Episode 14: Pam Stevenson on Hand-Lettering

business May 04, 2021
Pam Stevenson on Hand-Lettering

Pam Stevenson, a native of Chile living in Massachusetts has a business using hand-lettering and modern calligraphy to create beautiful messages and pieces of art. She shares with us how she got started and how you can, too.

Connect with Pam on her Etsy shop (get 20% discount with promocode MOMKNOWS20), Facebook or Instagram.

Resources to learn modern Calligraphy: 

For a more pop style: The Happy Ever Crafter (website, YouTube, Instagram)
For a more modern and refined style: love @inkmethis (website and Instagram)
For a more classic style: The Postman's Knock (website, Instagram and Youtube)
For copperplate and flourishing:  you can join The Love Leigh Loops (website and Instagram)
Beginner Guides to Copperplate by Benjawan Calligraphy (website and Instagram

Pam's favorite gadget is...her Nutribullet with carrying case

Hear it:

Watch it:

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This is a transcript of the This Mom Knows Podcast - Episode - 14

Jennifer Uren
Well, I'm really excited to introduce you today to Pam. Pam is a Chilean graphic designer married to an American Superman and she's the mom of three little ones. And they're currently living in Massachusetts where her husband teaches at Gordon College while she's at home, homeschooling the kids and she makes everything calligraphy related. And in her spare time, she is helping her husband with Proyecto Nehemías - I don't know if I said that right - The Nehemiah Project, which is a nonprofit, where he's making Christian literature available in Spanish. So welcome, Pam, did I butcher that completely?

Pam Stevenson
Perfect.

Jennifer Uren
My children are bilingual. So I've picked up a little bit from them. But okay,

Pam Stevenson
I'm trying to raise bilingual kids, too, yeah

Jennifer Uren
It's a challenge. It is a challenge to raise bilingual children. And you have a leg up because you speak Spanish!

Pam Stevenson
Yeah. And my husband is it's his specialty. So second language acquisition and Spanish Romance languages. So...

Jennifer Uren
So your kids have no excuses. So tell us a little bit about you. Where are you from? Tell us a little bit about your family. And just so we can get to know you a little bit.

Pam Stevenson
Okay, so as you said, I'm from Chile. That's a very thin, long country in South America right next to Argentina. So think on the mountains or whenever you wear Patagonia. Anything really with Patagonia, those mountains, mountains in the logo are in my country.

Jennifer Uren
Okay.

Pam Stevenson
Yeah. And so the central part of since it's really long, it has very different weathers, but it's upside down. So the North is a really, really dry desert. And then, as you go south to the central part is more similar to Northern California. Okay. And then if you keep going south is going like California Napa. So think Oregon and then Washington. And Alaska might be a little bit like Patagonia.

Jennifer Uren
Okay. Oh, that's interesting. Yes. It's all those hemispheres, right.

Pam Stevenson
Yeah. They're in spring right now. And they have Christmas and summer, which is pretty.

Jennifer Uren
Oh, yeah. Yeah. Different. So how did you get from Chile to Massachusetts?

Pam Stevenson
Oh, do you want me to?

Jennifer Uren
Briefly...

Pam Stevenson
Talk before Massachusetts, or you want me to tell you how I got to, to the States?

Jennifer Uren
How you got to the States. Yeah.

Pam Stevenson
Jeff and I met at church in Chile and he was working there for 10 years. And so we married we had kids. We had two of our three kids in Chile. And he was working for a Christian, not a Christian University, for a liberal arts school called Middlebury College that's based in Vermont. And then he was directing the study abroad program for Chile and Mexico for a while, but then that closed. And so it was pretty intense. So you went to bed every night and you didn't know whether the kids were going to call you at three in the morning telling you that they were in really bad trouble. And then he was in charge of that. So after a while he he took a break, he took a a sabbatical, and we went to Trinity where we met.

Jennifer Uren
Yep - in Chicago.

Pam Stevenson
So we went to Illinois, and he started a PhD in Intercultural Studies, because it was related to what he was doing in Chile, and then we decided to stay and step off the Middlebury position. So we stayed, he kept going with his PhD. And then after a few moves, here we are in Massachusetts, he is now teaching Spanish at Gordon College, which is a Christian College.

Jennifer Uren
So your kids are very multicultural and well traveled.

Pam Stevenson
Very well traveled.

