautiful, but of course, like anything else, there will always be challenges and obstacles. When transitioning into owning your own business, the reality is you are also learning along the way. I had no idea what I was trying to do in the beginning and my mission was all over the place. Aside from not knowing what I was trying to do, I also felt very alone during this process too because no one could relate to what I was going through, nor did I know how to explain what I was doing.

A few struggles I faced along the way were asking and seeking help, but no one was willing to share any resources or advice. Other challenges and struggles I started noticing was trying to find a healthy balance between building your own creative business but also making sure that you are also taking breaks to focus on you outside of work. Some obstacles that people do not see is spending hours on creating content, working on emails, having phone conferences, and filling custom orders for my clients until 2 AM in the morning. Everything requires patience, high-energy, attention to detail and nothing ever comes easy.

My advice to other women is to really pursue what you are passionate about and don’t focus on anyone else. At the end of the day, you are the only one that matters, and no one else is in control of your own happiness. During the time where you are exploring what you want to specialize in, take this moment to embrace you and the journey you are currently on. Your journey will only continue to inspire other people.

When I take a step back, Modern Brush Lettering goes way beyond exploring my creativity now. For me, it creates an open, positive, and free outlet that I would love for others to join in on with me. The main motto that I love to share with everyone is to “live your passion, every day” and pursue those dreams you have. Don’t ever give up and remember to believe in yourself because you are your #1 supporter with all of this. It’s going to take time, patience, and you have to make sure your heart and energy is 150%. Let me tell you, it is completely worth it because your journey & strength will inspire other people too. This is what my lettering journey has proven and shown me. I am so thankful that lettering gave me a “new purpose” in life all over again and I am loving every day where I get to do lettering full-time and teach others the beauty of Modern Brush Lettering.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into Letters By Shells OR @lettersbyshells story. Tell us more about the business.
Previously, I specialized in custom prints for all occasions and custom work for people such as mirror signage, chalkboard signage, etc. Although I promote custom work occasionally, I have branched into the beauty of teaching others this beautiful art form and I love it because I get to build this amazing community of creatives! I currently host various workshops to teach others this beautiful art of lettering. I teach workshops in Modern Brush Lettering for Beginners using Brush Pens (my first love for lettering), Watercolor Lettering for Beginners, iPad Lettering for Beginners, and Modern Brush Lettering – Intermediate Edition to everyone of all ages who is interested to learn with me. I host workshops throughout Orange County, Los Angeles, and travel often to other states/countries to host more workshops. I have previously taught multiple workshops in New York, New Jersey, San Francisco, San Diego, Hawaii, Portland, and Canada.

Aside from teaching workshops on a monthly basis, I still do custom work and collaborate with multiple companies for Social Media and Live Calligraphy for Events. I have worked with amazing companies such as MOO, Tombow, Pearlcolors (Coliro), Prima Marketing Inc. Ranger Ink, Chase Bank, Pinners, and a few others. I am also known for Modern Brush Lettering, but I also have multiple workbooks and guides that I sell online at my Etsy Shop. I am also known for my Modern Calligraphy and Art Deco Tins that I have published Fall of 2017 through Quarto Publishing to teach others this beautiful art form in a step-by-step format.

As a brand and service provider, I am proud of my dedication to pursue anything, but I believe the main thing that sets me apart from others is the ability to provide a welcoming community where I get to share my tips and techniques with everyone. I love sharing everything with others about getting started and building your brand because these are things I wish I had and knew in the very beginning. Honestly, I want everyone to be successful because, at the end of the day, we are winners together. There really are no secrets out there, just be you and only you and people will appreciate your story and journey. To me, I believe the more we support, share, and show compassion, we are all winners! Together, we can conquer anything!

Do you have any advice for finding a mentor or networking in general? What has worked well for you?
Honestly, Instagram! I have found so many people I admire on Instagram through hashtags and having the chance to meet them in real life has been amazing. I probably have the best of friends now than I ever did before Instagram. My advice, find a group of people in your community, throw yourself out there and connect with them!

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

Richard Saplan IG: richardsgarage, Deisy Larios IG: sweetdazee

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

More in