It goes without saying that my husband is always the most important thing in my life, and I am thankful for him every day. The two items listed below have special significance to me this year, and because of that, I am highlighting them as my special Thanksgiving gifts.
For the past ten years, I’ve had chronic pain in my lower back due to degenerative discs. A couple years ago, I had surgery on a herniated disc that was causing severe sciatica down my right leg. Immediately afterwards, I felt pretty great; better than I’d felt in a long time. However, this past summer, I re-herniated the same disc, causing pain down my left leg. Knowing how quickly things went South the last time this had happened, I had zero hope that I could avoid another surgery.
Upon beginning physical therapy in September (which I considered futile based on the fact that last time I worsened with PT rather than improved), my physical therapist gave me a book titled “Treat Your Own Back“. I was skeptical, but I was desperate to try anything to avoid surgery and reduce the pain in my leg. I began following the steps outlined in the book, and I was shocked to feel some improvement within two days! I continued the book’s exercises, paired them with my physical therapist’s exercises, and I lessened my pain every week.
Just this month, I “graduated” from physical therapy, and to my amazement (as well as my doctor’s and my physical therapist’s), I avoided surgery by a landslide. I didn’t think this outcome was possible, and because of the book and my saavy physical therapist, I finally had the tools to treat my lower back pain, as well as prevent and correct any future injuries. Now, I feel even better than I had after my surgery in 2013. I thought it worth including a photo linking directly to the book, because it helped me immensely; and if any of you have lower back pain, it’s a must-read.
My Years with Gracie
This October, my bunny (and first pet) passed away. When we brought her home from a pet store almost 10 years ago, she was a fearful baby bunny who resisted a few months before warming to us. She had two bunny companions whom she loved and outlived. Haas was larger, a trouble-maker and bully, and she (yes, Haas was a “she”) demanded our attention 24/7. However, Gracie was extremely well-behaved, and she refused to be pushed around by Haas. This often created tension between them, but they were no doubt a bonded pair of six years. After Haas passed away from a stomach blockage, Gracie searched for her for days, and it broke our hearts. A couple weeks later, we introduced her to “Little Man” Gus, with whom she formed an immediate bond. She loved him like her own little baby, and he was positive that she was his mother. They were inseparable for over two years. After their first year together, however, Gracie suffered a severe illness. It was a miracle that she survived it, but once she was well, she could no longer use her back legs. Gus loved her just the same and played happily by her side until he came down with a similar illness that took his life a year later.
Soon after Gus was gone, Gracie also lost use of her front legs. We moved her to a permanent location on our couch, atop a small foam mattress and towels. She had to be hand-fed, drink water through a syringe, receive pain medication, and undergo daily diaper changes and weekly baths. Sometimes she suffered seizures, and Mark and I questioned whether we were doing her more harm than good. But Gracie’s ever-happy disposition, her healthy appetite, and her numerous kisses told us every day that she was happy to be with us and receive our affections and care. She was with us for another year (the first part of which I doubted I’d ever adjust to the routine of caring for her in this fragile state), and we were thankful to spend that time with such a sweet and grateful little soul.
When we had to put Gracie to sleep last month, our comfort came from the knowledge that she had lived a long and happy life with us, and that she would no longer experience pain and be imprisoned in her own little body. Gracie was amazing and unique in so many ways, and we were fortunate to have had her. She was patient and sweet, and she was content to take a back seat to Haas and Gus who sucked up our attention because they were prone to naughtiness. She was also appreciative—she loved affection, and she would sit at our feet for hours just to receive pettings. Mark and I know that she was truly special, and it’s unlikely that we’ll ever encounter another quite like her. Our lives have been forever touched by this little bunny, and thankfully, we will never be the same.
Thank you for reading, and I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.
Fellow knitters: Cowl season is here! Please enjoy a free knitted cowl pattern that I designed recently. It’s chocked full of knit, purl and seed stitching, which provides some great visual and physical texture for the season.
For the main color of my own cowl (pictured), I used an autumn-inspired, variegated blend of mohair and merino wool. The contrasting green color is a silk, cashmere and merino wool blend that I had left over from another project. I hope you enjoy this pattern and send me pictures of your own completed cowl.
