Something I’m asked almost on a daily is “how long have you been doing this” and “what got you started in calligraphy”? I used to be someone that kept a lot of things to myself, but recently, I’ve been trying a new approach and outlook on life – to be completely open with everyone, so here is that story.
I didn’t do calligraphy my entire life. I’ve never dreamed of owning my own business and being a small business owner. I don’t like asking for help or seeking help but in December 2015 – I sought treatment for a binge eating disorder. The problem with binge eating is that many people don’t see it as an eating disorder – they just see it as “you’re bored so you eat,” or “overeating”. There is so much more behind that – but that’s not what this post is about. When I entered treatment, my boyfriend left me. I had gained too much weight for him during the course of our relationship; he couldn’t handle someone being in treatment (even though it was outpatient). To deal with this – I did what any sane, heartbroken, 27-year-old woman would do – I opened a bottle of wine and went onto Pinterest. I looked up quotes about love, loss, breaking up, losing weight – everything. I found the ones I really loved and started to write them down in a book – just to get them out. The writing started turning into doodling and that turned into calligraphy and that evolved into hand lettering (or vice versa). That book became an escape for me – it became my coping mechanism for my eating disorder. When I was hand lettering, I wasn’t binging. When I wasn’t binging – I wasn’t restricting and starving myself because I had just had chips and a cupcake or something.
I kept this book to myself. I saw the photos on Pinterest and thought my stuff wasn’t as good as those images. Then I started snapping them on Snapchat (maybe to be a little pathetic and hope my ex would see them and miss me and want me back – because we were “soulmates”) – then Snapchat became Instagram and Instagram became Facebook. After a few months – I had family and friends reaching out to me asking if I sold my stuff on Etsy or if I had a website. It still wasn’t real to me that this could be a business. But I ended up taking that jump and on February 4, 2016 – I started Designs by Danika which evolved into Danika by Design (as unique as my name is – there was already a “Designs by Danika” and let’s be honest – I am not a fan of sharing my name).
I am a Christian and I have felt that from the beginning this is what the Lord had planned for me. I was attending a Christian speaker when she stopped in the middle of worship and said, “I don’t know why I have the need to say this, but I feel like the Lord wants me to let you know that anyone who is struggling with an eating disorder – it is okay. He wants you to seek help and treatment. Do not be ashamed. Love yourself and get that help.” This was the day before I went and checked myself into treatment. Then when I was struggling with whether or not to take this public, as a business, I had so many thoughts in my head; “what would I do for a logo,” “Is this the right move,” “am I making the right choice,” “what if I fail,” and on my way to church – I heard the Lord say to me, “Danika, how is a pearl made?” And I thought to myself, the oyster has dirt and sand kicked at it but it trusts. It trusts in itself and in its shell for protection and eventually those grains of dirt and sand get turned into a pearl. And natural pearls are the most rare and beautiful of all. Then I heard Him say, “Exactly. Trust in me. I am the oyster and the shell – you are the pearl. This is right.” And I don’t remember exactly what the sermon at church was that day – but I do remember that it hit me. It was exactly what I needed to hear to really make that jump.
If you’re still with me, you can see, I’m not like other businesses out there. I have a full-time job as an assistant property manager in Uptown. I sell chloe + isabel jewelry to help offset some of the business costs of Danika by Design. But again, I don’t do this for the money. I do it because it has helped me grow into the person that I have been running from for 27 years. It has helped me learn to love myself and not doubt my abilities. I am hoping that by sharing my story, not only can others seek help that they need but also find something that they are truly passionate about. I’ve been slowly narrowing down what I specialize in. I still do invitations – bridal shower and bachelorette/bachelor party, envelope design and addressing – but now my focus is on chalkboards, wood signs and canvas paintings for your wedding. As well as the little items that may be forgotten – escort cards, table numbers, personalized hangers for the dresses, and personalized gifts for the bridal party. I want to make sure that all of those images you’ve been pinning and envisioning for your wedding become reality. It isn’t going to be stenciled but it is going to be freehand – done especially for you on your day – because this is your moment.