- Associated Press - Saturday, October 14, 2017

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) - Chelsie Tamms believes in the power of the hand-written word. With her one-person agency, Lettering Works, the 2016 Bradley University graduate has carved out a career the old-fashioned way: by making letters.

Tamms said she always had neat handwriting in school but shifted her focus from sports to graphic art after going through major back surgery in eighth grade. Following her graduation from Cary-Grove High School in suburban Chicago, Tamms, 23, came to the Hilltop, where she took up graphic design and Spanish.

Tamms got involved in custom lettering through an internship at Aisle Rocket Studios, a Palatine-based ad agency where she spent four summers working in the company’s custom personalization division. “Sometimes I would spend eight hours a day hand lettering,” she said.

But it was while a student at Bradley that Tamms made a name for herself when she took home three awards at the 2016 Peoria Ad Club’s annual advertising contest. Her senior honors project, “Just My Type of Lettering,” a 40-page guide to the art of hand lettering, was rated “Best of Show.”

But Tamms didn’t stop there. She devised “100 Days of Peoria,” a project that involved coming up with hand-lettered black-and-white logos for 100 Peoria-area businesses or institutions. Receiving no advance renumeration for any of the work, she produced designs for firms she was familiar with.

?‘100 Days’ spun out of content I needed for the art show I did at the end of my residency (at Bradley). None of the businesses knew they were listed,” she said.

“I wanted it for my portfolio. I was pleasantly surprised with the response. I thought that it was a snapshot of time in Peoria. How can it live on?” Tamms answered her own question by initiating a Kickstarter campaign (that’s already topped 70 percent of her goal) to publish a “100 Days” book.

“I’ll use all 100 of the original drawings as well as additional illustrations,” she said.

Developing such a serious attachment to central Illinois wasn’t the plan while Tamms was in school. “I never thought I’d work in Peoria while I was still at Bradley, but I gradually got attracted to Peoria. At some point, I knew I wanted to be here,” she said.

“I see a lot of opportunity for designers here. It’s not an oversaturated market,” said Tamms. “I’ve seen the art movement grow in Peoria in just the time I’ve been here.”

While majoring in art (and Spanish) at BU, Tamms minored in marketing. Her own efforts in successfully launching a one-person agency in town indicate she wasn’t sleeping through those marketing classes on the Hilltop. “I like to do my own research and ask a lot of questions,” she said, referring to the preparations she makes before working up a logo for a business.

Custom lettering is an idea whose time has come, she said. “I see it as a trend in advertising. Businesses are trying to get back to wanting to offer their customers a personal touch,” said Tamms.

The city of Peoria and Peoria County have both seen the benefits of letting Tamms provide a personal touch for some of their promotions. “I’ve done work for Pick Up Peoria (a litter campaign) and a shop local campaign for the county,” she said.

“I first approached Chelsie to come up with a concept and design for PlanPeoria.com, a campaign designed to get feedback on the riverfront,” said Stacy Peterson, communications specialist for the city of Peoria. “Having been familiar with her work from when I was a judge at the Bradley University Student Expo, I was interested to see how her talent would translate to branding a government project.”

“I was so pleased with the outcome that I worked with her again for Pick Up Peoria, the volunteer-run litter campaign in the city. Her vision brought a recognizable, yet contemporary look to both of these public engagement campaigns. It’s been a pleasure to see her positive publicity of Peoria, in addition to the expansion of her design work following her decision to stay in the area after graduation. Chelsie even generously promoted our recent “Best City Hall” win with her interpretation of our award-winning building,” she said.

While she’s spent years developing her own custom lettering abilities, Tamms likes encouraging the public to create their own letters. “I enjoy explaining it to people. I’ve done one or two workshops a month for the past year,” she said.

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Source: (Peoria) Journal Star, https://bit.ly/2fd1zsC

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Information from: Journal Star, https://pjstar.com

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