1. Pick up your Laradise t-shirt NOW
(locally designed/locally printed)
Hurry; supplies are limited!
These are fresh from the printer! I have unisex sizes S, M & L. (I usually wear a size Large in Women’s, but I wear a Medium in this shirt.) They are extremely soft and have a very body-flattering fit. The design includes Laramie’s downtown cityscape, and the words “Been spending most my life living in the land of Laradise” (morphed from “Gangsta’s Paradise”). Price: $20 How to get one: Email me!
If you live outside Laramie, no problem; just let me know, and we’ll work it out.
(Click the image to see the design in its entirety.)
2. My latest design
Get your hands on it this summer!
This is the second phrase in my dad’s evolving Words of Wisdom series, and its message of renewal is quite fitting for this time of year. I’m excited to announce that it will be one of the matted 8″ X 10″ prints sold at the Laramie Festival of the Arts this summer! (And if you miss getting a t-shirt now, you’ll have another opportunity at the festival.) More information soon to come!
The number of changes I’ve experienced over the past fifteen years have altered my life in tremendous ways. What I’ve learned (mainly through mistakes) has made me a happier, more self-aware, and kinder person, yet there are key people who’ve enabled me to reach unexpected heights. Among these are three women to whom I want to express my thanks:
My High School English Teacher, Ms. Maude(-Harriet)
I remember feeling pretty bad-ass after registering for the college-level ENGL 1010 course as a senior in high school. In my mind, I’d be breezing through another English course while also receiving college credit. The bonus was that Ms. Maude, who was highly-recommended by my older sister and friends, would be teaching it. Word on the street was that she was funny, engaging, and flat-out REAL with her students. I found these things to be true. What I also found was that Ms. Maude maintained high expectations and didn’t allow those expectations to slip.
On the first day of class, she told us that many students go into and through college not knowing how to write, and if we took her class, we were going to learn to write. Based on the grades I received in past courses, I was convinced I already knew how to write; so bring it on. Unfortunately, the D+ I received on my first paper knocked me down quite a few pegs. I was pretty pissed, actually, but I was determined to prove to Ms. Maude that it was a fluke. Fully motivated, I absorbed and regurgitated what I learned, and my papers moved up to C’s and then B’s. I was being challenged, and I couldn’t get enough of it. By the end of the semester, I was writing “A” papers and damn, it was satisfying.
At college, I learned right away that Ms. Maude had gifted me with a tremendous advantage. Just as she’d said that first day in class, my peers didn’t have confidence in their writing; many of them lacked even the most basic skills. Yet my instructors were amazed by the quality of my papers, and my grades reflected it. After I graduated and began applying for jobs, I accepted a staff position at UW’s department of English (of all places). I was told by my supervisor that the search committee tossed out applications if they found any spelling or grammatical errors. Because of the quality of my application, I rose to the top, and my interview secured the job. This experience has been repeated as I’ve moved up the professional ladder.
I am by no means under the illusion that I have exceptional writing skills. But what I learned from Ms. Maude has enabled me to go further than I’d thought possible for myself. The coolest thing of all is that I can actually say I learned something in school that I use in every day life! Everything I’ve achieved has been made possible because I am able to present myself professionally through my writing. Thank you, Ms. Maude!
My Aunt Sharon
At an early age, I was very aware of Sharon’s independence. She was strong and successful, she achieved her goals, and she didn’t waste her time on nay-sayers. I noticed all of this, I respected it, and I wanted it for myself. So when the time came that she gave me advice, I took it.
I don’t know if every person experiences such a pronounced cross-roads in life, but when I did, my aunt was the one who solidified my direction. To provide a little background, I had moved to Laramie in June and enrolled as a sophomore transfer student for the fall. However, due to my not-so-great living situation, I chickened out, moved back home to Buffalo, and I was riddled with indecision on whether to go to school or move back down to Utah and work. If I went to UW, I’d have to face my long-time high school boyfriend, with whom I just couldn’t seem to cut ties. Our relationship was like a drug; I knew it was unhealthy, but I couldn’t quit. On the other hand, the thought of moving back to Utah after having lived there for a year and working a string of crappy minimum wage jobs wasn’t particularly appealing, either. So, with only a few weeks before the start of the fall semester, I had little time left to decide.
