I thought the beginning would be a good place to start, don’t ya think? The question I get asked most often is, “How did you get started?” So, here’s the full story:
How L&K came to be is part long-term dream and part happy accident. My quote-on-quote real job is a freelance graphic designer (katiemorone.com). I get to work with some amazing brands/people while making my own schedule & working from anywhere I want which is an incredible privilege. Pre-quarantine/pandemic life I also danced professionally with California Ballet, though that is on hold for now of course. For a long time, still, I’ve had these two conflicting passions – dance and design – that live concurrently but also compete with each other. There were (& are) times where I’ve had to choose one over the other.
Right after college I focused solely on dance for a few years and struggled to find a ‘normal’ design job. No company that needed a graphic designer was in a place where they could accommodate my weird rehearsal schedule or allow to me to work odd hours – and rightfully so. I started doing design work for friends & family, like every designer does I think, and it eventually snowballed into more regular freelance work. In the off season from dance, I took a job at a Momma Pots that helped spark my love for being/working in a small business as well as allowed me to meet an amazing group of small business owners including MP owner Blaine. The absolute grind of it I loved; there’s always something to be done, you wear ALL the hats, you pick up the slack for whoever needs help. All of it, I loved it. I had been making stationery just for fun during this time and listened to business podcasts here are there. The seeds were planted.
(Photo: one of the very firsts cards I ever made. It was kraft paper (recycled from a trip from Cal Copy, a local printer) and some marbled paper I made with shaving cream and ink.
If my memory/timeline is correct (I might be totally off here) we had just finished performing Septime Webre's Peter Pan and the next season was set to start with Swan Lake. This year and the next few I might look back and say were the high points of my dancing ‘career’ (feels funny to call it that). I absolutely loved ballet during this period – loved the ballets we were getting to do, loved who I worked with, loved where the company was going. I was also getting regular freelance clients and creating for some incredible people. While I loved both aspects of my creative life, I was lacking one thing: personal creative ownership.
See, while both of my passions are creative they are creative in a sense for other people. For dance, generally, you’re bringing the choreographers vision to life. Yes, you get to add your own take to it but at the end of the day it’s what the choreographer wants that goes. Same thing in design, you’re bringing the client’s vision for their brand to life. And again, yes, it’s through my lens but it’s never purely what I want. Which of course it shouldn’t be, it’s not my brand, it’s not my choreography.
I needed a purely personal creative outlet, something where I made all the rules, so I started drawing. I gave myself the project to illustrate the flowers of the month, then it was a series of geometric patterns, then it was a series inspired by the ocean. Eventually these projects turned into seasons or holiday related themes. What would Valentine’s Day look like? What would winter look like? I honestly don’t remember how those illustrations turned into greeting cards but I do remember instantly loving it.
(Photo: Notes from a first draft of the Valentine's Day series. When I still had everything branded under my freelance business name.)
If you know my mom you know she’s the most creative person on the planet. She has every hobby known to man and can whip up pretty much anything if you give her enough time. She imbued this same sense in me. I grew up with a crazy love for paper, for drawing, writing, anything crafty I’d try it. Remember those fuzzy posters, where there was like velvet and you would color in the blank parts? Those were my weakness. I had to get one ~every~ trip to Michael’s. Anyway, the tactile quality, picking out the right color & style envelope, being able to add my own designs to them, greeting cards had everything I loved about design, and some elements from dance too, all rolled into one.
I had gone to dinner with someone I consider my mentor, Courtney, owner/creative director of Purveyors of Fragrance, and showed her all my designs. I had about 50 cards at the time and she said to me, “These are great! What are you waiting for!?” Perfection, that’s what I was waiting for. To feel ready. All those silly excuses we make up so we don’t do ~the thing~ we really want to do because it scares us. Imposter syndrome was another big one – I'm a ballet dancer, I can’t start a stationery brand! That’s what I told myself anyway.
(Photo: first shipment of cards, cello sleeves, and envelopes I ever recieved!)
I don’t think I've ever told anyone this but honestly another big motivating factor was a breakup I went through on New Year's Eve/Day 2018/2019 (it was like 2am. It was rough okay). It happened, I cried, and then said to myself, “Alright for real what are you waiting for? Start the damn brand. What do you have to lose?” So, a week later I bought the domain name, sent in my business papers to make it official-official, and haven’t stopped ever since. I’m not super proud that this is part of the story but it’s the truth. It was the final straw I needed to see that you have to make your own path and not wait for others to form it for you.
Roughly 2 years, 70+ greeting cards, 7 art prints, 6 stickers, and 1 tote bag later, here we are! It’s been a crazy ride y’all.
So there you have it – the FULL story of how we (I and semi-forced help from my family) got started. I still dance (hopefully moreso once pandemic life heals), and freelance full-ish time, so life’s busy but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Thanks for reading! If you have any questions or ideas for future blogs comment them below! I would love to hear from you.