Hand-lettering, a craft that began as a hobby for Amy Latta, soon became the basis for an award-winning blog, One Artsy Mama, and now a book, "Hand Lettering for Relaxation: An Inspirational Workbook for Creating Beautiful Lettered Art," that will be released on Aug. 11 by Page Street Publishing Co. Already, the book has sold close to 1,000 copies via pre-order.
Latta, a Carroll native, is an alumna of McDaniel College who worked as a teacher at North Carroll Middle and Francis Scott Key High schools. The Times caught up with Latta to ask her about her love for teaching and her experience getting the book published.
Q: How long have you been hand-lettering? Where did you learn your skills?
A: I started lettering in the fall of 2015, and I'm mostly self-taught. I saw people sharing lettered designs on Instagram and Pinterest, and decided it would be a fun new art form to explore. I searched online and looked at what other artists were doing, then did a lot of practicing until I was able to recreate the same look. At first I used a "faux calligraphy" technique, which is an easier way to get the look without mastering the real brush lettering skills. In time, I became proficient with brush pens as well.
I noticed that there weren't a lot of tutorials out there for people who wanted to learn how to letter that really broke things down into the most basic steps and instructions, so I started trying to share on my blog, One Artsy Mama, exactly how I do what I do.
Q: What do you hope a reader will get out of the book if they purchase it and follow it through?
A: There are 47 "workshops," or chapters, in the book and each one teaches something new. It may be a new font style, a sketched banner, some simple floral accents, or flourishes. As readers go through each workshop, they will learn that skill, practice it, and then use it along with the things they learned in previous chapters to create a finished design. By the end of the book, they will have developed a variety of lettering skills as well as created over 45 hand-lettered designs right there on the pages.
My hope is that those folks who don't feel especially crafty or creative will learn that they really can do this and will begin to explore this new form of art. I also hope it gives readers a chance to relax and take some "me time," whether they do it daily, weekly or just whenever they can.
Q: Did your blog help you with pitching your idea to Page Street? What was the process of seeking out a publisher?
A: When I won The Craftys' Best Craft Blogger award a while ago, part of my prize was the opportunity to pitch a book idea to a specific publishing company in San Francisco. I came up with the idea for this book and presented it to them. Initially, they were very interested, and my idea continued to be refined as it moved up the chain of command.
Just as I got to the point where I was going to receive a contract, someone at the company decided they didn't think there was enough of a market for the book and just like that, I was back to square one. I wasn't ready to give up on my idea, because I know my audience and I absolutely had no doubt that there would be interest out there for a book like this one.
I knew another blogger who had recently published a beautiful book, so I asked her who her publisher had been. She told me that it was Page Street, so I looked them up online and submitted my proposal to them. They believed in me from day one, and shortly thereafter, I had a contract in hand. They had already put out some coloring books and knew this book would resonate with a large number of people.
Q: Do you think your experience working as an instructor was helpful when you went to write an instructional book?
A: Absolutely. I have held several different jobs, but teaching is at the heart of them all. After leaving the school system, I taught ballroom, Latin and swing dance, which requires the same skills, just knowledge of a different subject matter. Now, on my blog and in my book, my job is still to instruct. I have always been told that I'm good at explaining things, and that combined with what I learned about teaching at McDaniel College has helped me to communicate countless things to an audience that's too numerous to count. I always strive to break things down into their simplest pieces so that anyone can understand and be successful.
Q: How long have you been teaching local workshops? What is your favorite part about teaching art in your community?
I hosted a few workshops in my home just for fun where I invited some friends to come over and learn lettering, but it wasn't until Carroll County Public Schools approached me about doing a program for them that things really started rolling. I absolutely love the opportunity to teach face-to-face in hands-on classes and to see the diverse and creative projects that everyone creates. I also love seeing the "light bulb" come on as students realize they really can do something they weren't so sure they could do.
I also do private workshops for churches, clubs, and in-home for groups of 10 or larger.
Q: You taught a crowd of more than 440 people when you were an instructor for a Pinterest conference, correct? What was that like?
A: They weren't all in the room at the same time — it was more like 200 at a time — which was still daunting! I had a wireless microphone and all kinds of cool technology that allowed me to do things like broadcast what my hands were doing on the large screen. My brand partners like Tombow, Plaid Crafts and Blitsy were very generous with providing materials for the students to use, and while it was much too large a crowd to be able to get much individual interaction, people really seemed to enjoy the project. I just taught the same way I would to a small group, and fortunately I don't get nervous when speaking in public. I got to meet so many sweet people and it was a really fun experience.
Q: What's next for you? Will you continue with One Artsy Mama and your workshops? Are you working to promote the book?
A: One Artsy Mama isn't going anywhere! I will continue sharing fun projects, including home decor, jewelry, family crafts, and seasonal projects in addition to my hand-lettering projects, just like always.