I’m pretty sure it was my birthday when I received the phone call from my aunt Sharon. She spoke first with my mom (and I’m not sure what was said about my situation, because I know my mom wasn’t keen on me attending UW and falling back into old habits), and then my mom handed me the phone. When I answered, Sharon jumped right into it, and she didn’t pull any punches. She demanded to know why I would allow anyone to keep me from my finishing my education. I was stronger than that, and I just needed to suck it up and go. She reminded me that this was my future, and I’d better be the only person determining what happens next. This conversation turned out to be exactly the push I needed from exactly the right person. I say this because no matter how many times someone gives you sound advice, unless it’s the right someone, you aren’t going to listen.
Although the first couple months at UW were no cake walk, eventually I was able to move on and find happiness. In fact, I fell in love and married my husband, I graduated with my BSW, and I secured a job at the university. This past year, I earned my BA in graphic design, and because of it, I will be moving into a career that I’ve dreamt about for the past eight years. I would’ve never expected that one decision could’ve lead to all this. Each day, I’m grateful I had someone I deeply respect give me the best advice of my life. Thank you, Aunt Sharon.
It’s a little harder for me to begin my story about change where it concerns my mother. Throughout my teens, our relationship was strained. We struggled with trust and respect, and our personalities were so different that we had difficulties relating to each other.
In high school, I took tremendous pride in my schoolwork, grades, and extra curricular activities. I won awards, secured lead roles in the school plays, made straight A’s, and I wanted recognition for it. However, it seemed to me that my mom wasn’t aware of the amount of work that I’d put into my achievements. It’s not that she didn’t tell me she was proud of my accomplishments, but the fact that we seemed to butt heads on almost everything else in life seemed to negate whether she recognized my triumphs in school. Oftentimes, I’d demand that she “treat me like an adult!”, and her unfailing response was always, “Then act like it.” This was extremely frustrating for me. What more could I possibly do?
My community college years weren’t any better. Due to my mother’s persistence, I filled out numerous applications and wrote essays in order to land enough grant and scholarship money to earn a full-ride those first two years. And for spending money, I was employed as a work study student between classes. I was completely self-reliant…except for the fact that Sheridan’s community college was only 30 minutes away from home.
At Sheridan, I was pretty anti-social, and I really missed my high school friends. I had fallen into an extremely dark place, and I went home almost every weekend. However, I found that running back to an empty town and semi-empty home only increased my loneliness. I don’t think she remembers it the same way, but to me, my mom and I were fighting even more. I can’t remember much of what we fought about, I just know that we were both terribly unhappy, and we each needed things that we couldn’t grasp. I accused her many times of never telling me that she was proud, and although she denied it, it didn’t make me feel any better. There was a huge wedge driven between us.
One Sunday, my mom asked me to attend church with her because she would be presenting in Relief Society (an organization for women based around service to others). We had to get there early because she needed to set up. When Relief Society began, I remember sitting in the front row listening while she talked about family (a very popular church subject). Behind her was a chalkboard with a curtain drawn over it. It was a nice talk and just as she was wrapping it up, she took a dramatic pause. She then drew back the curtain, and posted to the chalkboard were all kinds of awards, news clippings, artwork and other achievements of mine and my siblings—things that I had completely forgotten about, and things that she’d saved and kept safe from the elements over the years. She was crying while she told the ladies in the room how proud she was of her children—how they’d accomplished tremendous things and continued to do so. I sat there stunned, and my heart felt so heavy in my chest. I don’t remember if I cried at that moment, but since then, I’ve cried upon recalling this memory. It changed my feelings about whether my mom truly saw me. This was so much more than words, and it finally sunk in.
