You ever get an idea in your head and it won't go away until you start working on it? That happened to me over the past couple of months, and then once I finally caved and got to work on it, all these other ideas started snowballing until I was left with something that has morphed and changed into this giant igloo I wasn't even planning on building in the first place, but now that it's here I can't even believe it started with just one tiny snowflake of inspiration. And I can't ignore it.
As some of you may know, I started to get serious about my lettering skills over the past few months, and beyond learning how to make my writing more legible, I've been inspired in other ways I couldn't imagine. Beyond the pretty, stylized pictures I'd see throughout my Instagram community were real people I'd never met, as is the way with the internet, who were cheering me on and offering their support. Incredible teachers and mentors, and even just other people like me who wanted to learn were offering suggestions about how to draw certain lines more easily, or what pens work better on what kind of paper, and patiently answering my questions about techniques that were foreign to me. (Things like creating galaxies out of watercolor.)
I didn't have to feel silly or dumb about not knowing things, because we were all learning together. (Also because it's not silly or dumb to not know things in general. We have things we didn't know before we knew them. Like did you know that "kill" means "creek" in Dutch? That's why there are so many towns in New York with "kill" in the name. In Ireland, however, kill or "cil" means "church of." You're welcome.)
My virtual community became a real community, just like the one I drive around in and shop in and add my little butterfly-effect of ripples in ever time I leave my home. I've always been a community-oriented person - I like having my regular haunts where people know me by name, or I can order my usual, or just check in with the people I may only get to see during those visits. I like to feel like I matter and my presence makes a difference, who doesn't? But the thing is, I didn't always feel that way in every aspect of my life - I had to learn it. And I'm still learning it!
You know what goes a long way towards reminding me that I am an important part of my community? Pretty, whimsical, and maybe even silly messages. I remember seeing a tweet last year that was basically a girl recounting her fear of failing a test or something, and that her father said if she was able to believe in Santa Clause for 10 years, she can believe in herself for 5 minutes. I can't even tell you how that stuck with me. I'd think of it often - and giggle each time at the silliness of it. But it's true, right? How easy it is to believe in something else, even something with a questionable basis of existence, but we don't always put that same faith in ourselves. That girl's tweet really put things in perspective for me. And I wanted to create my own version of it, something that spoke more to me personally, which is where my artwork that says, "If I can Believe in Unicorns, I can Believe in Myself" came from.
And you know what? As I've been discovering with my artwork all along, when something resonates with me, there's a good chance it resonates with other people, too - just like that girl's message. There are so many things I've learned as an adult that I wish I'd known as a kid, or maybe even wished that I'd heard it in a way that just didn't make me roll my eyes at the cliche-ness of it. It's hard to believe some one-size-fits-all messaging that I've seen, even as an adult. But I thought maybe part of my special skill-set is that I can put a new perspective on these to make them more digestible. And what if I could make them more accessible to people who really need to hear them, but may not otherwise be the target audience for my artwork?
So, finally, the reason you're all reading this post... My idea for a Community Uplift Project!
The idea is to take my artwork and make it accessible, both in pricing and the delivery system/medium, for people who need it. And, in my opinion, the people who need it most are kids! Did you know that most of our beliefs are ingrained in us before the age of 5? That's why it's so much harder to change them as we grow up, because chances are we've been continuously hearing these same messages our whole lives with nothing to counteract them. (Some are positive, and that's wonderful! But many aren't.)
So, my idea is to expose children (of all ages) to some new, hopefully more positive messages, and give them something to mull over and try on that maybe they haven't been presented with before. Things like telling children they are allowed to make mistakes, because of course we learn more from our mistakes than doing things perfectly the first time around. A child may hear that mistakes are okay, but if they see their parents upset over an imperfection or mess-up, the intended message may not be the one that's absorbed. And maybe they also need to hear that if something is important to them, that it's important, period, and they don't have to minimize their interest or feelings because someone else maybe has different priorities. And everyone should know that if they can believe in unicorns they can believe in themselves, because I want to encourage everyone to believe in themselves as much as they believe in sparkly, magical, majestic, mythical creatures. (I want you all reading this to know this, too, that you are each sparkly, magical and majestic in your own right.)
The first step, for me, is to spread awareness on this community project in general. Not only am I sharing this with all of you, but I have been handing out some of these postcards around town and hiding some in places where people can find them and hopefully gain some personal insight or even just enjoy the excitement at finding something hidden. Maybe you want to do the same in your community, I'd love that!
The second step is to get these into schools. I have a vision of teenagers opening their lockers on the first day of school to see a message waiting just for them. I believe it would be meaningful for them, to feel seen and like their individual presence makes a difference. Like their school or community cares enough to provide these well-wishes to them on their first day, and that everyone is rooting for them. So as part of my personal community uplift project, I've reached out to my local school district to offer them a donation for their high-schoolers, as well as options for getting these to the middle-schoolers and even elementary-schoolers. Ideally I'd like to offer this to multiple schools in my area for low or no cost, so I'm working on finding other ways to source funding for this.
The third step is to spread this sense of uplift beyond just my community and into areas around the country and possibly around the world! Do you have children who could use an infusion of positivity in their lives? Know any teachers who may want to give their students gifts of empowerment on the first day of school, or administrators who may want to hang these messages in their halls or classrooms? My hope is that you can help me spread this idea wherever you are so we can reach even more people .
In my shop, you'll find sets of postcards and posters for sale, each set with a variety of messages like these ones pictured, as well as all the future messages I'll create from the ever-growing list of ideas I have. Maybe you want to buy sets of these to leave around town or donate to your school personally, or fund-raise with some neighbors to make it a community effort. I will gladly work with you to keep costs reasonable so you can reach more people at a time. (The more you buy, the lower the cost per piece.) The backs are blank, so you can add your own personalized message if you're so inclined. Or if your school wants to sponsor these directly, I can include a message from them on the back, reinforcing their encouragement to the students. (I can even create a custom design if the school has their own motto or mantra they'd like to incorporate.)
No matter our age, we all deserve to be taught to love, trust, and believe in ourselves. All I ask is that you please help me spread the love, even if it's just a millimeter at a time.