By Anna Grace Moore
Photos by Sarah Helen Photography
The gravity of sentiment is clearly depicted within the weight of the words one says, writes and acts upon. Such emotions can be said, sung and softly written in whimsical fonts, which to calligrapher Michelle Coulter, is but one way to beautify the language that connects each other.
Language, Michelle believes, is a beautiful interpretation of our heart’s desires. Why not make the physically-written both as powerful and as aesthetically-pleasing as when it is spoken?
This cognizance of her talent, Michelle says, she cultivated at just 7 years old when she began learning cursive in grade school. A gift of Lisa Frank merchandise became the catalyst for Michelle’s love of stationery.
Michelle doodled her way through school, earning both her Bachelors of Science degree and her Master’s degree from UAB. She eventually became a nurse practitioner, where she worked at Children’s of Alabama for 18 years.
Then, like so many others, Michelle’s life turned upside-down in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. While at work, Michelle nearly fainted and had to receive medical attention. The presumed diagnosis was an after effect of COVID-19.
For the next six months, Michelle continued battling symptoms of vertigo whenever she stood for too long. These symptoms, among others, ultimately led her to quit her job and adjust to life as a mom at home.
“My body would go into fight or flight,” Michelle says. “It rocked my world. It was hard to do life.”
With three little ones occupying her time, Michelle says she sought comfort and “hobbied” away, creating little doodles and practicing her calligraphy in the few reprieves she received at home.
“This was the first time in my life that my faith was really tested,” Michelle says. “I had to rely on God. Promises of scripture felt a little more real in those moments.”
It was these simple promises that Michelle began writing on greeting cards, stationery, tea towels–anything she saw fit to bring to fruition. Michelle’s friends noticed her talent and often asked her to write their favorite Bible verses on knick knacks, jump-starting what is now Michelle’s calligraphy business, Blue Skies Lettering.
One customer took a poem written by her father-in-law and commissioned Michelle to write it on a table runner, which was used during the customer’s in-law’s 50th anniversary party.
Soon, Michelle opened an Etsy shop and created an Instagram, and her business took off running head-first into what Michelle says was the unknown. While she had no idea at the time the impact her business would have on her customers, Michelle says she now feels as though part of her purpose in life is to remind others of the simple promises the Lord holds true.
When talking about her calligraphy, Michelle says, “I like that it’s a pretty way to bring scripture to mind. I want it to be an encouragement to anyone that receives it. Especially with stationery, I think there’s something special about getting a note in the mail or a note with a gift. I hope that it helps to beautify their lives.”
Michelle creates a plethora of “calligraphied” artifacts, including custom-made stationery, greeting cards, scripture cards, Christmas ornaments, bag tags, tea towels, framed watercolor pictures, prints and more. Anything one can dream up, Michelle can create.
In the beginning, Michelle began with the old-fashioned way of creating calligraphy: pen and ink. Over time, she has discovered the new world of digital calligraphy and watercolor. She loves being able to create digital works for print and also use her iPad to lay out pointed pen pieces.
Due to the higher demands she’s received since she started this journey in 2020, Michelle now has her work available for purchase in both Alabama Goods in Homewood and Briarwood Bookstore at Briarwood Presbyterian Church.
She also went on to attend several pop-up events, with her first one being Heights Hangout in Cahaba Heights in 2022. Michelle has since worked at several local farmers markets, too, such as The Market at Brock’s Gap, which takes place on the first Tuesday of every month through November, and the Ross Bridge Farmers Market, which will open back up for the season in summer 2024.
At one of the Ross Bridge Farmers Market’s events in July, Michelle witnessed a taste of the Lord’s humor. All of the sudden, the bottom fell out of the sky, completely whisking away Michelle’s work in vast directions.
The only piece she lost, however, she later found sitting in a puddle. Ironically, the scripture card read, “No rain, no flowers,” which served as a sweet reminder to her that sometimes, one must walk through hard seasons to appreciate life’s little blessings, such as blue skies.
“I think [this phrase] encompasses that God is there for us in all seasons of life,” Michelle says. “All we have to do is turn our trust towards Him, and He will give us peace.”
Talking about her half-a-year-long recovery from Covid, Michelle believes without this period, she may not have taken the chance to challenge herself; to turn her talents into a business that she now loves.
“My goal is to positively influence people’s lives in whatever small way,” Michelle says. “I think it’s really important to find practical ways that you can have encouragement throughout your day.”
Perhaps the simple promises of rainbows after rain clouds are just one reminder that no matter what one walks through, she will always grow, learn and sometimes, create a life she may never have dreamed of before. For Michelle Coulter, that life is worth encouraging others through the written word–a simple reminder of God’s promises, too.
Those interested in viewing or purchasing Michelle’s work can visit blueskieslettering.com.