Women of The Wedding Industry Wednesday with Angela Kaufman of Plume & Proper
Creativity takes courage.
My fingers shake/wiggle/woogity woogity a little as I type that.
What about you? If you repeat that back to yourself, once, twice, or three times how does it feel?
Creativity takes courage.
It feels powerful to me. I didn't know courage could be associated with creativity. I thought courage was for physical things that happen outside of the body. Winning a fight. Being sent to war. Winning a Texas pistol duel. Doing something impossibly daring. Driving your motorcycle over a wide gorge somewhere in the desert and not dying. I didn't know the power of courage could exist in the brain. Could show up in"being one who creates". Could be defined somewhere in the lofty work of the arts.
Creativity takes courage.
It feels real to me. There are days when being creative feels like a curse. Days when I would give anything to be someone who could be happy given a task list that someone else made, and punching through it. Days when I wish I didn't create a mess out of the restless and impulsive and compulsive need to chase something that doesn't exist yet but I feel compelled to bring into existence. For once I wish I could wake up and just be and it would be enough. Just be glad for it all and not need to add anything to the world from myself.
Creativity takes courage.
It feels raw to me. How afraid I've been to wake up so many days throughout this entrepreneurial journey. Afraid to set my own schedule for a day, knowing it never feels like I am doing enough. Afraid to look at my bank account. Afraid to check my email. What if there is a problem I'm not capable of solving? What if I've pissed someone off? What if they hate me? What if they fire me? Afraid to open up the littlest app on my phone that has such a looming presence over my sense of self worth. What if I have offended someone? What if my work isn't good enough? What if I copied someone? What if they copied me? What if I'm too sensitive? What if I'm not sensitive enough?
Is not the relentless What If the itchiest thing you've ever touched?
I had the benefit of seeing a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist for a few years of my life when I determined I couldn't live with my brain anymore and I wanted something like a low-key lobotomy to make it better. I said is there any way to give me a new brain? Sure said Barb. But you're going to have to work for it. Following your old, well worn, and familiar trails is much easier than carving new ones. One exercise she'd always lead me through was "state the worst". She said people were so sure they could just beat around the bush with literally every uncomfortable emotion or problem or fault in their being, beating their brain muscle into a shape that was unrecognizable and not very functional. They incapacitated their thinking abilities because they were too ashamed to say what they really felt. To really identify with gross, uncomfortable feelings.
So she would just stare at me and say "Say it".
"OKAY! I'd say after awhile. Staring at the clock wondering if I could actually just sneak out early. Dammit. Embarrassed. Sweating off my natural deodorant that doesn't do jack for someone with my prolific glands. And I would begin a long run on sentence of What if and What if and What if that left a trail of my worst fears. After the exercise was over, I'd feel like garbage. I'd just stated the things I couldn't let people know about me. That I am susceptible to vulnerability. That I feel deeply. That I care what others think of me. That my self worth was often tied to public opinion. That being unlovable and unloved was a my worst fear. That not being good enough would equal death. That being utterly useless in the grand scheme of things kept me up at night and paralyzed me and I was living a life that reflected a desire for safety rather than a life I had authorship and ownership over. I was 23 at the time and felt like I had royally failed the 7 year old me who thought she ruled with a glitter pen. Do you remember what it was like to be a child who creates? Heaven. Bliss. It wasn't courage that led you to write and draw and paint and sing and build and color and play and command a classroom of 20 unruly stuffed animal pupils. It was instinct and you were excellent at it.
But afterwards, and years later I feel better about those What Ifs. I feel less controlled by them. I honor them, observe them. And absolutely try not to confuse them with truth. And in doing so, I was able to fearfully but finally step into my life as a creative entrepreneur.
Sound familiar? Of course it does. We may be biologically unique. There's not a single soul that has ever lived or that ever will live that has your exact same set of fingerprints.
But socially, we are all not so different. We developed and were created around other human beings. Humans that didn't have strong, supportive, communal social groups eventually died. We don't know their stories of independence and personal glory and tales of excellent solo surviving skills because there is strong anthropological evidence to suggest that they didn't make it.
What we have to gather everything we know about the world and it's history from instead is by groups of people that were organized under various structural cohabiting units. Families. Households. Kin. Clans. Villages. Communes. Tribes. Groups. Communities. Bands. Nations. And later Crews, Teams, Mobs, Cabals, Cliques, and Peer Groups.
