Custom lettering
and rustic handmade
wood-cut art

About

Hi there!

That's me holding a really big wood-carved sign I once made. I stumbled into this craft on accident when I took a woodblock print-making class at the Rochester Brainery and decided I liked the look of the carved wood better than the actual print that it made. Around the same time, I had just started working on a 52-week typography project, and I decided to combine the two. The result? Hand-drawn, hand-carved wood lettering.

I live in Geneseo, NY with my husband Keith Walters, our daughter Rowan, our son Finn, and our four-legged pack leader, Lady. Together, Keith and I own The Walters Creative Company, and we co-own and operate The Gallery on Main Street in Geneseo.

By day, I am an art director for a marketing agency, and by night I make these carvings and designs after my silly little kiddos go to bed.

The process

IT USUALLY GOES A LITTLE BIT LIKE THIS:

First, a tiny, crappy thumbnail sketch. Second, a finished and refined design. And third, a final carved and framed piece. I use only pencil and paper to create my compositions, which often start a bit bigger than the size of a quarter, and then I finalize and refine them with a little bit of help from digital tools like Photoshop and Illustrator. I then use a craft knife and a wood-cutting gauge to carefully chisel the design out of some soft pine. And then I finish each piece off with a quick rustic frame made from 1x2, which allows each piece to either hang on the wall or sit on a shelf or tabletop. See the evolution of "You will never regret being kind" below.

SKETCH

POLISH

CARVE

Contact

LET'S TALK

Drop a line using the form below, and I'll get back to you as soon as possible. Or message me on Instagram if you're not into forms.

JOANNA WALTERS

Custom lettering and handmade wood-cut art
Geneseo, NY

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"We are born makers.
We move what we're learning from
our heads to our hearts through our hands."

-Brené Brown


For Anna, who sat outside my door, with banana GIFs

A few years ago, my cousin Anna sent me a print of the above quote from Brene Brown and a golden yellow journal in which I drew my very first quote crammed into a circle. These words-in-circles-in-wood have become the medium through which I move what I’m learning from my head to my heart.

What follows is a deeply personal summary of what I’ve learned over the past few years of my life through the transformation from woman to mother, each chapter anchored to a few words that helped me move through what I was learning in that season. I’m damn lucky to be here to tell this story. Alive, breathing, hands shaking. And because of that, I feel I have an obligation to share, in case someone out there finds themselves in a similar situation and can draw any kind of inspiration from what I’ve been through, to pull through what they're going through.



For Helen, who makes this all worth it

Some of you may remember that I picked up this whole “words in circles in wood” thing as a 52-week art challenge to distract myself from trying to get pregnant. If you want to start at the very beginning of my story, you can read that here. I told my husband Keith back then that writing the summation of that project would be worth it if it helped just one person. Helen reached out to me after coming across the written postmortem of my 52 week project and left this message for me:

She and I now keep in touch, from across the country, by email regularly. That early pregnancy turned into a beautiful baby girl, and we now get to watch each other’s children grow up from a distance. So here I sit, writing again, with hopes that this may find even just one person who needs to hear it.

Here’s what I wrote about this piece back then:

“The first time that we were pregnant, I let myself get way too excited. I planned out the nursery and made a list of names and spent all my time daydreaming about what the future would hold. Classic counting-your-chickens-before-they-hatch situation. I went in for my first ultrasound in January, ready to hear a tiny heartbeat, but there was nothing. Just a quiet empty womb. I sobbed for days and days, grieving not only the loss of that little embryo, but the foiling of all those plans I had made. By this time, the fourth time, I had learned not to make plans. We referred to the little one as “hypothetical baby” for a solid 20 weeks before we allowed ourselves to act like it was really happening. This time, I took it one day at a time. Each day that I woke up, pregnant still, was one more day under my (tightening) belt. This project kept me occupied and away from scrolling baby room ideas on Pinterest.”

I had three miscarriages over the course of two years before we were lucky enough to get pregnant with our daughter, Rowan. An early loss, a failed embryo and subsequent D&C, and an ectopic pregnancy that burst and took a whole bunch of my blood and one of my fallopian tubes with it.*

“One day at a time” became my getting-through-pregnancy mantra. Building these pregnancy-denying walls around my heart to protect myself from the potential grief of miscarriage was setting me up for something far worse later. That, my friends, is what they call foreshadowing. ...I think.

*Note
I am slightly foggy on the details because I was having seizures induced by heavy internal bleeding at the time, but I think that in order to save my life, what the doctors and I and my husband decided together about my body was that they’d have to remove the burst tube and terminate the baby, which was not viable anyway since it landed outside of my uterus. When we talk about blanket outlawing abortion, we’re talking about situations like mine, and the decision we made was clearly the pro-life choice. Had abortion been illegal at that time, what choice would the doctors have had but to shrug their shoulders, say “Congratulations! A baby!” and then let me internally bleed to death. We need so very much more nuance in conversations around women and their unborn babies.