Although some of my adult life decisions have caused my mother pain, I know she has never stopped loving and supporting me. In fact, on just about every card that I receive from her and each time we speak over the phone, she ALWAYS makes it a point to tell me that I make her proud. I no longer question it, and I’m amazed that despite all the terrible things I’ve said and done to her over the years, she has always forgiven me. I realize now that when I was feeling jaded and under-appreciated, she was dealing with things beyond my comprehension. I can’t imagine what it must’ve been like to have worked full-time cleaning other people’s homes, raising four children (practically by herself), and also trying to satisfy my incessant need for praise. (Faced with the same situation, I could not have been that strong.) My mother has taught me humility and to apologize when I’ve hurt someone I love. She has taught me to recognize when others are doing the best that they can do, and that it’s important to step outside myself and give that person credit. My mother has even taught me to recognize that my actions really do have an impact on others. And for all of these things, I am so very proud of her. Thank you, Mom; I love you and happy Mother’s Day.
…and am sharing because they’re conveniently applicable to us all:
1. Know Thy Self
Learning to think conceptually was my biggest take-away from the design program. Research was stressed in every class, and although checking out library books and surfing the web for hours before even beginning to think about the design of a project made my brain numb, it afforded me extra brownie points. Each time class critique came around, I could justify every design decision I made. This was great for the sake of getting A’s and expanding my mental creativity, but it didn’t really allow me to explore my design tastes and identify who I am as a designer. I spent all my time doing historical research, but I wasn’t pairing it with enough visual research. Therefore, my design creations, although conceptually sound, weren’t visually reflective of me, and nothing that I made resembled what I liked. That’s because I wasn’t researching imagery that I liked.
It wasn’t until I finished the program and was able to create personal projects that I really began exploring my own design aesthetics. I learned that I gravitate toward hand-drawn letterforms, happy illustration, and most of all, imperfection. For someone who was a self-proclaimed perfectionist and not comfortable with getting a little messy, this was a terrible realization. I’d been designing opposite of what I liked.
2. Get Out of Your Head
As mentioned above, I wasn’t fond of getting “messy”. Therefore, I stayed away from sketching (a fast, untidy process that enables you to illustrate multiple ideas as a means to finding solutions). As someone who struggled with the unobtainable goal of perfection, naturally, I didn’t like all of my crappy ideas staring back at me from a sheet of paper. I couldn’t get past the fact that my sketches weren’t immediate works of art, and they looked more like the creative genius of a first-grader than an adult designer. Man, I had issues.
Because I did some weird finagling of classes with my full-time job, I was able to skip some required art courses prior to the design program, but I had to pick them up once I’d finished. Drawing II was one of those courses, and it truly changed my life. The instructor had the most amazing disposition, combining highly-structured organization with a passion for creative exploration. I learned from Dr. Russell that my expectations of perfection were causing me to be a “commit-a-phobe” in my line work. (And the key to successful drawing is confident line work.) At the beginning of the course, my drawings were fuzzy and indecisive, but by the end of the course, I had produced drawings that shocked me. The expressive movement that I admired in works we studied became apparent in my own work. I had stopped judging myself so harshly, and therefore, I was able to break free of the crippling fear of screwing up and just allow myself to explore.
This breakthrough helped me find an appreciation for sketching, which allows me to work fast without obsessing over the quality of my work. I can try out numerous lettering and graphic layout compositions, and I don’t even worry about being highly detailed. I’m able to see and choose the best idea, which is far more useful than trying to find the answer in my own head, then jumping straight onto the computer only to find that my “perfect solution” doesn’t work. Now, as a rule, sketching is the first stage of my design process, and I never jump onto the computer before doing so. And to be fair, the design program tried its darndest to instill this principle in me; I just couldn’t get out of my own head long enough to grasp it.
3. Learn to Walk Away
This may be the most important lesson I’ve learned when it comes to design work. I’m not talking about giving up on a project, I’m talking about knowing when to take a time-out and physically WALK AWAY. Designers tend to become obsessed with the tiniest of details in their work, and when this starts to happen, the project as a whole begins to suffer. The problem with focusing on one area for too long is that it causes us to ignore the design in its entirety. If we’re too concerned with perfecting one area while ignoring the rest, the whole thing is just going to end up looking funky.