Jennifer Uren
Yes, yeah. Oh, so tell us we want to talk today with you about the thing that you know, which is hand lettering, you do some beautiful work. And so tell me tell me have you always been artistic?

Pam Stevenson
So I'm a graphic designer. My profession is I studied graphic design at college. Okay. And then when I was little I was always like, making quills and writing with ink and, and then I ended up studying graphic design, which is pretty awesome. I didn't know I mean, when I was in high school, I was like, should I study law? Or should I be a lawyer? Or should I study business? Or you know, it was that kind of what class should I take and then I ended up being a graphic designer. And that part of in college we had to write with dip pen, calligraphy. Our notes for college where the calligraphy Okay, I wish I had kept something from those times because I wish I could see how I was doing at that time. But that was dormant for ages and I, I worked in the corporate world, marketing departments, brand agencies and until I married Jeff, and we moved out of Santiago and in Chile most of graphic design positions are in the capital in Santiago.

Jennifer Uren
Okay.

Pam Stevenson
So we moved to the coast. So I became a full time Mom, I started working with him helping him and I became a mom full time

Jennifer Uren
It never ends.

Pam Stevenson
Until it was the same year that we moved to the States. A couple months before a Chilean friend who was living in the states and she was also living in Trinity had a miscarriage and her mom told me would you write a letter for her and I have never been through that situation. So I didn't really have know what to say to a person who had a miscarriage. So I remember a verse that Jeff loves that is one of his favorite verse verses from the Bible that says, I will wipe away all the tears, the tears from all faces. So I decided to write in, in a pretty way and then I discovered modern calligraphy. And I said like I so I did something though. I'm pretty sure it looks awful. But five years ago, almost five years ago already, so I have that feeling that I need to master this I need to do it. I want to do it nicely, you know, so I self teach myself and I found ink from my college years and dip pens and

Jennifer Uren
it wasn't dried up.

Pam Stevenson
It wasn't dried out. I still have it. And I started relearning and it's like digging in all that muscle memory.

Jennifer Uren
Yeah, so you call it modern calligraphy and I would call it hand lettering. So that's interesting. So it kind of gets

Pam Stevenson
Both things exist. So I do lettering and calligraphy. So lettering is more like when you draw something a piece and you put like a banner or you shade the the ladders you know, like you try to make them 3d or with shading or that kind of thing that's called lettering. And if you think of more like traditional calligraphy like your name on a university,

Jennifer Uren
yes to diploma Yeah,

Pam Stevenson
Diploma that would be calligraphy. Okay. But there's like, among all the kinds of calligraphy because there are many different styles, I started with something called modern calligraphy. Okay, that is more like free stuff that breaks all the rules of traditional calligraphy. And then I am started like slowly but maybe surely going more to the traditional style and learn more than the fundamentals of the copper plate, one of the the traditional styles called copper plate.

Jennifer Uren
Okay

Pam Stevenson
Which is round and it's like, go back to the basics and learn the rules first and then start breaking them.

Jennifer Uren
Okay, so there so in the modern calligraphy that you're doing, there's a lot of freedom to be artistic and you don't have to really worry so that's what we see a lot of when it's like the the gather signs with with flourishes and all that Okay. Okay.

Pam Stevenson
Copperplate has a lot of flourishing. So all those lines, all those switches, all those like, vines that you see that go out of the letters and yes, fill the space, those are called flourishes.

Jennifer Uren
Okay

Pam Stevenson
One of the things that draw me to copperplate calligraphy is that they have that piece of flourishing thing so.

Jennifer Uren
Okay. Yes, it's I admire that you can do it. I can't even write legibly, handwrite legibly, so

Pam Stevenson
It's two different things on and always shudder their, their hand lettering. handwriting on it. It looks like anyone's handwriting. It's just a different thing. It's okay. It's like singing in the shower or singing in the opera. It's different.

Jennifer Uren
Okay, well, that's a good, that's a good analogy, because, you know, that encourages me that I could potentially learn to do this.

Pam Stevenson
Everyone can do it, to try and have determination and patience. And then there's things that are going to make it easier or harder for you. left handed. Okay, person. So that's, that makes it harder than that. It makes it harder if you are like an over writer or when you write from below your the line the baseline, okay, I'm an over writer. So I put my hand on top of my writing, and smudge everything.

Jennifer Uren
Yeah, so did you have to learn to reposition your hand for the..

