Feature: Valerie McKeehan of Lily & Val
We're so excited to have Valerie with us here today! As the founder of Lily & Val, she is one highly creative and talented gal. We love learning from creative business women and we hope YOU do too! Be sure to scroll down, as Val is giving away a free desktop background :)
Name: Valerie McKeehan
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Title: Creative Director & Founder of Lily & Val
Coffee or Tea? Tea
Where can we find you on a Saturday morning? Watching Barefoot Contessa or at the Farmers Market
1. How did you get started as a hand letterer/calligrapher?
For as long as I can remember I’ve loved to create. Although I never pursued any formal drawing or art training, creativity was a big part of my childhood and always encouraged. It wasn’t until the spring of 2012, however, when I discovered my true passion – hand lettering and illustrating. I created a chalk sign for my own kitchen and with the prompting and encouragement of my husband and family, I opened an Etsy store that summer. I was the first person to sell chalk art prints & cards in a way that preserved the medium’s authenticity. Because of this, the shop grew beyond what I ever imagined and I was able to make creating artwork a full-time career. I feel grateful everyday that I get to do what I love for a living.
2. What is one thing you have learned the hard way as a business owner?
The importance of setting boundaries is a lesson I’ve learned the hard way as a business owner. Healthy boundaries are essential in all aspects of business from working with clients/customers to setting boundaries with yourself! I went through a period where I had zero boundaries and that took a toll. Since I work from home, I’ve had to learn the importance of setting boundaries to protect my home life. It’s a constant balancing act.
3. How do you approach creating custom work for clients? Do you prefer people approach you with an idea, mood board, or let you give them the inspiration and design direction?
I’ve had the privilege of working with some amazing companies to produce artwork and I like to approach the projects with the vision coming from both sides. My favorite projects are ones where I’m given somewhat of a direction, but then have the creative freedom to bring design inspiration and truly make it my own.
4. How do you decide which projects to take on and which to pass up (if any)?
Time is huge determining factor when it comes to taking on projects and sometimes needing to pass them up. I’ve made it a focus to grow the Lily & Val brand and product line, which often makes it difficult to take on additional projects. I wish there were more hours in a day!
5. What’s been your most memorable project to date and why?
My most memorable project to date is definitely writing my book, “The Complete Book of Chalk Lettering.” It was the most difficult project I’ve ever taken on, but equally the most rewarding. The entire team at Workman Publishing was incredible to work with and I treasure the whole experience. Holding the completed book in my hands for the first time is a feeling I will never forget.
6. What has been the most rewarding part of your business?
The most rewarding part of my business is hearing customer’s responses to the products. It is such a wonderful feeling to know that something I’ve created made someone happy or provided the perfect gift. I’ve had customers say that my prints made their friends cry (in a good way). Another customer told me she gave her daughter my “Stand Tall, Darling” print as a way to encourage her in the midst of facing bullying at school. It’s always been my goal to create art that would uplift so that feedback is incredibly rewarding.
7. What is your best piece of advice for someone hoping to do the same type of creative work you do?
Many people say “practice makes perfect”, but to me, practice makes personality. Keep practicing and your unique style will emerge. I look back at my beginning pieces and marvel at how far I’ve come through hours and hours of practice. Stay curious, observe everything, and look for inspiration everywhere. Pulling ideas from many different sources and experiences will help create something that is authentically you.
8. Favorite products/papers/inks/paints/chalks or any other fun things you want to share?
I typically use Crayola Anti-Dust chalk, but I also recently discovered a product by Jaq Jaq Bird for chalkboard projects that require more staying power. It is called ButterStix and the consistency is more like a crayon for chalkboards! You still get that beautiful chalk texture, but it won’t wipe off as easily! I’ve also been pretty obsessed with Copic and Tombow markers lately! I have a bit of a pen/marker obsession. ☺
Thanks for being with us, Valerie! If you want to pretty up your desktop, be sure to download this FREE desktop background Val created just for us. Click on the link below to download it.