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Conversations with Sarah Spillard

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sarah Spillard.

Hi Sarah, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I’ve always had an artistic flair, I suppose. And I have definitely always had nice handwriting. But my introduction to modern calligraphy wasn’t until 2016. I was living and working in Hong Kong and was looking for a way to try something new and meet new people in the city. Upon recommendation by a friend from work, I took a calligraphy workshop and immediately fell in love! A great teacher definitely helped that (shoutout to Kalo Make Art, based in Central Hong Kong!), and the workshop was really comprehensive and provided me some basic supplies and skills to get started. So in the last few months, I was abroad, I tried to practice through snail mail to my friends and family back home. When I returned Stateside, I had the fleeting idea that maybe I could turn it into more of a long-term career, but I was nervous to get going and really uncertain about abandoning my intended career path (I have a Master’s degree in Psychology and was pursuing my MFT license at the time). It took a couple of years to hone some skills, learn a bit more about the industry, and really feel ready, but once I made the decision to take the plunge, it’s been a busy and exciting journey!

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
I’d say yes and no. I think most situations are that way! I feel incredibly fortunate to say that I have financially been able to swing starting a business (in a pandemic, no less) and that I have the most unfailingly supportive husband in the world that has been 110% behind literally every idea I’ve had. So in that sense, I am definitely one of the lucky ones. I haven’t had to struggle in a certain way. But in other ways, it’s been a challenge. I’ve always been a very academic person, going straight from high school to college to graduate school, taking minimal time in between. I’ve always had this idea of what my life would turn out to be, and it never included a creative career; though I worked in entertainment until last year, it was always more of a fun way to pay the bills and have a good time before getting serious and growing up. My mindset was so black and white and learning that a creative career can be just as valid a plan as an academic one has been an interesting journey.

And in addition, transitioning my job to something so subjective and SO deeply personal has been challenging at times. It’s easy to get down on yourself when you feel like your work isn’t good enough. It’s easy to take things personally when people don’t respond to your work the way you’d like. It’s been a challenge to explain and justify why I feel this is a good and well thought-out move for my life. It’s hard to market yourself – and that’s what marketing my art and work feel like most of the time. It’s such a big piece of my heart and it can be nerve-wracking for someone who’s such a perfectionist to put herself out there and risk it not working out in the long run. And who’s to say it will? But for now, luckily the support and good outweigh the nervousness and struggle, and I’m so grateful for where I am. I’m enjoying every moment of it!

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I specialize in modern calligraphy and hand-lettering. One of the best (and sometimes most challenging!) pieces of what I do is that it is super transferrable – you can put lettering on just about anything! The great bulk of my work is within the wedding industry. I particularly enjoy and find business in wedding invitations and day-of details. But the sky’s the limit! Sometimes my work is hand-lettered with ink or paint. Sometimes it’s a digital image. Sometimes I have it done in vinyl decals or iron-ons. I can partner with other small businesses and have it printed or laser-cut. I can make personalized drink ware, greeting cards, face masks. I’ve made several custom return-address stamps. I’m recently experimenting with custom jean jackets (specifically for brides, but who’s to say anyone can’t have one?). It can be overwhelming knowing that the possibilities are endless, but I also love that it means that whatever a client wants, I can figure out a way to do! My most proud achievement is funny enough one of my first. When I first took a calligraphy workshop, I had the goal in mind of designing and addressing my own wedding invitations. Three years after that workshop, I did just that. It was a huge labor of love (especially in the beginning before I had experience with literally any of it!) but my wedding invitations and all of the signage day of were hands done by me. And while I hope I’ll continue to improve and probably look back on the lettering and laugh, I love that I’ll always be able to say I did that.

We’re always looking for the lessons that can be learned in any situation, including tragic ones like the Covid-19 crisis. Are there any lessons you’ve learned that you can share?
On a personal level, I have learned SO many lessons of importance during the Covid-19 crisis, and many of those extend to my business (which I officially began during the pandemic…what was I thinking?!). I have paid more attention to checking in on and supporting my loved ones; from a business perspective, that looks like cultivating a stronger online presence and putting effort into social media coaching. I have paid more attention to the small actions I can take to help contribute to my community. Business-wise that looks like trying to find ways to give back through my work; for example, this past holiday season I did letters from the North Pole to bring extra Christmas cheer to little ones who were unable to visit Santa in person because of the pandemic.

I have certainly had to get creative in countless ways; not only have we as a population had to get creative with our hobbies, with the ways that we keep in touch, and with the ways that we celebrate special occasions, but it extends to our businesses (specifically those of us who find most of our work in the event industry). I have designed inserts for my brides with Covid-19 information for their guests, taken part in many styled shoots since fewer weddings were happening, and used the opportunity to create handmade gifts to help myself and others spread the love from a social distance. I have learned to take more pleasure in the small delights, including working on my calligraphy skills for enjoyment, not just business. I know I’m not alone in hoping that we go back to “normal” quickly, but until then, I am trying to gain what I can from this period of lockdown, uncertainty, and hopefully innovation.

Contact Info:

Image Credits:

Playful Soul Photography, XO and Fetti Photography,  Chris J Evans Photography, Mallory Dawn Photography, Savannah Michelle Photography

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