LETTERER and illustrator Ella Lama is living proof that time is gold. Spending her breaks in the office wisely has paid off—what used to be her stress reliever at work has now become her day job.
The 26-year-old University of the Philippines graduate has gotten busy answering e-mails and inquiries from clients, as well as doing the inventory of her products.
Before that, she was into lettering and soon tried out doodling. One thing led to another, and her doodles became popular.
Ella has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. When she noticed that people were receptive to her art, she took it to the next level.
The very first art fair she joined was dubbed “Type Kita” in March 2014. She exhibited and sold a line of tote bags, stationery, badges, stickers and a unique masking tape filled with inspirational quotes and cute doodles.
But despite the cheerful, positive messages in her items, her mood can be quite the opposite. Her lettering and doodles serve as her personal “pick-me-uppers” because she can be too hard on herself. Creating art is her way of shooing away the negativity—and attracting positive vibes.
Ella has done magazine features, online commercials, and a video for a TV show.
At the moment she’s busy with her holiday line. There’s also her advanced lettering workshop happening soon.
Ella spends most of her downtime reading and travelling. She visits bookstores for new art, graphic design, business and fiction.
She encourages budding artists to “practice, practice, practice,” as she believes that creativity is not necessarily inborn.
Tell us about your job.
I started lettering in 2012 only as a stress reliever for my work online, to take a break from the computer screen on my free time. I’ve always wanted to try drawing but could never sketch figures from life, so I focused on letters instead.
How long have you been lettering and doodling?
When I was in grade school, I remember doodling on my notebooks and making a coloring book for my younger sister. So I guess I’ve had artistic tendencies since childhood, and I am just rediscovering them now.
What made you turn your art into a business?
I am very madiskarte when it comes to money matters; when I noticed people responding to my art, I thought the natural progression was to put them on products that people can carry with them every day. Eventually I developed a line of products with my lettering, and started to sell those in art fairs.
What was your very first commissioned work? What was it like to hold your first workshop?
My first commissioned work was a poster for my friend, who does DIY workshops for brides-to-be. At first I was shy to charge my friends a fee, so I opted to barter. I would design something for them, and in return they give me books or art materials.
Holding my first workshop was really nerve-wracking. It’s like a thesis defense, a job interview and a diagnostic exam rolled into one. Even though I’ve already done several workshops, the nervous feeling never goes away. Sometimes I still question whether people will learn anything new from me. But I try to learn new things about my craft all the time so I have new tips to share with my students.
Which of your works are your favorites?
In no particular order:
Working Mom magazine, May 2014
I like how this one turned out, but the more important thing is that I really enjoyed the process. It was relaxing to work on a big piece filled with small doodles.
I like any project that lets me combine lettering with illustrations. I made this one for Lomography, and it was meant to be a coloring sheet for its community members.
Most of the time I like doing personal more than commissioned work because I have full control over it. This one I did one weekday morning, without any reference or preconceived drafts. Sometimes an idea just flows, and unfortunately not every day is like the day I made this piece.
I made this screenprinted poster in 2014 as a gift to people who have helped me and believed in my talent. This message sums up my work ethic: Work hard and be nice.
I always make sure that the products I make are something I like and would actually use. I’d like to think of the doodle masking tape as the local, more practical sibling of the washi tape.
I am still learning the medium, but it presents so much potential!
What usually inspires you?
People might find it hard to believe this, but I am a terrible overthinker. Whenever I feel self-doubt creeping in, I write inspirational quotes to keep it at bay.
That’s why my work tends to have positive themes and bright colors—they are intended to cheer me up. I think that is the reason my work resonates with other people; we might be going through the same negative emotions and we are uplifted by the same positive messages.
Who are the artists you look up to?
Internationally, I love the styles of Jessica Hische, Mary Kate McDevitt, Lauren Hom, Mike Lowery, and Linzie Hunter.
Locally, I look up to Ate Roma and Ate Maan Agsalud of PopJunkLove. They are modern-day superwomen who prove that pursuing your passion pays off.
What’s a normal day like for you?
I am training myself to be a morning person, so nowadays I try to wake up at around 6 or 7 a.m. I do some yoga before working on admin tasks like answering e-mails, doing inventory and finishing client work.
I have brunch after getting some work done, and continue sketching until early afternoon.
I take a nap (#lolavibes) at around 3 or 4 p.m., then work on more client commissions or personal projects.
I also try to get out of the house two or three days a week to run errands and meet up with friends because I easily get bored at home.
What goals would you want to achieve in five years?
I hope to expand my product line to cater to a more mature market; my products right now are “cute” and appeal to a younger crowd.
I also hope to have my own studio where I can work, learn more about printing and hopefully have a small storefront. Of course, I also want to try working with international clients!
Do you have other hobbies?
Reading and traveling. If I am not at home working on projects, I am probably at the bookstore finding new stuff to read. Aside from art and graphic design books, I enjoy reading business books and classic fiction.
I also like exploring new places here or abroad, learning about new cultures and trying different cuisines.
What’s your advice to those who want to live a creative life?
I am starting to believe that creativity is not a trait one is born with, but a skill that one can master.
Even if you are not in a creative field, work hard to try unconventional approaches and take inspiration from everything around you. It is possible to live creatively. Practice, practice, practice. And don’t be afraid to fail.
Photography Kenneth Tangonan Styling Daryl Baybado Makeup and hairstyle Jet Babas SHOT ON LOCATION COMMON ROOM #325 DELA ROSA ST., KATIPUNAN AVENUE, QUEZON CITY