This is the point at which I get up from my chair, leave the room, and do something else that is NOT design-related. Taking a walk, watching a movie, or just going to bed will enable me to clear my head enough to gain some fresh perspective. Maybe my time-out is for a couple hours; maybe it’s a couple days. But nine times out of ten, when I return to the project with a fresh pair of eyes, I notice something glaringly awful that I didn’t see before because I was too concerned with some silly area. Or, while on my design hiatus, the solution to my problem comes to me out of thin air, because my mind is free enough to accept it, and I’m able to move forward.
We all hate it; we’re all scared of it. We pass up opportunities every day in order to avoid it. It drives the first questions that come to mind when we consider change: What if I try it and disaster strikes? What if I’m not any good at it? What if it humiliates me? These are valid concerns, but allowing these concerns to keep you from trying means you’ve already failed.
The reasons above were my excuses for never testing my own limits. If I continued to do what had always worked for me, then I’d never fail, right? …Not exactly.
Prior to enrolling in UW’s graphic design program, I had this nagging suspicion that I was missing out on something. Although my marriage was strong, my spouse and I had just moved into a brand new home, and my job was stable, I couldn’t shake the feeling.
When my father passed away in 2009, it hit me hard that life does not wait for you to accomplish your goals. I realized there were so many things I wanted to learn and do. I wanted to knit. I wanted to create things. And most of all, I wanted to change the stale path that I had been paving for myself. But I’d been holding back….For what? I couldn’t say.
Don’t Be a “Commit-a-phobe”
The month after my dad’s passing, a couple friends took me under their wings and helped me buy a pair of knitting needles, some bulky yarn, and the how-to book Stitch n’ Bitch. They taught me the knit stitch, and from there, I was hungry for more. I bought more books, watched numerous tutorials, and I learned advanced techniques. It took me a long time to get really good, and I made some huge mistakes along the way, but the fact that I never gave up is what caused my life to take a new direction.
As odd as it sounds, my success in knitting drove me to enroll in the graphic design program. There were numerous times that I wanted to put my needles down and say “I give up; I’m never going to master this stitch!” But I didn’t; I always found a way to solve my problem. Through commitment, my confidence increased immensely, and I found myself thinking: “If I can teach myself to be this good at knitting, I can pretty much do anything.” Wow; having a thought like that was pretty unlike me.
What If You Succeed?
The graphic design program was trying, to say the least. I didn’t join with the intent to become a graphic designer. I went into it like I went into knitting–wanting to learn more about something that had always intrigued me. However, there were many long nights, many tears, and MANY thoughts of quitting…because that would’ve been so much easier.
Only half of the students who started with me ended up graduating from the program. Those who stayed, including myself, did so because they wanted it badly enough, and they had the moxie to finish. What I took away from the program was confidence in myself and my perceived limits. I learned that I’m only as strong as my most condemning thought. I learned to think differently about my capabilities, and I began to associate failure with the willingness to try and see what might happen. Thus, I surprised myself by realizing how much I really LOVE TO LEARN.
My Ownership of “Failure”
Last weekend I took Jeff Rogers’ online class on painting letters. Now, paint is not my typical medium, and he is quite a bit more free-spirited than me when it comes to art-making. However, I challenged myself to give it a go and just see what would happen. I chose the phrase “own it”, because I wasn’t sure where this project would end up, but the point was to not let that bother me. After all, I was exploring a new process and medium. What I found is that since I didn’t follow my regular, regimented creative process, the piece emerged more organically than what I’m used to. I continuously slapped on new layers of color without judgement and let the piece shape itself (which was a little scary). Once I finished, I noticed some things in my own work that I tend to be attracted to in the works of others, like Jeff. Most importantly, I allowed myself the possibility of failure; I owned the fact that it might turn out terribly. And because I did, I learned some things about my skills, and I got a glimpse of some new possibilities. None of which would have been possible had I not tried.
If you take away anything from this post, I hope that you’ll reconsider the word failure and what it means to fail. Failure is the undesired result of trying. It’s almost impossible to not learn from failure. And as long as someone is learning, he/she is succeeding.