Your being is organized. Into something. Into probably many things. You're an individual, but you're really not. And if you are a creative, that is the paradox you live with daily.
What I take from that, and what maybe you can too, if you struggle with identifying as a creative individual is that there is precedent for people like you. And I can promise you, you undoubtedly matter in the grand scheme of things. What you create matters.
Because while our ancestors were becoming prolifically good at surviving, they were creating too. They are one in the same. Creation is not somehow separated from the important task of being good at living, it is entwined in it. It is the soil of the surviving roots of humanity. Our capabilities as creative beings were never a hindrance to human success and achievement, but a condition of it.
So, to summarize.
Creativity can be uncomfortable. So uncomfortable. Do it anyways. Led by the instincts you were born with rather than the desire to be an individual. It's been done, in some form or another. I promise. But it hasn't been done by you yet, and the flourishing of the arts rely on lots of people trying it their way, influenced by their experience. Creativity connects us through shared experience.
Creativity can make you feel vulnerable. Because you might fail. And people might hate it. Get comfortable with that. Let it sink in. Then try to stop feeling responsible for what others think of your work. Trust a few people to critique you, and to help you improve. Treat them like a panel at your dissertation defense. The Supreme Court, the entity charged with determining legality and justice for OUR ENTIRE COUNTRY has only 9 people on it. You don't need more than 9 experts on your panel. I promise.
Creativity takes courage. I'm just wondering if you've given yourself that yet. Have you accepted it? Have you internalized it and owned it? Have you understood that the very act of being creative is courageous? I think the more courageous you feel, the more freely you'll act on it. So take that word, and swallow it like a pill.
I'm so thankful that the very first piece of work Angela of Plume & Proper shared in her digital portfolio with the world (AKA the gram) was that statement - Creativity Takes Courage - in her absolutely gorgeous penmanship.
I'm sure its been said. I'm sure its penned in other people's beautiful penmanship. But the world and your opportunities in it are related to spatial proximity, and I may have never dwelled on this statement, or tried it on as one of my mantras if it hadn't been for seeing Angela's work.
Angela is kind of elusive, hella beautiful, the kind of person who actually makes me laugh out loud. I love people that make me laugh. She's someone I feel connected to in the sense that she keeps it light and uses humor possibly as means to soothe other feelings that accompany any creative person sharing their work with the world. She's sweet. I love people that aren't afraid to be sweet. It doesn't make you any less important. She has what appears to be raw talent, a gift that she has & has honed with not just discipline, but curiosity. I love people that act on curiosity. She's a self taught calligrapher who is making a full-time living writing things for people. If that's not its own kind of magic, I don't know what is. I love people that make you believe in them. And I 100% believe in Angela and her work.
So sit back and get cozy. We talk about how wrong I was about Seattle, and what it really feels like leaving your corporate job. We talk about how if you aren't following Cassie Tackett on Insta you're missing out on anywhere from 3- 12 laughs a day. We talk about Angela's potential as an ASMR YouTube star, and how she wrote in one of my favorite fonts of all time, Game of Thrones.
Creativity takes courage. And I'm so glad people recognized in Angela what she maybe didn't see in herself. That's how it always works, right?
With Angela Kaufman of Plume & Proper
Photo credit: Blair Lim Photography
You moved from Seattle to Southeast Michigan. So I take it you're not too into sunshine?
HA! One would think not. But I write this while en route to the Sunshine State, so I definitely love me some Vitamin D as much as the next person! Michigan is home for me while Seattle is home for my husband, Cass. We met at college in MI, but moved out to Seattle for his job after getting married in 2016. We just recently relocated back to Michigan (also for his job) after spending ~2 years out there, and it just so happens to be home for me! But yeah, I love sunshine. Apparently I just save it for vacation.
What was the Seattle world like? All I picture are modern day Riot Grrls walking around with vegan chai lattes?
I mean… youʼre not wrong. That world certainly exists. BUT, Iʼm happy to report thereʼs a lot more to it. Seattle is an absolutely glorious place. Iʼve never experienced another US city thatʼs such a different world. The pace of life is just more *chill* than it is here, and the culture itself is a bit less uptight, if Iʼm being blunt. I feel like you would really love it. The first time I visited I was like... what are mountains??? Incredible. Plus you have the water, rainforest, city life. Itʼs just all SO COOL. It took me a good year and a half to adjust and genuinely grow to love it, but now I really miss it. It really cracked me open and stretched me as a person in ways I didnʼt know I needed, so I think whenever you experience a lot of growth and refinement somewhere, it makes it that much harder to leave. Thankfully we go back to visit my in-laws and all the amazing friends we made out there pretty frequently!