For Jennifer, to your beautiful future, friend

Another from my original 52 week project, these are the words I started thinking about as I approached my first due date. Here’s what I wrote back then:

“I used to joke when I was younger that I hoped that by the time I had kids, they’d have figured out a way for a woman to be unconscious for her whole pregnancy and then just wake up with a baby in her arms I was very, very afraid of childbirth. For most of this pregnancy, I was still very, very afraid of childbirth and whenever I’d get anxious thinking about it, I would push it out of my mind and say “I don’t have to think about that today.” Until, I did have to start thinking about it. And making a birth plan. And packing a go bag. The more I read and learned, the more I realized that this was something I could not control, just like getting pregnant in the first place, and so I let go. I let go and decided all I could do was show up. And that helped. My labor was long and difficult and though I wanted to, I couldn’t do it without an epidural. But, what happened happened. Oh, that works in the past tense, too! Que paso paso.”

SIDE NOTE: Apparently I had not been properly educated about childbirth up until this point, because when I finally did start thinking about it, there was a point at which I thought “Wait a minute, they cut the umbilical cord, and THEN WHAT HAPPENS?! DOES IT HAVE TO GO….BACK IN!??!” In case you have the same question (and if no one else does, then this is terribly embarrassing) the answer is no. I will not go into further detail, just Google it.

For Mom, who held my life together while I fell apart

My mom raised me on "This too shall pass".

When Rowan was a newborn, I leaned into this phrase as much as I could. But I also saw two sides to this coin. It's definitely a helpful phrase to keep in mind in seasons of adversity, but it's also a good one to keep in mind when you're in the middle of something beautiful. In the middle of a long wakeful night of feeding a newborn every couple of hours, I often reminded myself that "this too shall pass". The sleeplessness, the exhaustion, the pain from breastfeeding - it would all pass. But along with it, the snuggles from a sleepy baby, the quiet hum of the sound machine, the warmth of my dog Lady snoozing by my foot. Those things would all pass too.

Another phrase my mom often says is "you take the good with the bad." When the pandemic hit, and we didn't see my parents for months, this phrase became extra important to all of us. I think we could all be comforted by the fact that these hard times will indeed pass, but while we're in the middle of it, let's hang on to the good stuff that will pass with it.

For Rowan, my promise to you

Okay, if you became a mom before me and you're reading this, I have a serious bone to pick with you. Nobody told me how much babies and toddlers SCREAM! Why did none of you prepare me for this? Babies are LOUD and toddlers are somehow even LOUDER. Or maybe it's just mine? Please tell me your babies scream a lot. I need to know if this is normal.

I didn't realize this until fairly recently but apparently I've got some noise sensitivity. Sometimes when we're watching TV, Keith will start watching a video on his phone or computer at the same time that the TV is on, and I don't understand how he can hear two entirely different noises at the same time and his brain doesn't feel like it's splicing in two. That's what it feels like to me.

The other day, I was home with both kids, trying to get lunch on the table. Finn was crying for a bottle. Rowan was screaming "I don't want to eat lunch" over and over again. A timer was going off on Alexa to tell me the noodles were done. The smoke detector batteries were low so it was making that incremental high-pitch beeping sound, which was terrifying Lady, so she was sitting at the door panting. Layer upon layer of chaotic noise, threatening to send me into a full-blown panic attack.

I'm learning to be still through these storms. Sometimes I can do it. Sometimes in the middle of that noise, I can still my brain enough to sequence the order of events that needs to happen: 'Alexa, stop'; change smoke detector batteries; let Lady outside; get Finn a bottle; get lunch on the table so that Rowan stops screaming about how she doesn't want lunch (but actually she does); and then only a few moments later like a switch has flipped, we're all sitting at the table quietly enjoying noodles.

It's hard though. I'm not always able to get still enough to hear my own thoughts above the noise, and I'm not always proud of how I react when I can't find my still. For those times, I am working on forgiving myself quickly. Read more about that when we get to "Love Yourself".

Rowan is a brilliant little Tasmanian devil of strange sounds and giggles and shouts and screams and whines and songs and joy nonsense and anger. My task is to be still, and meet her beautiful chaos with calm. Wish me luck.

For Mom, Kelly, Anna, Kerry, Lindsay, Kait, Cassie, Whitney, Liz, Allison, Meghan

For Alice, to new beginnings

For Amanda, who heard every wild thought in my head and loved me anyway

It took me a while to find the right medication, and it was hard to be patient for it to start working. Anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds take weeks to start working, which is kind of inconvenient when you have had a mental breakdown and you need to care for

For Tacianna, Brittney, Sherri, Kate, Lauren, who helped me find my way back