Last weekend’s My Montana Wedding expo at the Flathead County Fairgrounds gave Laurel Mallery a chance to gauge interest in her calligraphy and art skills.
She was more than pleasantly surprised.
“I was shocked,” she said of the reception. “I expected people to say ‘that’s nice,’ but instead they said ‘we’ve been looking for someone to do this.’”
Mallery, of Creston, recently started Chalk and Ink Design to market her hand-drawn lettering and artwork to both brides and businesses.
Business chalkboards have been the biggest showcase for her skills at this point. The large blackboard at the back of The Toggery in downtown Kalispell first became a canvas for Mallery when she used to work in the store.
“They would have employees do promotional stuff or little drawings,” she said. “I starting doing it while I worked there, and then I was the only one doing it. I quit working there when I got pregnant, but they kept me on to do the chalkboard.”
Toggery floor manager Twila Brenneman said Mallery’s work is often a conversation piece for customers.
“Lots of people comment on it,” she said. “Laurel does really nice work.”
Chalkboards give businesses the chance to customize and add art to their decor without making a major investment. Chalk has the added attraction of being temporary and easy to change for seasonal or advertising needs.
Mallery’s Christmas display on The Toggery chalkboard, for example, featured an eye-catching winter scene, which she erased on Friday to create a promotional graphic for the clothing shop’s sale on winter merchandise.
Mallery said the medium of chalk is more flexible for businesses than printed material.
“They can just call and ask me to come in,” she said. “It’s a lot easier than spending hours online doing it themselves. The Toggery doesn’t have to go out and get something printed every time there’s a new promotion.”
Other business clients include Vessel coffee shop and restaurant in Bigfork and the new Whitefish Barbershop.
“They’re very passionate about their place,” Mallery said of the barbershop. “They’re set up in a 1920s way so they wanted a real chalkboard and real chalkboard art.”
Chalkboard calligraphy is also a trendy wedding accessory, offering a space for welcome messages, menus, itineraries and names of the wedding party and anything else a couple desires to personalize their big day. Mallery is building her inventory of chalkboards and will provide them for a rental fee.
She also offers original wedding invitations. Though couples can design and order invitations online, Mallery said her work will be personal and one-of-a-kind. She’s created invitations for weddings of family and friends, as well as her own.
“I hand wrote every one of my wedding invitations,” she said. “I’ve handwritten letters to family and friends for years. Everything now is texting and email, but handwriting has so much more thought and time put into it.”
She knows that making invitations one by one might not be practical for large weddings, but she can design a template for printing.
Mallery was home-schooled, with her mother encouraging her to pursue her passion for drawing from an early age. She worked through instruction books on calligraphy and had private art lessons with TurningBear Mason, a professional artist who now lives in Tucson, Arizona.
“My mom pulled out one of my own math books and there were doodles all around the edges of it,” Mallery said. “Making the words themselves beautiful was something I couldn’t help doing.”
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Business reporter Heidi Gaiser may be reached at 758-4438 or firstname.lastname@example.org.