A common misconception when it comes to art creation is that a truly original piece is the result of something that has never been conceived of or done before. The truth is that it’s near impossible to create something 100% unique. We all have a zillion things that contribute to our frames of reference and influence the ways in which we interpret our world. Therefore, it’s rare that any of us has an idea that someone else hasn’t already thought up. But that’s NOT A BAD THING.
What’s Old is New
Postmodernism is a current art movement that recognizes/honors what has already been done and strives to “make the old new again”. For example, there’s a huge trend right now to refurbish household items, giving them fresh life rather than discarding them for something brand new. It seems wasteful to throw away something that is perfectly functional; not to mention the fact that it’s so much cooler to own something that already has a story behind it! These same principles apply to postmodern art.
Those of us who create do so from inspiration. Something as simplistic as a walk in the park to exhaustively reading multiple texts pertaining to one subject can serve to inform a successful work of art. I will not jump onto the computer until I’ve doused myself in research and imagery, made various sketches, walked away from my project to gain fresh perspective, and then come back to it with a fresh pair of eyes. It’s a tedious routine and it’s not for everyone, but an uninspired process produces uninspired results.
Postmodernism in Action
Many of my hand-lettered phrases come to me out of the blue (although nothing is really “out of the blue” since our thoughts are a fusion of personal experiences), and make me laugh out loud. If I’ve determined that one is illustration-worthy, I research the idea to gain an understanding for its origin and meaning, and then I seek visual inspiration.
My most recent design combines my nostalgia for 90’s music and appreciation for my adopted hometown of Laramie, WY. I referenced specific song lyrics (If you can’t place the song, click on the image.), and I explored downtown Laramie imagery, as well as 19th Century type specimens and advertisements. The result is something new created from items of old, containing a little research, history, and pieces of myself.
After a long morning of plane rides (one of them being especially terrifying and leaving me nauseated but thankful to be alive), and a fun-filled afternoon with my sisters, mother and aunt, it was time to head down to my grandparents’ to present the phrases. When we arrived, my grandparents were characteristically eager for us to begin a game of Mexican Train, but Mom, Aunt Sharon and I asked them to give us about 15 minutes beforehand. We raced downstairs, hurriedly removed the printed phrases from my suitcase, and placed each in a frame and its own gift bag. We marched up the stairs, each holding a gift bag or two, and lined them up on my grandparents’ game table. I stood across from my grandparents and asked them to take a seat. My aunt stood next to me with her cell phone ready to document the moment, and my mother stood beside my grandparents to assist as needed while they opened their gifts.
What transpired next is documented in photos below. I hope you all enjoy…
Frank and Donna listen intently as I explain that what lies within each bag
is something I’ve created for them throughout the year.
They open the first gift and smile
as they recognize the illustrated phrase within the frame.
Laughter and smiles escalate with each phrase that is revealed. At one point, my grandfather has us all in stitches as he reads the “Frank!” phrase with inflection in his voice, just as intended by its design.
I will forever remember this Christmas with my grandparents. And without the help of my mom and my aunt Sharon, I know this experience would not have been nearly as memorable. Thank you, and I love you all.
2014 has truly been one for the books! A year ago at this time, I was preparing for surgery to correct a herniated disc in my lower back. My pain was tremendous, and I was convinced that I would not be able to walk on Christmas day. Nevertheless, I held out until laminectomy day arrived on New Year’s Eve. The surgery was a complete success, and after almost an entire year of healing, I can say that my back is in better shape than it’s been in ten years (Man, I sound old)!
This past summer I graduated with my second Bachelor’s degree in graphic design. This is an accomplishment that I will never take for granted. For five years, I worked full-time while taking one course a semester. During that time, my husband saw me through numerous break-downs, and there were plenty of occasions that I considered throwing in the towel. But perseverance enabled me to find a niche in hand-lettering, confidence in illustration, and the satisfaction of knowing who I am as a designer.
The year wasn’t without its pitfalls, however–a big one being my special little Mr. Man (a Holland lop named Gus) passed away after a month of critical care. He suffered a severe infection, and in the end, his little body had grown tired of fighting. My husband and I (and our mini-lop Gracie) miss him dearly, but our memories of Gus bring us cheer every day.
