The Art of Name

In my previous life as a custom designer, I worked on a slew of projects involving clients’ cherished photos and when I’d reveal the finished pieces, very often the clients would become very emotional and weepy and I mean that in an Oh my goodness, it’s beautiful, I love it, I think I shall cry sort of way, and not in a HOLY SHIT, WHAT THE HELL DID YOU DO TO MY FACE, ARE YOU ON CRACK? kind of way.

That scenario never happened, thank God. If it had, I’d have become very emotional and weepy in a YOU’RE RIGHT, I AM TOTAL SCUM, I HAVE NO BUSINESS BREATHING AIR kind of way.

I enjoyed making people cry back then. I still make people cry today but now it’s limited to those who were yanked from my womb and it’s for entirely different reasons and honestly, it’s not half as much fun.

I also enjoyed making clients smile and the one product that was almost guaranteed to make my clients flash a wide grin was my Name Art.


I designed these pieces using creative typography and various graphics that I either made or purchased from a variety of sources.

I had always been obsessed with typography and at the time, I collected fonts like other people collected purses or coins or children or ex-spouses or STDs.

PSA for the day: stay away from that last group. They’re icky.

I lost a good portion of my fonts last November when my hard drive crashed. I lost a good portion of my mind around the same time.

It took several weeks but I was able to restore most of my fonts, thanks to Carbonite.

Can’t say the same for my mind.

If Carbonite ever gets into the business of restoring sanity, they will make a fortune. Maybe they’ll restore mine, on the house? I mean, I did come up with the whole idea in the first place.



I designed Name Art for both boys and girls and while I originally thought that frogs would be more of a boyish theme, I soon discovered they were pretty popular with the girls.

Who’d have thunk it?

By the way, Nate is closing our pool today and just five minutes ago, skimmed out a massively obese frog from the deep end. I helped by jumping up and down, shrieking GET IT, GET IT, GET IT, AAAAACK and flailing my arms all about because I like to do my part, whenever possible. We make a good team, Nate and me.

Right, Nate?



Sometimes a client would order a name in one theme …



And then change her mind somewhere along the way …




But I was fine with that because I totally understand that it’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind and this applies not only to Name Art, but also to hair color, holidays with in-laws, impromptu sex before the kids come home and new paint for the laundry room, regardless of whether the room was just painted yesterday by her husband in a color of her own choosing, which color looked awesome on the paint swatch but when rolled onto the wall, made the entire room glow as if Chernobyl threw up all over it.

Being a woman has its advantages! Approximately 23 days out of the month.

I didn’t mind switching a Name Art theme for a client because I liked creating them. They made me happy.

So  much happier than developing prototypes, testing vendors, calculating price points, analyzing printers, brainstorming marketing strategies, invoicing clients, maintaining websites, evaluating packaging, estimating shipping, and blah blah OH MY FREAKING GOD blah.

I became a little disenchanted with all the unsexy, endless, tedious, dreary, behind-the-scenes crap of my business and for a short time there, I turned into a bitter, deranged hag.

It’s but a distant memory now, though. Except for the flashbacks.



I just wanted to create stuff.

Why couldn’t I just create stuff?

Because they can’t buy it if they don’t know about it. Because the “If you build it, they will come” mentality exists only in movies starring Kevin Costner and I didn’t live in the middle of a cornfield.

That’s why.

But did I think about any of that as I stood in line at the county clerk’s office to file my shiny new DBA paperwork oh so many many moons ago?

No. I was too busy thinking about Photoshop.

And donuts.

Stupid donuts.

They’ve been my downfall more times than I can count.

I can count pretty damn high, too.



This was my favorite theme.



It was so feminine and pretty and I felt feminine and pretty as I was designing the name, even if I hadn’t showered or shaved or brushed my teeth yet.

Aren’t you all thankful I worked from home?

You’re welcome.



I had quite a few clients whose little girls took dance classes.

My youngest, Helena, took dance when she was three. On the day of the recital, I spent two hours trying to get a bow to stay in her hair and finally resorted to a combination of zip ties and cement. The recital itself lasted five hours, two minutes of which were allotted to Helena’s group and that was just long enough for the girls to shuffle onto the stage, giggle, completely forget their routine, pull the bows out of their hair, attempt a few pirouettes and a final curtsy, all while waving furiously at their parents.



Can anyone look at a sunflower and not feel happy?

Is that even possible?

If it is, I don’t want to know about it. The world is a much nicer place that way.



As with the frogs, I thought the ocean theme would be more boyish.

It’s astonishing how often I’m wrong in life and this is why I do not live in Vegas.

That, and the heat. Humidity notwithstanding, 110° is freaking hot, people. Can we all agree on this?

If I had a dollar for every time I was wrong, I’d be typing this from my own private Hawaiian island while Dirk, my ocean boy, fetches me some lemonade.



I wasn’t wrong about the construction theme, though.

I never did create one for a girl.



Same with the sports theme. Where were all the feminist clients, I want to know?

This particular client wanted her son’s middle initial “J” included. I say this because I can just see you peering at your monitor, slowly mouthing the name and wondering where in the world I learned how to spell.

I placed these designs in clear acrylic frames that I had fabricated by a manufacturer down in Florida because the outrageously uptight, anal, obsessive perfectionist lurking within me wasn’t satisfied with any of the acrylic frames readily available on the market. They weren’t snug enough or loose enough or clear enough or good enough or whatever enough.

