This time last year found me skeptical of the "word of the year" practice. I thought it might be helpful for others, but certainly not for me. How could I choose one word to govern my entire year's state of mind? Early January 2019 saw dozens of inspiring words pop up on my social media feed. If I'm being honest, I felt a little defeated and intimidated by all of my peers seemingly solidifying and proclaiming their goals in just one word. How was this possible? And then it hit me... Literally... Check out this post for the rest of the story. 

2019 was a "lesson year" for me. I call it this because I spent this time learning lesson after lesson about my new full-time business, vendor relations within the wedding industry, working with multiple clients at a time, supportive vs. toxic family, chronic pain and disability management, living in constant home renovation and setting boundaries and balance for it all. I spent the year experimenting with life and noting the outcome for future reference. To put it bluntly, 2019 was a painfully exhaustive journey for me. 

Through it all I have gained the tools and information I need to continue moving forward. I fought the fight, learned things the hard way, laid the foundation for my growth and now I must take time to heal. Armed with my knowledge of years past, I will stand firm in my boundaries and I will build myself up from the ashes of 2019 and the decade I fought so hard to emerge from. 

I am both eager and anxious for what 2020 has in store. I am ready for many new lessons and challenges, but I am also ready to make time to heal in between it all. 

I wish for us all the time to heal and to live slowly, with intention. I hope your 2020 is full of the stillness you need, the happiness you seek and the wellness you deserve.
Something that is constantly on my mind as a small business owner is my "why" and my "how" aka why am I creating and how am I creating? Answering the why is often harder than the how, but I often find that my reason for creating is either to fuel my creative passions or to serve a greater purpose.

I believe that it is very easy in today's world to lose sight of the "why" and "how" that fuels creation, especially when social media is full of content creators often carelessly sourcing and cranking out the most lavish and jaw-dropping inspiration for you to admire and covet. But often times that content isn't really serving anyone. Particularly in the wedding industry this type of content can make you feel like you missed out if you didn't have this as an element of your wedding day that has already passed. It can make you feel inadequate if you weren't the vendor to come up with that "ingenious idea". And worst of all, this content can make couples believe they need to make expensive plans for their weddings if they want to "stack up" with the others. 

No matter what you feel you need as an individual, as a business owner, or as a couple planning your wedding, I hope that your "why" is being accessed with each purchase and each plan made. Which leads me to my "why" for this jacket I'm writing about today. Corey, my talented photographer friend, had a plan to work with a few eco-passionate vendors (myself included) and offer a prize to anyone who could make a solid effort to pass on plastic for the whole month of July. It was an amazing opportunity for me to create something that could inspire people to give plastic-free living a try. What an impactful reason to create! 

With my "why" crossed off, I needed to get my "how" sorted out. Could I buy a jacket off the shelf of some big-name retailer? Sure! But why would I do that when there are already countless jackets hanging in thrift shops across the country, in great condition too might I add! With my two biggest struggles as a business owner figured out for this project I got to work on this whimsical design with a full heart and a happy mind. Creating for a greater purpose fuels passion and makes you just feel damn good about what you're doing.

All photos in this post courtesy of Corey Lynn Tucker- Elopement Photographer

With my first *official* anniversary of being in business coming up in July, I wanted to share the meaning behind my brand name; Black Tulip. All of June and July of 2018 were spent creating business plans and logo designs around the name "By Hand Calligraphy", which was a pretty solid name, but has absolutely no backstory other than the obvious; my calligraphy was being done by hand.

Photo Courtesy of Corey Lynn Tucker

Before Black Tulip
I developed a color palette of pastel blues, greens and pinks because that's what I saw others were doing. Light and airy photos, bright whites, crips linens and swirly letters to compliment. I've been making art "seriously" for almost 10 years, and never have I ever created anything from the heart that had pastels as the main color palette. But I had also never tried to market my artwork to a niche of clients before and I had no idea what I was doing, so I followed everyone else's lead. 

Just before my official public "launch" in August, I had a complete breakdown. I felt like my personality and creativity were missing from my brand. As an Aquarian, I pride myself on being quirky, weird, and different. My business looked just like all the other, albeit beautiful, but Uber-pastel calligrapher brands. What I was doing was not authentic to who I was/am as an artist. My message and purpose were not apparent and it made me feel like I should just throw in the towel before the adventure even began. 

I needed that authentic, raw, real and imperfect element to my brand to make it feel like my creative home. I needed a welcome space to be who I truly am. So I stopped trying to be what I thought others would want me to be. I swapped my pastels for dark and moody blacks and browns, earthy greens and a bold and powerful red. I thought of my life, my inspirations, my happiness and that is where Black Tulip was waiting for me. 

The Netherlands + The Color Black + The Month of February = Black Tulip
I'm pretty sure this is common knowledge, but tulips are kind of like the "poster child" for the Netherlands, the country where I was born. Holland is where my dad kind of taught me how to drive a stick shift (lol, thank God automatic is the standard in the USA). It's where we celebrated my birthday every year in February. It's where my family lives. That country is home to some of my most cherished memories, so it only felt right to have a tulip as part of my brand. 

The color black has been my comfort through difficult years. It is my safe place, and a major part of who I am and what I create. It is a color that embodies who I was and who I grew up to be. It was only natural that any color palette I create for my business be centered around black.

Black Tulips are actually a very deep shade of purple. Purple not only symbolizes royalty (my name Stephanie means "crowned one") but also the month February by way of the amethyst. Being born in February, I have always surrounded myself with this beautiful stone. 

As you can see, this brand is unapologetically me. It is my past, my present and hopefully also a part of my future. 

A common request you will receive when working with a calligrapher on an event is a guest list; a finalized and spell-checked compilation of your invitees. Your list of names can be accompanied by table numbers or addresses, depending on the project you're working on. The secret combo to nailing a list submission is clear and easy formatting and proper reviewing. It is so important that you carve out a little extra time to get this list right before you send it over to your calligrapher. By not cutting corners, you will save yourself time and money (or even heartbreak!). 

Formatting a list can be a puzzling task. Spreadsheet based programs, like Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel, help keep things clear, orderly, and neatly spaced. Unless your calligrapher asks for your names to be formatted a specific way, you can format your list however works best for you. My policy; as long as it's easy to read, accurate and has no missing information, I have no formatting preferences! 

Proper Reviewing
As a calligrapher, you see a lot of names. But with all the variations out there, it's truly impossible to know if you've got the right spelling unless you know the person. For example; "Mc Millan, McMillan, McMilan" are all valid last names, but any one of these could easily be incorrect. Since you know your guests best, it's up to you to make sure you send over the correct spellings to your calligrapher, who will copy exactly what you provide them with. 

By reviewing your guest list, you cut down on the amount of extra correspondence with your calligrapher, which ultimately means your projects may get done faster. And, without mistakes, you can be sure your commissioned calligraphy piece turns out just as desired, saving you the opportunity for disappointment or heartbreak. 

Why is it so important to get it right the first time? Sometimes you can't make changes after the fact. Surfaces like leather, denim or other fabric projects don't leave room for mistakes, and specialty papers that you don't have replacements of can also pose this issue. If your surface can be "edited" after the fact, some calligraphers may charge an error correction fee (a certain amount per revision) so getting it right the first time may save you some money, too. 

Bottom line; the no-hassle way to submit a final guest list is format clearly and to make sure you've checked it, maybe a few times, before submitting. Sometimes submitting your finalized list a few days late is better than submitting it on-time with flaws. 

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