Pam Stevenson
Yeah, that's a process I'm going through. Now, if I if I write like, draft with pencil, I will do it normal with a normal procedure. But then if I ink it, you twist it 90 degrees, and you write from like, just like Chinese calligraphy from top to bottom. Okay. And with your with a baseline facing to your left hand. Okay, that descenders the "g" go towards the left and the ascenders go towards the right.

Jennifer Uren
Okay. Okay.

Pam Stevenson
Pretty intense, like learning how to divide and form the shapes of the letters and the spacing, and everything but completely. 90 degrees in 90 degrees angle. It's really confusing.

Jennifer Uren
Yes. Oh, yeah, I bet. So you're really drawing. I remember once my kids asked me, How do I draw this word? And that's really what you're doing is your drawing a word. Okay. So what, what are you doing now, with this skill? How are you using it?

Pam Stevenson
So right now, it's, it's all about Christmas season. So you live like two months ahead? Yeah. And I'm getting ready for Christmas season. I'm full on Christmas ornaments.

Jennifer Uren
Okay. Because it's November when we're recording this, and this might not air until after, in January or February. But so yes. So you're two months ahead all the time.

Pam Stevenson
Yeah, you have to and that's one of the things I'm Latin American and that's different. So every year, I was saying, like, I should do something, I should do something with this. I should do something with this. But I started thinking really thinking about it, like one week or two weeks before and Americans have it planned and they, they their orders ready. And they have their their product launches. And then I after for Christmas, or for Thanksgiving in the States, I've realized that Americans set up the tree the night that Day after Thanksgiving,

Jennifer Uren
That's a good point.

Pam Stevenson
So you have your ornaments before that. Because otherwise everyone's not going to buy them.

Jennifer Uren
Yes. Well, I would say it's true. I ordered my Christmas ornaments. I did give one for the kids every year and I'm ordering those in August September, so that I have them.

Pam Stevenson
I should have done this in July.

Jennifer Uren
Christmas in July, right?

Pam Stevenson
That's why we need Hallmark movies in July about Christmas.

Jennifer Uren
Right. So right now your focus is Christmas ornaments. But when Christmas ornaments are done, what other types of things do you do

Pam Stevenson
I do any kind of text that people want. It's usually pieces of Scripture that I am commissioned to write. So I will do them in a nice piece of paper and will with nice ink and dip pen or some home decor like a welcome sign or a water color of the front of your house. That kind of thing.

Jennifer Uren
So do you just do the drawing or do you ever do it like painted on a big board? Or is it just ink and paper or do you do other mediums?

Pam Stevenson
Yeah, like wood signs or or mugs, sweatshirts, whatever you can put calligraphy on.

Jennifer Uren
You do it.

Pam Stevenson
Yeah.

Jennifer Uren
Okay. That's really cool. I think the sky is really the limit with any thing now.

Pam Stevenson
The sky is the limit. The problem is that your house looks like worse everywhere.

Jennifer Uren
That's right. A little busy. So, if if a mom wanted to learn how to do this, you sent me some resources, so I'll put those in the show notes, but tell us a little bit about where you would recommend somebody goes to get started.

Pam Stevenson
Yeah, there's tons of things and recommendations are good, because you have so many resources on YouTube, and whatnot. But when I started, I found this really, and I think it's like the to-go plays for everyone. It's called the Postman's Knock. And Lindsey Bugbee. And she has a website and, and also Instagram and YouTube channels and everything. And I what I like about her is that she has a lot of freebies. So she has a lot of practice cheats that you can download for free. And if you want to dig in more into something specific, you can buy her pro practice guides. So that's like the to-go source for for everyone that starts with the pen, calligraphy, then you can do this with an iPad and an Apple Pencil and an app called Procreate.

Jennifer Uren
Okay,

Pam Stevenson
So that's on the computer, I mean, on the iPad, digital layer lettering, and there's a couple people that are more specialized in that there's this lady called The Happy Ever Crafter that has, it's more like crafts in general, but she does a lot of calligraphy. So she has a lot of freebies too. And she has tons of videos on YouTube. And you can search for her in line, you will put the ending in your show notes. But yeah, then, for things more specific, like copperplate calligraphy, I will leave the link in your in your show notes because I'm not really sure how to pronounce pronounce her name. She's not from here, okay. But she does some really beautiful work with copperplate calligraphy, okay, and you can find her on Instagram, and she also has a website and you can download her, her beginner guts to copperplate. But you can also watch her on Instagram, and you can see all the videos that she posts where she's flourishing letters, so.