All I can say in my defense is that I simply want what I want, the way I want it.

Oh, and I was abandoned in the NICU by my parents for several days after I was born, under the pretense that I had to gain weight. Apparently, my twin brother hogged all the good stuff while in utero.

It’s amazing I function at all, really.



How in the world this substandard ribbon passed my inspection is inexplicable, although I’d like to think it’s because I’m an enigma.

But more likely than not, since this piece was for Zoe’s bedroom door, I just wanted to slap it up there speedy quick by whatever means necessary so that the door would look pretty. Maybe then, no one would suspect that a real, live toxic waste dump lay on the other side of it.

Every now and then, I get that creative itch and toy with the idea of offering Name Art once more.

Maybe I’ll scratch it.

Maybe not.

Thank God for that woman’s prerogative thing.



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30 thoughts on “The Art of Name”

  1. Avatar

    Oh my GOODNESS, those are fantabulous. If you were still doing those, I’d totally order one for you for Kiddo’s Pink Safari bedroom. In leopard print with cute safari animals, I think. Maybe not, as I am woman, hear me munch (on donuts, Fritos, or double stuffed Oreos as the case may be – there’s that whole prerogative thing for us chicks, too, right? Right? Can you hear me over your laundry room walls?).

    Anyhow, I bow down once again in front of your insane talent and creativity. No, really, I’m bowing down. It’s not ’cause I just dropped an Oreo, I swear.

  2. Avatar

    Um, yeah, me again. I blame any lack of coherence or sense in the previous comment on the fact that I slept about an hour last night with Kiddo’s surgery time creeping steadily closer with the sunrise.

    Also, on not having enough caffeine or Oreos in my system. I ran out of donuts, dammit.

    *I’d totally order one for FROM you for Kiddo’s Pink Safari.

  3. Avatar

    I want one just for me. My name on my studio door that I’ll get when one of the kippers finally leaves home. I despair of that happening any time soon. I think you need to go back into business, Etsy is calling your name.

  4. Avatar

    Totally frickin’ adorable! You do have a ton of talent and I could definitely see a ton of Etsy custom orders in your future! They really are adorable.

    P.s Now I want some donuts! I am partial to the glazed munchkins… the perfect ratio of donut to glaze imo!

  5. Avatar

    These are fabulous. No question. No doubt. Fabulous, fabulous, fabulous.

    I am font obsessed myself, though I do not channel my obsession into personalized works of art. Sigh. I guess you got all the vision on that one.

    Have you seen the documentary on fonts? I found a snippet here:
    Seriously fascinating psychology on why we respond to certain fonts as we do and how our old friend Helvetica paved the way–come on, Girl, geek out with me on this–really fascinating–


  6. Avatar

    Ohmigosh, I’ve got to have one (ten!)! Are you ever going to sell them again? I NEED the sunflower one for my sister, she loves sunflowers, and frogs, she needs the frog one too.
    I have PSP x2, not too far different from Photoshop….if you ever decide to create a tutorial on how to create them, I’d be first in line to learn. I like different fonts too, I have several I’ve collected through the years, but apparently I don’t have your creativity.
    Guess it’s time to try something out…it’s a Great idea-thanks so much for sharing!

  7. Avatar

    Uhm we don’t go outside when it’s 110 degrees only the tourists do things like that. We go from our well air conditioned homes to well air conditioned cars to well air conditioned businesses/schools/buildings. And if you offer name art with a sun/moon/star and navy blue theme I will so buy one, just for me.

  8. Avatar

    If you ever start them again (and why wouldn’t you) can I join the waiting list!

    I would seriously love those for my kids – or even one for my blog?

    So please, pretty please, let me know if/when? I want to join the queue!

  9. Avatar

    I love it all…you are SO talented! My sons would love the trucks and the trains and I could easily see Bella loving the little girl ballet one. Why are you not selling on Etsy?? You’d make a killing…at least enough to send the girls to college or to hire Brad Pitt to give you a really killer massage.

  10. Avatar

    I want one for my logo or for my wall. Maybe for my office door. Oh I’d buy a few for Christmas presents and darn kid’s birthday party presents. Would you get back to selling these already? UGH!

  11. Avatar

    Stopping by from SITS. Wonderful blog. Beautiful work. I share your passion for fonts and typography. I think I became font obsessed way back in the late 80’s when I started playing with fonts on my little Mac Classic. I thought it was the greatest thing ever to have all those different styles (a whopping 8 of them) to choose from. Your writing is witty and fun. Love the mini rant about the donuts. Darn donuts!

    Jenn @

  12. Avatar

    I was going to suggest selling online nowadays too, eliminate all that advertising and bookkeeping and stuff, just stick with the creating.

    @octamom October 7, 2009 at 11:00 am:
    Thanks for the mention of Helvetica, I just watched the excerpt and am getting the DVD from the library.

  13. Avatar

    I would SO buy one…the ladybugs…as we call our granddaughter Delainey-bug… Oh please, oh please, oh please!!!!!

    Oh, and a sunflower one, and…and…and…pretty please???

  14. Avatar

    Beautiful work! They must be WORK though! Thanks for sharing these. Years ago I used to hand draw name art, never occurred to do it digi. Despite being freaky about obese green frogs, you’re pretty genius! Great job!

  15. Avatar

    I love these! So creative! I’m always on the lookout for custom name items since I’m blessed with nieces and nephews with uncommon names.

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