Before calligraphy, what was your life?
THE WORST. No Iʼm kidding. It was of course still lovely, just not as risky or creative or fulfilling. Iʼve always played things very safe and Iʼm a total people pleaser, so doing what I thought was expected of me was always my go-to. I went to college to play basketball with no real direction on what I wanted to do or what I was really good at. I ended up studying International Business, which allowed me to pursue my love of French and avoid (most of) the science and math classes that haunted me through high school. Long story short, after college I worked in Global Marketing at a software company for 5 years, which gave me TONS of business experience, opportunities to travel, and the worldʼs absolute best boss. But when I started practicing calligraphy in 2016, it was truly life changing!I started tapping into this piece of me that I had been catching glimpses of over the years, but never really took the time to explore. I actually felt healthier, like I was finally using this creative piece of me that had been dormant since elementary school art classes or something. I get really emotional thinking about it if Iʼm being honest! The person I was before calligraphy. But here I am, doing what I love full-time and sometimes feeling bad about how much fun I have doing it. Iʼm really grateful for the process and continuing to find my style as an artist.
You're self taught, correct? What is one other thing you learned to do that we don't know about.
I am! I taught myself for our wedding and havenʼt put it down since. Iʼve always been a doodler though and was constantly writing in cursive and bubble letters growing up, so it felt really natural to start a hobby that involved having a pen in my hand. This past fall I decided to teach myself how to digitize my work so I could start offering stationery design and print, and Iʼm having SO MUCH FUN. Itʼs been really empowering to play around in Adobe Illustrator with typography and design and figure things out, while simultaneously feeling like I have so much to learn. Itʼs really exciting.
You are so cheeky and funny. Do you have a favorite comedian or comedy show?
Iʼll never forget when you called me a “cheeky cheekster” on one of my posts. I was so flattered someone as funny as you thought I was funny back. Gosh I love humor! My husband is literally the funniest human I know. We made a cross-country road trip out of our move this past summer, and I swear we spent the entire time just laughing at what the other person would say. Iʼm a huge sucker for quick wit and sarcasm, so shows like Parks & Rec, New Girl, Schittʼs Creek and The Office kind of sum up my humor. Iʼm not big on stand-up because it makes me really nervous, but the people that come to mind are a lot of my close friends and family members, as well as people I follow on Instagram like John Crist and Cassie Tackett from Northern Native Photography. The lolz overfloweth.
When did you know when your hobby as a calligrapher was full-time job material?
It was a combination of things. To start, people kept telling me it was. And then when my Instagram seemed to keep gaining momentum and paid inquiries were consistently coming in, I started to actually believe there was something special going on. There were a string of opportunities that came up about a year ago around this time that were seemingly out of nowhere, and those really helped me gain confidence that I could do this. I also progressively realized that I enjoy creative entrepreneurship as a whole, not just sitting down and writing pretty things all day! So that was a big indicator to me that this was a sustainable career path that would keep me feeling challenged, motivated and fulfilled.
How did you letter that one cake?
I used a paintbrush! It was pretty out of my wheelhouse, but something I wanted to try, and I think thatʼs what styled shoots are meant for. Iʼd totally do it again!
This freakin' cake. Photo credit: Blair Lim Photography
Years ago my husbabe and I found out we both experience ASMR. So we started watching Gentle Whispering ASMR videos on YouTube and it's our guilt pleasure. Your Friday Five gives me the same visual and audio ASMR experience. Can I talk you into producing your own calligraphy ASMR show? You could make like $100,000 an episode.
This is so fascinating to me. I had never heard of ASMR until recently when Cardi B talked about it during an interview I was watching. I donʼt experience it, so I am SO interested in hearing more from you about what you experience. I know a lot of my followers canʼt stand the scratching sound of the nib (including my husband), but hey if thereʼs a market for it, then we should talk. :)
*On Angela's Friday Five, she pens five names of her Instagram followers in gorgeous calligraphy. Check out her stories for all the good feels.
I'm just going to say it. You are so beautiful. Has it ever crossed your mind to be a (tasteful) adult film star?
Well… remember when you asked about my life before calligraphy? KIDDING. That is incredibly nice of you, thank you. You have great eyebrows and killer bone structure.