In a few days, I fly out to see my family and present my grandparents their hand-lettered phrases that I worked on throughout the year. I’m excited to see the looks on their faces when they recognize words that they’ve spoken to my family members and me over the decades. I know I’ll need to explain quite a bit about my process and what was involved in the creation of the phrases, but that’s part of the fun.
I wish to thank all of you who have liked DRD’s facebook page and subscribed to my blog. I wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy new year. It’s truly a time to celebrate all that we have and those whom we love.
If you’re like me, then Red Shirt Fridays are unknown to you, even though you probably have a relative or two who has served in the military. The act of wearing a red shirt on Fridays serves to honor our veterans and the service they’ve given our country, regardless of whether or not we support the war. Because I have both a grandfather and sibling who have served my country, I can totally get on board with showing my appreciation.
Last month, I had the privilege to work with the Student Veterans Organization at the University of Wyoming. I designed their logo as well as their promotional t-shirt. And in doing so, I’ve realized why it’s important to occasionally switch out my brown and gold UW attire for red on Fridays!
Larraine Fairbanks (who also happens to be my mother and the daughter of the man who inspired this hand-lettered illustration)! And NO, the contest wasn’t rigged; she just wanted it really badly and was relentless in hounding friends to subscribe. In fact, she was neck-in-neck last night with another contestant. But amazingly, with only about an hour left in the competition, a massive group of people began signing up for her, and she was cannon-blasted well into the lead. Congrats, Mom
So What Happens Next?
As some of you know, last December my family pooled together around 30 phrases commonly uttered by my grandparents. We all voted on our top five favorites, and I have been working to hand-letter the phrases throughout the year. This particular phrase is the fourth in the series, and I will complete the fifth next month. At that time, I will reveal to all of you the entire, completed series. And at Christmas, I will present the illustrations as framed prints to my Grandparents (who are, I think, completely unaware)!
Thank you to all who participated, and WELCOME to my new blog subscribers! …and Happy Halloween!
This is the current phase of the print
(before color & texture are added)
The Story Behind the Design
Now’s the time to give you all a little background on why this hand-lettered phrase is looking the way it does. First, let me start with the history of “What in the Sam Hill?”. I researched its origin, and it dates back to the 1800’s. As the story goes, Sam Hill was a mercantile store owner in Prescott, Arizona (where the store still stands today). Sam Hill’s Warehouse carried just about everything, from hardware to ranching equipment, to household goodies and more! Hence, the saying “What in the Sam Hill?” was used to indicate something surprising, like you’d find in the store, and it quickly evolved to take on a number of different meanings. (It was even a great way for men to disguise their swearing around the womenfolk!) For these reasons, my typography references American wood type specimens of the 19th Century, and my layout is based on those of advertisements that you might have seen hanging in the store at that time.
In order to tie in my grandfather (who inspires this illustration), I incorporated sweet treats and hardware elements within the frame, as well as drafting paper for the background. Although time has slowed his ambitious endeavors, back in the day, he was a designer and carpenter, and damn, he was good at it! As a kid, I remember sitting mesmerized at the kitchen table while watching my grandfather draw out house plans on gridded paper. Typically, he’d have a soda in a see-through, barrel-like mug on one side of his drawing, and a treat on the other side. In my teen years, I had the tremendous opportunity (though I didn’t see it as such at the time) to help him build a couple houses in exchange for some summer spending money. I became handy with a tape measure, learned the purpose of a chalk line, and always helped myself to a sweet treat (oatmeal cream pies were my favorite) when break time arrived. Oh, and I almost forgot the most important part!–My grandfather uttered “What in the Sam Hill?!” frequently when something puzzled him on the job…and with apprentices like me, there were numerous reasons for puzzlement.
I’m excited for the final phase of “What in the Sam Hill?”, because it will incorporate more color and texture, which will really make it zing! By the end of this month, I will reveal the final print. My hope is that I will also announce a recipient of the print at that time as well. So, one more time, here are the instructions on how to win it:
How to Win the Finished 8 X 10 Print:
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