Jennifer Uren
Okay. Yeah. And it sounds like well, first of all, it sounds like this is a very inexpensive hobby to get started in because there's so many free resources, but it sounds like with the videos, that's it's like having a teacher right there. You're not trying to have someone describe to you how to do it, you could watch them do it as many times as you want.

Pam Stevenson
If you are super, like consistent, and you're you're determined in doing something in a short period of time. There's this online resource that are classes for whatever you will, what's the name of it, I will try to remember the name and leave it in your show notes. Okay, um, but they give you like one or three months for free. They have classes for whatever you can imagine. And there's a lot of calligraphers that offer their classes there. So that that is a more tailored way to fina a little bit more one on one way to learn. Yeah.

Jennifer Uren
is it creative bug per chance?

Pam Stevenson
No, it's not

Jennifer Uren
Okay. That's that's one that I have seen those on too. So I think there's probably a lot of great resources. Yeah.

Pam Stevenson
Lots of different platforms, but this one was like the first one that started and a lot of calligraphers have their their courses there. I always sign up for things and then I forget and the kids you know,

Jennifer Uren
Right, right. Is this something though that your kids are learning? Is it is it conducive to doing this with children?

Pam Stevenson
It is horrible trying to go with children. Because they will just like Mommy Mommy, they will go my hand it's like okay,

Jennifer Uren
Are you trying to teach them how to do it?

Pam Stevenson
I have my space, this is my change.

Jennifer Uren
Yeah, yeah,

Pam Stevenson
like bubble space bubble. Right? Yes. So I tried to do it when they are asleep but now that they are a little bit bigger and Emma is still napping so I will use her nap times and I will tell the kids like break time you can go play outside and they can play outside. We live in a very safe it's kind of a called a cul-de-sac, it's the end of a street so they have space to play.

Jennifer Uren
Have you tried teaching them at all? Are they interested in learning?

Pam Stevenson
So Danny is just five and he is starting forming letters and because of the reading piece of writing, it's easier for them to start with print. You know, okay. You teach them print first and then you start with cursive. Lisa is like, she hates writing. And she loves mommy's pens. Because you said is a very inexpensive but you start buying one pen and then you want them all and all the colors you know and a different color and there's this new brand and you want to try it and you want so

Jennifer Uren
I said it was inexpensive to get started, I didn't say I didn't have to stay.

Pam Stevenson
Yeah, so. So she wants to write with mommy, mommy's pens. She I love cursive and she's like a lady little ladies. Try to, to do what I'm doing and try to imitate when I'm writing. And it's like, Okay, go ahead, do it. You know. It's good for her to learn how to write cursive and and to learn how to read cursive. So if she is interested, because it's two different worlds. And especially because calligraphy. It's more it's fancier than just a regular cursive writing. It's hard for them to read. It's hard for them to learn how to read cursive. So sometimes she can figure out what it says. And sometimes she can't. Yeah, yeah. So it's good that I'm practicing. It's also good because they know that I practice a lot. And she gets frustrated with handwriting. Yes. So it's good for them to see that mommy's doing something that requires a lot of practice practice too not just for them for everyone.

Jennifer Uren
Yes, yeah. To keep keep working at it. So is there an age because that's a good point. If they're little and they're just learning to print and they're learning cursive is there a great age to introduce this?

Pam Stevenson
So some people start some teachers start teaching their kids cursive from the beginning. Since Lisa was in public school for a while, and she learned to print the print off of it first. I just kept doing it. And then some people say it's good to start introducing it in second grade.

Jennifer Uren
Okay.

Pam Stevenson
So Lisa's in second grade right now. Okay. she, her bone age is younger than her actual age. Okay. I don't know if you've heard but there are some bones in her hand that solidify at certain age. And I keep a toddler at the hands of a toddler in the hands of a seven year old kid is completely different.

Jennifer Uren
Yes.

Pam Stevenson
So they lack a lot of bones that grow and solidify later on. So I guess that maybe because of that she is reticent to grab the pan and try to do things.

Jennifer Uren
Okay, that makes sense.

Pam Stevenson
Yeah. So I'm trying not to try not to push her. She still needs to make progress, you know. But yeah, I try not to push for her too much. And I'm going to start next year on third grade. When I I see that she has mastered the print. Yes, he can write semi consistently, like on a baseline, you know?

