Happy Feature Friday!
This week we are featuring handletterer, Carole Lola! We love her Etsy shop and all her excellent advice for those starting to handletter. Carole is always learning and evolving her style, but it has a classic beauty to it that’s perfect to adorn invitations, prints, decor and more! She is constantly striving for excellence over perfection and community over competition, and it certainly shows in her work and lifestyle. Read on to learn more about Carole’s story!
: Hey Carole! Tell us a few things about yourself!
: Hi! My name is Carole, but I also go by Lola. I am 26 years old, a California native, and a proud mom to Sophie, my little pomchi. I graduated from San Jose State University in 2012 with a B.A. in Art History and worked in several different industries until 2015, where I decided to drop everything to attend ministry school in Redding, CA. My business was born out of my time in Redding, and I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by some amazing creatives there. I love and enjoy food, and there’s nothing I won’t try once. I especially have a love for ice cream, coffee, pastries, and generally, anything with carbs. I’ve always appreciated fashion and I love the way I feel when I wear clothes that I love. My favorites are J.Crew and Madewell and you’ll find that most of my closet belongs to one of these brands. Some favorite stores for window-shopping and cheering-up include Anthropologie, Paper Source, and the Floranthropist. (I also love finding cute little paper/stationary boutiques in new cities that I visit.)
: How did you join the hand lettering world and discover you had a talent for it?
: I fell in love with handwriting at a young age, obsessed with making my letters look pretty on my school homework. I didn’t even know that there was a whole world of hand-letterers and calligraphers out there until after college! Once I got exposed to that world, I started following lettering blogs (my pre-Instagram days!), bought a book on modern calligraphy, and basically taught myself from there. My friends encouraged me to try and make a business out of it, and once the idea got into my head, I couldn’t shake it. So I ended up creating Carole Lola!
: We love your style and the products you have in your Etsy Shop! How would you describe the look and feel of what you create?
: Thank you so much! I’m actually in the middle of updating my style a little and putting some new things in the shop. I feel like I’m still finding and defining my own style, figuring out what makes me stand out in the market of calligraphers / hand-letterers / designers. I think I’m currently somewhere in between elegant and casual, with hints of imperfection and playfulness here and there. Overall, I’m drawn to really simple and elegant styles but I also love the look of rough sketches when appropriate. There’s something so graceful to me about being in the process of creating. Embracing the roughness and the imperfection, the molding and the sculpting, in order to create something truly beautiful. I don’t want my designs to be yet another piece of calligraphy; I want to capture people’s attention with designs and words that evoke something in them.
: You recently did 30 Days of Bible Lettering and we loved how they all came out! Tell us a little about the month! How were you challenged, what did you learn, how fun was it?! Was it difficult to have to hand letter something new each day? How did you keep motivated to do it all month?
: This was the first Instagram challenge that I completed, and let me just say, it definitely was a challenge posting something everyday! There was a lot of work involved behind the scenes. I had decided before I started that if I was going to do this lettering challenge, I wanted to make it interesting for both me and my followers. I wanted to be intentional about making each day look different, whether it was styling it differently, or using different lettering mediums. While it was challenging some days to get content edited and posted, it was a great experience in pushing myself out of the box and exploring more with my creativity. I came up with ideas that I never would have thought of otherwise. I also stumbled upon and discovered a lot of new calligraphers on Instagram that I never would have met otherwise. Just seeing everyone’s different styles and the way they put their own spin on the challenge really inspired me.
: Say you have a whole day free to just hand letter! What is your perfect setting for creating some amazing work and your favorite tools and canvases to work with?
: Hmm, the perfect setting. I think I’d have to say that being in a somewhat minimalistic studio space with a large table and great lighting would be pretty ideal. Living in a house with 6 other people has made me come to appreciate the idea of a large empty space, just for my personal use. I don’t need much to work with, just a big enough table or workspace, some music or Netflix playing in the background, and my tools by my side. I find that I go through phases of favorites with my tools, depending on what I’ve recently discovered as well as products I’m using for current projects. My basic necessities are my trusty Alvin Draft-Matic mechanical pencil, my scanner, my lightbox, and an assortment of nibs. (Not very interesting, I know!) Lately, I’ve been playing around with many different kinds of paint pens and I’ve loved the versatility of being able to use them on a wide variety of surfaces and the ease of writing with a pen/marker rather than a dip pen. My new favorite combination is writing on clear acrylic sheets with white or metallic gold paint pens. Swoon! (Although gold on most things makes me pretty happy in and of itself.) I’m also loving the more casual look of brush lettering on wedding stationery (envelopes, place cards, invites, etc.). I’ll typically use a small round brush with my go-to black or white ink, or with watercolors.
: We know hand lettering definitely takes a lot of practice and experimentation! How have you bettered your skill set since starting out? Any tips for improving your hand lettering?
