Wake Forest grad writes her own future with poster series

Emily Poe-Crawford, a professional lettering artist, in her Winston-Salem home studio. (David Rolfe/Journal)

Emily Poe-Crawford, a professional lettering artist, in her Winston-Salem home studio. (David Rolfe/Journal)

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Emily Poe-Crawford, 28, always received compliments on her handwriting when she would take notes in school, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.

“It looks like a font,” is what she would always hear from students and teachers.

Poe-Crawford graduated from Furman University in 2008 with a double-major in English and Spanish. She went on to grad school at Wake Forest University. She completed her master’s degree in English in 2011. But she didn’t see herself following a traditional path. Instead, at the request of a roommate from college, she started doing hand lettering and graphic design.

Fast forward three years and Poe-Crawford is married to her husband of three years, Jordan, and operating a successful Etsy online store that sells her work. She has sold designs and calligraphic lettering to American Greetings and Papyrus stores, aside from the day-to-day sales through the popular online marketplace. And you can see her work featured on a poster series for “Wet Hot American Summer” curated by Aperture Cinema to celebrate five years of business in Winston-Salem.

Q: How did the poster series come together?

Answer: Someone from Aperture sent out an email toward the end of last year calling for submissions. She explained a little bit about the series, which is to celebrate five years in business. They wanted to know five films we, the artists, would want to see and the corresponding poster/concept for each one.

Q: How did you get into lettering and graphic design?

Answer: I’ve always had really neat handwriting. I’d be taking notes in school, and I would invariably get a student next to me who would be blown away by my handwriting. I’ve always enjoyed just making stuff, like making gifts rather than buying them. It’s so much more personal. That combined with finishing a graduate degree in English and not wanting to do any of the normal stuff with that degree. Plus, I wanted to work for myself.

Q: And all of your work is sold through Etsy?

Answer: I had experience with Etsy with my knitting, so my freshman-year roommate asked me to address her wedding invitations. That was when I learned calligraphy. There are traditional calligraphy alphabets, and I taught myself Copperplate, modernized it a little bit and put my own cursive into it.

Q: Do you do any commercial jobs?

Answer: I’ve done a lot of things. I’ve done logo design and worked with bigger greeting card companies. I worked with Papyrus. That felt like my dreams were coming true. They emailed me and bought one of my designs and made a box set of note cards with my graphics. They sold them online and in their mall stores.

Q: Is that hitting the jackpot for what you do?

Answer: It definitely pays better than daily Etsy sales. It depends on the job I am doing for them. One time they just bought a design I already created, so really I was just granting them the rights to reproduce it. Other times it’s more of a create-on-demand situation.

Q: What’s do your services cost for hand-lettering?

Answer: I’d probably say somewhere around $4-4.50 for the addressed envelope, then there are other things to add-on or remove to change the price a little bit. It’s kind of a dying art.

Q: How is it a dying art?

Answer: Hand lettering has kind of exploded. When I opened my shop on Etsy in 2011 there was hardly anyone doing what I was doing. Now you can’t get away from it. If you search “hand lettering” on Etsy, it’s out of control. I’m always having to fight to get my work to show up in searches. A lot of hand-lettered fonts are big now. Some people will just will buy these fonts, type out a little phrase, and sell it as a hand-lettered print. That’s not what I do.

Q: What was it like when you first started offering your services on Etsy?

Answer: There were lots of different elements that came together when I opened an Etsy shop for lettering. That was in May of 2011 right as I was graduating. Etsy actually featured me on the homepage and I got a lot of traffic because of that. I’ve branched out since then. When I first started it was just calligraphy on greeting cards, and I’ve started getting more creative with art prints.

Emily Poe-Crawford’s Etsy store is at https://www.etsy.com/shop/EmDashPaperCo. You can see all of her original work there.

Britt Chester writes about artists of all stripes — visual, musical, literary and more — weekly in relish. Send your story ideas to brittchester@gmail.com or on Twitter @AwfullyBrittish.

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