Jennifer Uren
Yeah. Sounds like these pens, though, are a real draw for her to no pun intended for her to, to want to be working on it.

Pam Stevenson
Yeah, yeah. And it's something that you can connect with your child too so she loves that special time with mommy. Yeah, whatever we do, even if we go to store it's just like that special time with me. Emma can be there but just like without the others. And they play together all day long. But I think she remembers when she was the only one there. Yes. And she was the fact that now there is a baby and her life was never the same. Yep. And then when Emma arrived, the same thing happened to Danny so Emma islike her Avenger, you know? Emma is avenging her.

Jennifer Uren
That's right. She she did to him what he did to her

Pam Stevenson
So she doesn't mind Emma being there but if Danny's not there, and I would let her play with my pens because you're bigger and you'll be gentle with them and you're not gonna fray the tapes. You know, so You can use this one. And she's super happy. I love it. That kind of thing.

Jennifer Uren
Yeah. Oh, that's really cool. Well, we're starting to get to the end here of our time. But one question that I asked all of my guests is, what is your favorite gadget?

Pam Stevenson
Gadget? And so are you talking about...

Jennifer Uren
Yeah, it doesn't have to be with with hand lettering or anything. But what is the one thing that you can't live without? Or you tell everybody? You've got to have this thing?

Pam Stevenson
Oh, I don't know if I brag so much about it but I we do take our NutriBullet everywhere with us.

Jennifer Uren
Ah, okay.

Pam Stevenson
Yeah. So I don't know if that counts as a gadget.

Jennifer Uren
Absolutely. Yeah.

Pam Stevenson
So we we have the little bag the carrying bag and we take it if we go on vacation, we go with it. If we move, you know, things can get in a storage but we move with it, then.

Jennifer Uren
That's in the car that goes.

Pam Stevenson
That goes with that. Yes. Yeah.

Jennifer Uren
Oh, that's fun. So do you just make smoothies with it? Or do you make soups? What do you what do you make with it?

Pam Stevenson
For soups? I try if I have a blender with a glass jar, I would try use the blender. Okay. And because of the the amount and being hot, you know that then no trouble in the jar doesn't get like cracky if you put hot liquids in it. Okay, but if we buy coffee beans instead of ground coffee, I will use it to to grind the coffee grinder coffee and you can also make Nut, nut butters if you are okay. patient enough to stop and let it rest for a while. Yes, it's very good. It has like a good knife and good speed. So it will be good for that.

Jennifer Uren
Well, that's brilliant. I learned something. I never would have thought to use it, particularly for the coffee beans. So that's great.

Pam Stevenson
You don't have to have a coffee grinder, you know?

Jennifer Uren
Yeah. Well, that's good to know.

Pam Stevenson
It saves one space in the kitchen out of all the things that you have in the kitchen. Right?

Jennifer Uren
Well, that's great. Well, how can people connect with you? Where will they find you?

Pam Stevenson
So my handler is letter to flourish. And you can find me at letter to flourish both on Facebook and on Instagram.

Jennifer Uren
Excellent.

Pam Stevenson
And yeah, that's the way also my my email is letter to [email protected] So you can also shoot me an email or on Instagram to just shoot me a DM or on Facebook. Facebook, open the shops, the Facebook shops, and I'm trying that option. So this week I went live with with a shop and you can go there and directly buy the...not in January. But

Jennifer Uren
yes, yes, let's see what you have available at that point. And and you said that you're offering our listeners a 20% discount with a promo code, which I'll put also on the screen and in the show notes. So that sounds great. You do beautiful work. And I always enjoy when you post your latest thing on Facebook and I can see it and I wish I wish I could do what you do, but you've encouraged me that with some practice I could start to learn

Pam Stevenson
And you can download tons of free resources free guides that you can start just tracing and you don't need there is something called brush pens that have like a flexi tip that you can hide thinner or thicker, but you don't even need those if at first you can just start doing something called faux calligraphy and then double your lines to to make thicker strokes somewhat some parts and kind of shading. So you can start doing that and when you get the hang of that like a little bit how to have a styling your calligraphy or where do to shade. You can get your pens, your your brush pens.

Jennifer Uren
That's great. That's a great place to start. Pam, thank you so much for joining me today.

 

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