: You’re right, I spend so much time just practicing and experimenting! Whether it’s bettering my old/established styles, or trying out new ones, I feel like I’m constantly in a state of practicing. Many people who are new to calligraphy will take a few classes or workshops. Skillshare is a great tool for online classes, and many calligraphers now offer lessons or workshops in their local area. (Some even travel to do workshops!) I took a calligraphy workshop this past year with Stephanie of Double Dipped Calligraphy, and while I had already learned the basics of calligraphy myself, it was awesome getting some in-person time with a real, quality calligrapher. I would highly recommend doing a workshop if you’re looking to start out with calligraphy! I also learn a lot just through fellow calligraphers’ Instagrams or blogs. I get inspired by their individual styles, the products they make, the tools they use. Honestly, at the end of the day, I don’t do much besides sit down with my tool of choice for the day and a sheet of paper. It doesn’t sound very exciting or glamorous, but practice really is the key to becoming consistent at your writing style.
: You’ve also done custom work! What is the most rewarding and challenging part about creating something unique for a buyer? Any projects that were particularly memorable?
: About 90% of my current projects are custom works and I absolutely LOVE working on custom orders! I love that every order is different, whether it’s materials I’m working with, writing styles, or even just the clients I get to work with. It might sound weird, but the challenging part is actually challenging myself to keep the creative wheels spinning. With custom projects, it’s not just the same sign or the same print that I’m making over and over again. It’s something new every time, even if it’s just different wording on an invitation or different names on escort cards. I see this as a challenge to push myself out of my comfort zone, to keep creating and to not just settle for what I’ve already done or what I’m already good at. The most rewarding part is probably seeing customers’ reactions to the pieces they’ve commissioned from me. I love that I can take an idea, a concept, and turn it into something tangible and memorable for them.
: You’re also a student at Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry! How do you balance your school life with your hand lettering and Etsy shop?
: It’s been a challenge these past two years, starting school at BSSM and starting a business at the same time. Luckily, my school schedule is pretty consistent throughout the year and I’ve gotten good at working around classes, meetings, and other school duties. I currently work on my lettering and other business tasks in the early mornings, late nights, and weekends. Basically, whenever I get a little free time. It’s less than ideal, but it’s what works for me right now. Also, I’m really still quite new in this business so I do have quite a bit of free time in between custom projects and the occasional Etsy order. But regardless of whether or not I’m working for a client, I’m still working on all the other aspects of my business. Currently, I’m working with some photographers to get some better images of my products, figuring out legal things like licensing and taxes, and learning the art of social media marketing. I’m very quickly learning that being a creative entrepreneur does indeed mean, sometimes, you have to wear all the hats. My last year of school this upcoming September will mean a lighter schedule and a lighter workload, so I’m looking forward to taking advantage of that extra time and really devoting myself to Carole Lola.
: Are there any upcoming projects or future goals for Carole Lola that you’re excited to share?!
: So many dreams and goals! Where to start?! Sometime in the near future, I’d love to start doing more collaborations with other artists. I’m unsure of what this would look like, but I’m interested in seeking out fellow creatives in my area and joining together to work on special projects (e.g. styled shoots, workshops, etc.). I’m currently a member of the Rising Tide Society and they’ve inspired me with their hashtag of #communityovercompetition. I love the idea of a bunch of creatives creating things together and not competing with one another. I would also love to start teaching calligraphy and hand-lettering workshops, and mentoring young calligraphers who have an interest in pursuing their art full time. I know how hard it can be to leave everything behind to follow a dream, so once I have a little more experience under my belt, I would be honored to have the privilege of encouraging and empowering young artists.
: Do you have any advice for artists just starting out?
: Don’t be afraid to try! One of the biggest things that held me back and prevented me from starting my business earlier was my fear of failure. I was afraid to try new things because I didn’t know what the outcome would be. I had this irrational need to be perfect the first time around. I would’ve told the younger me to not be afraid, that there’s so much more to life than getting it right the first time. I look back now and laugh at myself because I’ve changed so much in the span of a few years. I also firmly believe that learning is a lifelong journey. Never stop learning new skills, never get too comfortable that you think you don’t need to learn anymore. Keep attending creative workshops and summits, pick up a new hobby or two, challenge yourself with new projects, whether paid or unpaid. And aim for excellence in all that you do. Excellence, not to be confused with perfection. I believe it’s important to have high standards, not only in your craft, but in other areas of your business as well (communication with clients, working with other vendors, not settling in subpar products just because it’s easy). Excellence will show up in what you do, and the people around you will be able to tell if you have a high standard for excellence or if you’re taking shortcuts for the sake of just getting by. We all make mistakes along the way, or find things that we could’ve done better, so striving for perfection isn’t realistic. But aim to be honest, humble, and excellent at what you do and people will respect you for it.
See more from Carole Lola: