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Lauren Heim: Encouraging Whimsy and Art

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Lauren Heim isn’t worried that her livelihood is based on something many kids don’t even study in school. Our next generation might look at her creations with quizzical faces and ask its meaning. Lauren’s work focuses on the glorious loops and splendid lines of hand lettering, which closely resembles cursive writing.

“This always comes up at my workshops. Many students aren’t being taught cursive writing any longer, so what I’m doing does go against that grain. We’re on our devices all the time, and I’m afraid that kids won’t know how to read it,” laughed Lauren. “But my workshop students say they want to make gifts for their family and friends, and hand lettering is a nod to our past and our history. This leads me to believe that we are going back to handwritten notes and letters because they are so personal and hold such a romantic, nostalgic quality.”

Lauren’s business card reads “Independent Hand Lettering Artist,” and when she distributes them, the recipients’ looks are excited or confused. Hand lettering simply refers to letters being illustrated by hand with character using a variety of tools. Brush lettering is created with a pointed brush pen used with pressure to achieve thin and thick strokes. The more traditional calligraphy is completed with a nib and ink. Lauren Heim Studio, located in her home in Olathe, Kansas, concentrates on three main areas: brush lettering workshops, custom and freelance hand lettering and a product line of household goods featuring her work. She’s proud to point out nearly every offering is produced by Kansas City businesses as she supports others in the Made in KC community.

Coming Back to Art
For Lauren, the world of hand lettering didn’t come “write her way.” A doodler since she could hold a pen, she honed her love of messy and creative things as a child. Favorite adventures with her parents included trips to the art store, which landed her an easel that Lauren still uses today. But at school, art classes were difficult, which led her to push away pursuing her creative side. After middle school and in college, she never took an art class. She effectively wrote herself into an “uncreative box.”

“In college, I wanted to pursue event planning and got my degree in public relations. After I graduated, I got a day job, but it wasn’t fulfilling; I craved bringing some creativity into my free time. So I taught myself the art of hand lettering by picking up pens and practicing,” she stated. “A couple of years later, I began a wedding planning business and started sharing my lettering work, too. In between my wedding planning client meetings and executing wedding days, it became all about hand-lettered chalkboards. I had an Etsy shop and uploaded my products. I grew the letter side of my business, and in 2015, I stopped planning weddings.”

Her style has evolved over the years and she’s happy with it, although she’s always learning and expanding her horizons. She describes her work as polished but not traditional calligraphy. It’s modern meets classic and sometimes whimsical, but definitely not pretentious. Her go-to media are brush pens and watercolors. She prides herself on being an artist and a teacher.

Sharing Skills
“In 2015, I started teaching the art of brush lettering to beginners in the same way I taught myself. For workshops, we gather around a table with my favorite tools and the tried-and-true practices and techniques that worked for me. Teaching is one of the greatest joys in my business; in fact, the main focus of my business is sharing hand lettering,” Lauren said. “My goal is to inspire people to allow more space to be creative in their own lives. When I started with the workshops, I noticed people were from all walks of life, careers, businesses and ages, but they had a few things in common. They were overwhelmed with their lives and responsibilities. They were looking for a place to slow down for self-care and to be creative.”

She instructs in a variety of ways. Her signature Brush Lettering 101 workshop is styled for beginners. Lauren estimates she’s taught more than a thousand students in the Kansas City metro the art of brush and watercolor lettering. The two-and-a-half-hour class includes hands-on learning with her signature workbook packed with detailed content, all professional art supplies, a gift, snacks and refreshments. Dates and locations for upcoming workshops can be found on her website. Lauren also offers private lettering workshops for bridal showers, corporate groups or a few friends. Contact her via the website for full details on this personalized approach.

“We also offer an online workshop. It’s exactly what I teach in person, but you can learn in the comfort of your home,” commented Lauren. “You can download and print the signature workbook from the online portal and order the coordinating supply kit, delivered to your doorstep, to have everything you need to get started.”

Yes, You Can!
When Lauren is asked if anyone can learn to hand letter, she replies with an emphatic yes.

“I’m completely self-taught with no formal training, just years of hard work. It only requires time, practice and patience. If you can devote these three things, you can learn hand lettering,” she promised. “I use quality supplies; they do matter. Top quality pens and paper will help you progress that much more.”

While workshops are her passion, Lauren also offers hand lettered products such as apparel, holiday items, mugs, prints, signs, stationery, wedding items and much more for online ordering. Her favorite products feature her close ties to the community.

“During the holidays, we have a set of three, hand-drawn Kansas City wooden ornaments, laser cut by local artisans from quarter-inch birch wood and packaged in a window box. Each is hand tied with red-and-white twine and ready to hang on your tree,” she advised. “I create a new set every year, and last year we sold out. During the holidays, you can find them on the website, at some local shops and at our pop-ups at local events.”

While she gave up wedding planning some time ago, she still features wedding products that can be custom created, such as acrylic seating charts, signs, invitations, place cards and other details to make a special day even more beautiful. Lauren also offers custom lettering for business logos, signage and hand-lettered pieces to use for social media, graphics, print design and more.

Living in Grace
Given the success she’s enjoying, it’s obvious Lauren has the “write stuff.” But she had to have the belief in her capabilities, the desire to learn more and the ability to help others discover their creative side in order for her to take that leap of faith.

“I wanted to learn for the same reason I now teach others: I craved a creative outlet. It gives me inspiration, relieves stress and anxiety. I want to be in the present and be creatively challenged,” she recalled. “One of my workshop students shared that hand lettering is a form of therapy for her. She chooses a particular word with meaning to her on that day and meditates about it as she letters.”

While the creative process can be challenging at times, Lauren also finds that running a small business is perplexing too but in a different way. “Being a business owner is something I don’t take lightly. People are investing money and time to take a workshop from me, and I don’t lose sight of that. I want to make it a positive customer experience and make them feel comfortable. I want them to feel seen, heard and welcomed,” she noted. “But for others thinking of becoming a business owner, don’t be afraid of the work it will require and the pressure. A creative field can be exciting, but it’s the work behind the scenes that makes you successful. You’re in charge of every department of your company. Ensure you invest time and energy in being a good business person.”

Local Too!
Being a small business owner seems to be “write up” Lauren’s alley. She’s built a successful company based on her inventiveness and the connections she has made in the Kansas City artistic population. “Supporting the local makers and artists in Kansas City betters our community. You can support them by visiting local shows, buying their products and cheering them on social media,” she remarked. “But remember you are creative as well, so don’t put yourself in a box saying you can’t learn a new skill. 

“Be creative every week. There are so many opportunities in Kansas City for creative experimenting. Encourage other people around you and don’t be shy in sharing your projects as well. The Made in KC movement is so inspiring, and the more we create and share our work, the more we all will grow.”