home about us advertise with us subscribe to Jonesboro Occasions submit an event contact download the 2008 datebook
give a gift subscription

Do Write By Me
by Emily Merrell, above photo by Melissa Donner

What started as a childhood interest in handwriting and typography has blossomed into a full-fledged, custom hand-lettering business for Natalie Reeves, which she cleverly named Do Write By Me.

Reeves says she has always had an interest in letters and used to copy fonts and friends’ handwriting as a child. In 2010, she created a custom canvas for a friend’s baby shower, and it was a hit. From there, she began creating more custom designs at friends’ requests and created social media pages to keep a log of her work in August 2015.

“Over time, my business has grown from a fun hobby to work I take seriously,” said Reeves. “I never anticipated that I would be lettering for weddings, on huge studio windows or on walls in living rooms – no pressure there.

“At some point along the way my mindset shifted. … I started to put myself out there more, and every piece became the most important one. I think that’s when my business started to grow and blossom into work rather than a hobby.”

With plans to expand her business in the future and thanks to a supportive family who helps with projects, Reeves hopes to “do write” by her customers for many years to come.

photo submitted by Natalie Reeves

What is the most challenging part of your work? The most challenging part, for me, is patience with learning new things. I want to continually grow and offer a variety of styles, but with that comes lots of practice and learning new skills. For example, I’ve been practicing brush lettering and want to start offering watercolor pieces. I assumed that because I could write with a pencil and pen, I would be able to pick up a brush and it be easy. … I was wrong. It’s much more difficult and is taking a lot more time and patience to learn than I anticipated. But, you know what they say: “All good lettering things come to those who practice.” Or something like that.

What is the most rewarding part? The most rewarding part is that my work gives people joy and is truly valuable to them. I get to make a lot of really special pieces like birth announcements and wedding vows. I wrote scripture over the doorways of my friend’s kid’s rooms and made a piece for a friend’s sister in honor of their late father. I’ve also done several pieces for adoptions, and to get to be even a small part of that is really cool. When people express to me how meaningful what I’ve done for them is, I know that the time and effort I put into what I do – and the love I have for it – is worth it.

photo by Melissa Donner

You work out of your grandfather’s workshop, and he does woodworking for you. Is your family a big part of the business?
My grandpa, Ed Reeves, has always been a handyman. I can’t remember a time without his shop or before he was tinkering around out there, fixing this or building that. A couple years ago, he cut the first piece of wood I wrote on, and in November 2016, I sold my first piece with a wooden frame. I had always wanted to offer framed pieces, so that was a pretty exciting day. Now, a large portion of my work involves him in some aspect, and the shop I’ve always known him to work in, I now work in, too; with him – (a) double win. I always say he’s my favorite coworker. I’ve also learned so much from watching him, and I love seeing how each piece is made. I never thought I’d be so interested in wood types and grain, stain colors, clamps, saws and, my personal favorite to use, the electric sander. My dad, Mark Reeves, is a graphic designer, so because of his work, I grew up around art and design and took interest in that at an early age. As I’ve started to do more design work like wedding and birthday party invitations, he teaches me about and helps with that. My mom, Rene, is who first mentioned the name Do Write By Me, and I don’t know many who could match my grandma Polly’s sanding skills in the shop. All in the family.

photo submitted by Natalie Reeves

How have you developed your craft? Have you taken typography or calligraphy classes, gotten lessons or taught yourself? I’ve never had lessons or taken any classes. My copying fonts and letters through the years has evolved into my own style. I still get inspiration from other hand-letterers, but I try to make everything my own. I also try to use a lettering style appropriate to the feel of the piece, so my writing for a kid’s room will be different than for weddings, and so on. When I wanted to start writing more calligraphy-ish or “pretty” for weddings and more elegant events, I practiced for hours upon hours to connect letters a new way and write in a way that I felt matched the content of what I was writing. I have spent and still spend a lot of time just writing for my own sake. I want to stay fresh and want to always be learning and growing.

photo submitted by Natalie Reeves

What is the most common type of commission work you do? I do a lot of weddings and chalkboards for birthday parties. The chalkboards are always fun. I’ve done about 60 and rarely do the same theme twice, so they keep me on my toes and allow me to find new styles so I don’t get stale.

How long does it typically take you to complete a piece from start to finish? What all is involved in this process?
When I’m working on a canvas, I usually don’t even unwrap it to get started until I’ve already settled what I want the final piece to look like. I spend the majority of my preparation thinking about how I want the letters to flow, how much spacing I want on the edges and what type of writing I think goes best with the words. When I have a mental image of the piece, I write it out on paper. Then, I get started when I know I have enough time to start and finish without much interruption. I prefer to paint the canvas, wait for it to dry, lay down the words with pencil and go over them with paint all in one sitting. I concentrate best that way and feel that if I take a break between any of those steps, I lose my inspiration or the feel of the piece. This, of course, varies depending on the material. When I letter on wood, I have large pieces that my grandpa cuts down to size. We stain them, and if they require a frame, he builds that while I take the piece home to complete. I take it back to him, and he secures the frame in place. Voila! Teamwork makes the dream work.

photo submitted by Natalie Reeves

What are your hopes for the future of Do Write By Me? I want to eventually open a small shop. I love the thought of being able to meet people and having what I do out there to see in person rather than only in pictures. I’d also like to eventually offer hand-lettering classes. I’ve learned a lot through the years and would love to connect with people with similar interests and be able to offer help based on what I’ve learned.

What kind of work would you like to do more of in the future? Hopefully, I can stick with the brush and offer watercolor pieces soon. I’d also like to create more custom wedding suites – invitations and the like. So much happiness surrounds weddings, and I love to get to be part of that. Other than that, I want to just continue doing what I’m doing. I’m always excited about the ideas people have, and I never get bored since each piece is a new one, even if it has the same words as another. I’m thankful for the progress my business has made and hope to just keep on keepin’ on.

To contact Do Write By Me, email nataliereevesart@gmail.com, text or call Natalie at (870) 530-8002 or find Do Write by Me on Facebook or Instagram at @dowritebyme.