August 8, 2019
BY BEE PAPER
Meet Melissa Matthews (@cloversetlettering)
Sassy and classy Kansas City calligrapher Melissa Matthews @cloversetlettering discusses turning her passion into a business, overcoming creative burnout, and what inspires her witty phrases in her interview for the latest Bee Paper blog.
What initially got you interested in hand lettering?
If I’m 100% honest: Instagram. I had taken a break from Instagram for quite a long time, but one day decided to jump back on. I started off just posting regular, everyday stuff. Sometimes, I would spend time on the “Explore” page and I would get drawn into watching calligraphy or hand lettering videos. They were so calming and oddly satisfying! I mentioned to my husband how it would be fun to learn to do that and, on Valentine’s Day of 2016, he bought me my first brush pen. The rest is history!
What draws you to using watercolor to hand-letter over using traditional calligraphy ink?
I think what draws me to watercolor versus traditional calligraphy inks is the versatility of what’s currently available. Between commercially produced watercolors and the community of handmade watercolor makers (i.e. TinyCactus Designs, PeachyPress, TheSouthernBrush, Hydracolour, Aloha Watercolors, etc.), there are so many options! I have a passion for supporting small businesses and the ladies behind these paints put so much time, love and research into their products. You’ve got paint-makers creating color-shifting paints, holographic paints, duochrome paints, glow in the dark paints, the sky is the limit. So, I feel like the ability to create not only texturally dynamic pieces is now an option, but the ability to create more visually powerful pieces is possible.
Which Bee Paper product is your favorite? Why?
That’s easy! My favorite is the 100% Cotton Watercolor Paper in 140lb. The weight, even though it’s a standard weight across all manufacturers, just feels good in my hands. I like a paper that is going to hold up to the types of watercolors I use and, sometimes, the abuse I put it through! When I send artwork to friends, family and clients, I want them to feel like they’re getting a quality piece of artwork. Some of the bigger brands make 140 lb. watercolor papers, but they feel flimsy and have no character. These big brand papers have little to no granular texture to really showcase the paints I’m using properly, but Bee’s cotton watercolor paper has that nice granularity.
As a college graduate with a BS in Photography and Minor in Graphic Arts, how has your education helped you with making hand-lettering pieces?
This is actually a really good question and I’m happy you asked it. I think in the beginning, the thing that set me apart from a lot of new hand letterers coming into the community, were my photos. Having that technical training on lighting, composition and color theory is priceless. Instagram is an instant gratification type of social media platform, so you want to make the biggest impression in a matter of seconds. Most posters who have either a cohesive feed, a color theme, or well taken photos tend to have people follow them. Understanding how light plays with pigments in watercolor, how different types of lighting can alter the shade and hue of said watercolors, how angles can determine the mood of a photo are all critical and are things I think about before I post.
Do you have any artists who have influenced your artistic style?
I definitely have traditional artists that I look up to, however I have a handful of folks who’ve influenced my lettering style and techniques. Chrystal (@chrystalizabeth), Mychal (@sacredelephantarts), Lauren (@virginiahandwritingco), Erin (@gofontyourself), Erin (@the.lettering.fern), Lindsay (@tinycactusdesigns) are all letterers and calligraphers who I’ve been inspired by at some point in my journey. The true list of my influences is honestly endless, but I can say that these ladies have been quite pivotal in my growth as a letterist
You run your own hand-lettering business Cloverset Lettering & Print. How did you turn your passion into a business?
“You’ll never work a day in your life if you do something you love”, my dad would tell me that and I’ve heard it countless times throughout my working career. When I started to take my lettering and art a bit more seriously, it only felt natural to give it a name and a purpose. Cloverset is actually a family name, of sorts. My grandmother and grandfather owned a plant and tree nursery here in Kansas City called “Cloverset” and I grew up hearing a ton of stories from my father about it. As a homage to my late grandmother, and to my dad who passed when I was 18, it was the most obvious naming choice. Both my mother and father at different points in their lives were business owners, so in a way, I’m carrying on that legacy.
What are the biggest sources of inspiration to your work?
That’s a hard question to answer, honestly. Inspiration comes to me at different times and in different ways. I follow quite a few poets on Instagram, some of whom I’ve created friendships with, as their words tend to resonate with me the most. In that case, if something they’ve written really grabs me, I’ll letter that. Sometimes, if I’m listening to music (lately it’s been A LOT of Khalid and The Weeknd) and I hear a lyric I really vibe with, I’ll letter it. Sometimes, if a particular saying gets repeated or I hear it often enough, it inspires me to want to letter it.
What has been the greatest challenge you have encountered on your artistic journey so far and how have you overcome it?
Burnout is probably been the biggest challenge. For me, if I’m making something and it’s just not coming together, or it’s causing me to get frustrated, I have to step away. I know at that point, I’ve been at it for too long and need to recharge my creative batteries. I think some artists, particularly on Instagram, feel this pressure to post once a day. And while this isn’t inherently a bad thing, it can lead to creative burnout. If you’re churning out piece after piece just because some algorithm gives you priority if you’re active, you’re not really doing it for the art anymore, to be honest. At that point, it’s for the algorithm and that never ends well.
You have been hosting the very fun Sassy and Classy Lettering Challenge with @tinycactusdesigns and @kendallwritesonthings every month. How do y’all come up with those “sassy and classy” hand lettering phrases for the prompts?
Honestly? Some of them are sayings we’ve found and made our own, or there will be something one of us says that is just so ridiculous that we add it to the list. For instance, the Tom Hardy reference in July’s challenge was a direct result from me being extremely stressed and tired and the fact that Tom Hardy is my favorite actor. We honestly do not take ourselves entirely too seriously and this is just an opportunity to add some sarcasm into what we love.
Do you have any advice for artists wanting to sell their work?
Persevere. There will be moments when you feel like walking away from it permanently, but remember that being an artist comes before being a business owner. Don’t let the nature of business ruin the act of creating. Once you do, the entire process is ruined for you. But if people can see the passion and love you have for your art, the rest will follow. And always, always, always make sure to network. I cannot stress how important it is to reach out, make genuine connections and then foster those connections. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a bigger account, to ask for advice or for knowledge. On the whole, we are all here to create, encourage and support.
Facebook: Cloverset Lettering & Print