I mean. I nominate Angela for Most Photogenic High School Mock Elections. Photo credit: Blair Lim Photography
Correct me if I'm wrong, but you started your Instagram account in fall of 2017 and have an impressive following of 4,000. I don't love getting too in the weeds about Instagram, but I do know it is a powerful marketing tool and excellent way to build a very visible portfolio. So, has your following matched your growth in sales? Would you say you get most of your clients from Instagram?
Look at you, ya little data analyst! Those stats are correct, and they were definitely unforeseen when I finally mustered up the courage to start my account. Like a lot of people, I definitely have a love/hate relationship with the app, but I can say for certain that without it, my business would not be what it is today. Youʼll hear a lot of people say that followers donʼt equal revenue, and thatʼs true, but I have found that my project load is increasing as my following does, and Iʼm really grateful for that. Most of my leads are definitely from Instagram, followed by word-of-mouth and Pinterest. And while weʼre on the subject, can we just raise a virtual glass to anyone reading this who uses social media to run a business?! This stuff takes mad energy!!! But I do enjoy it, and I love that itʼs led me to other encouraging and wildly talented creatives like yourself.
How are you liking Brighton? I used to snowboard at Mt. Brighton, I had no idea it was a landfill. I heard it's quite nice now! Do you snowboard? Are you an outsidey or insidey person?
Heck yeah, Mt. Brighton! I donʼt snowboard. My husband shreds enough gnar for the both of us. As I mentioned, I grew up playing basketball, so winter sports werenʼt really allowed out of risk of injury mid-season. It seemed SO LAME at the time, but then I tried skiing last winter and I fully understand where they were coming from. I suck. But thatʼs fine because Iʼm more of an insidey person by nature. The town of Brighton is a lovely place. Thereʼs a nice assortment of little shops and restaurants (The Wooden Spoon serves some of the best food Iʼve ever had in my life). My family moved there when I was entering 8th grade, and my parents still reside there today, so I consider it home. Cass and I were roomies with my parents until just recently when we bought our first place just outside of Detroit! Weʼre so happy to be closer to the city but still close to family.
What is your favorite color paper? What is your favorite color ink?
White handmade deckle edge paper, metallic gold ink. You just canʼt beat it.
What is one thing you never want to letter again?
Iʼm gonna be real generic here, but anything that isnʼt aligned with my style. I think itʼs really common when youʼre first starting out to create anything and everything just to make people happy and get paid— but after a while itʼs not a very good feeling, and itʼs definitely not why I quit my job. So going forward Iʼm aiming to be really intentional with the projects I take on and the content I put out.
What does a typical wedding order look like? Do couples hire you for day of goods as often as invitation suites?
I would say more day-of goods than invitations, mainly because I just recently started venturing into the stationery world as I mentioned. Itʼs hard to some up a “typical” order because each couple really is so different, but my most popular services are envelope calligraphy, place cards, and day-of signage (welcome signs, bar menus, etc.), which are all really trendy right now.
You designed some Game of Thrones pieces for my friend and fellow planner Nicole of Compose Events beautiful Winter Solstice wedding this past December. Was that your first time ever writing in Game of Thrones font? It looked sooooo good.
It sure was! Thank you so much. I think that was our first time really interacting on Insta, yeah? There is a big difference between a lettering artist and a calligrapher, and Iʼm the latter. So when I was asked to do something in a non-calligraphy script, let alone Game of freaking Thrones font, it was a bit daunting. But I was really pleased with how it turned out and finished it feeling empowered!
We just celebrated Valentine's Day. Are you a romantic? What do romantic calligraphers do for Valentine's Day?
Yes? I think so. More inwardly than outwardly though, if that makes sense. I had this breakthrough this year that if I were a holiday, I would be Valentines Day. It celebrates and glorifies so many things (beyond love) that I love: paper goods, handwritten notes, sweets of all kinds, the color pink… really it should be my favorite holiday. But ironically my husband and I donʼt make a big fuss about it. We got engaged on the 13th, so our focus is more placed on acknowledging that than Valentineʼs Day itself.
What are you excited about business wise for 2019? What about personally? In business: metamorphosing. This is my first full year, full-time, and Iʼm really eager to see what everything looks like come December. And in my personal life: savoring. I want to bask in the gift of being back near my family, settling into our first home, and just slowing down to be present.
Anglea is on vacation right now, but you can catch up with her at plumeandproper.com for all your paperie needs when she returns.