The Social Project // Series 3

May 31, 2018

For me, this month was all about finding my inner Beyoncé. But what does that even mean? Well the way I look at it is Beyoncé is one bad ass boss babe who wears so many hats but still always manages to look like she’s got her shit figured out. Aside from that, I also believe that Beyoncé wouldn’t be successful without her crew – which for me is totally where The Social Project fits in. It’s all about finding those people out there with the same creative values and interests as you. The people who push you to get out of the box, try something new, and challenge the way you approach different projects or tasks. This month I got to spend an afternoon with two ladies who truly inspire me with how hard they work – and trust me, their hard work pays off because these ladies are making some serious waves! Sarah from Dear North Designs, and Alex from Photos by Alexandria cozied up in my kitchen with a bottle of wine and some snacks from J’Adore and Kitten and The Bear to spend the afternoon making some freakin’ stunning wood frame signs.

Before we dive into the interview with these two I just want to point out how incredibly creative and talented these two are. Sarah’s calligraphy is something you need to have hanging in your home, and these photos by Alex are honestly rocking my world.

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The Social Project, Barrie Social Media, Creative Collaboration, Social, Barrie Social Project, Calligraphy, Photography, Dear North Designs, Photos by Alexandria, Calligraphy Workshop, Barrie Calligraphy, Barrie Social Media, Barrie Photography, Barrie Wedding Planner

Sarah, how did you get into calligraphy?

Growing up I was always drawn to the arts and found my passion in graphic design, specifically typography, in high school. I went to OCAD for most of their 4-year program before I had to leave due to financial reasons. I ended up going back to school later for Accounting and got a full-time job in an office, but really missed that creative side of my life. I would doodle letters on all of my meeting notes and get compliments on them. I was at a little vendors fair one day actually and saw that somebody was running a small business painting beautiful letters on wood signs. It sounds corny but the hand-written letters on wood made me feel warm [it’s a strange feeling to describe] they were simply beautiful to look at. I always knew that I wanted to be a business owner and I think at that moment like the connection between wanting to be a business owner and wanting to be creative just clicked. I started learning calligraphy and was (and still am) pretty much addicted to it. I want to share that feeling I felt looking at those letters with others. It’s a good feeling!

So is this something you were just naturally good at or did you have to learn?

At first it was all about practice; practice, practice, practice. I doodled on all my notes, during and outside of work. On weekends, weekdays, mornings, evenings – I was just addicted to it. I would get very frustrated with how slow my progress was, I felt like my progress was minimal. One day though, I just looked at my work and realized that something had “clicked” and that I knew what I was doing. Of course there are still those days where I feel a bit frustrated with the look of my work, or I have days where the creativity just doesn’t flow, but honestly my advice for anyone interested in getting into calligraphy is to just practice. Find a style that you want to try and just practice it – practice letter combinations and whole words to figure out how to do it [just don’t copy work and claim it as your own], mix it with other styles you like and before you know it you’ll have your own style.

Now how long have you had Dear North Designs up and running?

2016 was when I started learning calligraphy and selling a few pieces here and there but I have really only been focusing on my businesses productive growth since summer 2017.

And in the beginning was it signs for the home or did you dive right into weddings?

It was mostly wood signs in the beginning because I was intimidated by the wedding industry, but I quickly realized that weddings and calligraphy are where most of the business lies, which is great because of they match perfectly for each other. To be honest I knew nothing about the wedding industry when I started and I’m still learning about it today. It’s been a fun journey though, and I adore all things wedding now!

Alex, when did you get into photography?

I have always wanted to be a photographer, I bought my first camera when I was pretty young, and most of my side jobs have always been in the photography industry in one way or another. Actually in highschool I did my co-op at Japan Camera which is probably where my photography interest started to flourish. Then in 2015 when I had to leave my one job everyone in my life started telling me that I needed to pursue photography as a career choice. It was around this time I remember I looked at my camera shelf and just thought “I think I want to try this”.

So you were always a hobby photographer before you started your company?

Yes, I did it as a hobby for sure. I remember I took a really nice selfie once and my mum was like “you’re a photographer”. Which I of course thought was hilarious – seriously though, mum goggles am I right?!

And are weddings a big part of your business?

Pretty well, ya. I kind of always knew I wanted to do weddings though. And it’s been great, I am still slowly building up my bookings and portfolio but I love it!

What is it about photography that you love?

I love helping capture those big moments in life. Plain and simple.

With regards to the wedding industry, is there anything specific you both wish brides knew about your line of work?

[Sarah] Contact me as soon as possible for your wedding. There are so many different elements to consider, especially if you want many different elements [place cards, signage, envelopes, etc]. We need to sit down and discuss the details as soon as possible so that we can get an understanding of what you need and so that I can quote to you on all of the different elements. Some projects take up a lot of time, and people don’t really realize that I need more than a few weeks to pull a custom order together for their wedding day. So timing to complete the project is a big thing which is why contacting me right away is highly recommended.

Another thing would be that my pricing isn’t based per word. I am sometimes asked for a quote on an item based on how many words are on it. It doesn’t really work that way because it really depends on the design elements, material and time I estimate it to take. The best information to provide when asking for a custom quote is: the type of canvas to be written on, the size, what will be written, and then any additional design elements you’d like [florals, sketches, etc].

[Alex] For me it is that I don’t have a set time limit on my packages, I have “x” amount before you get ready till half an hour after your day. I did this because I was finding couples were trying to jam a 10hr day into a 6hr package. Another one is time for family photos. I like to tell my couples to plan for the people who are really important to you, and if you absolutely have to get a photo with everyone then set aside the appropriate amount of time for me to capture that for you.

Is there anything in your industry that you see an opportunity for change or would want to see change?

[Sarah] It would be nice if there were some way for me to streamline everything to make it quicker for me and my clients, but I think with something so customizable there really is no way to fully summarize it. I am trying to work on it right now, looking into offering package deals for full wedding calligraphy, but it’s a challenge. I am thinking of offering signage rentals as well for brides who have a smaller budget for calligraphy which will make things simpler for both of us as well.

Are there any significant moments that really pushed you towards your line of work?

[Sarah] I really believe I have just always had a creative mind and have always needed and outlet for it.  My family really encouraged art growing up and we always had art books in the house to keep us busy. We were constantly trying new things; watercolour, acrylic, crafts, etc. I actually remember receiving my first calligraphy set when I was really young. What draws me to art + design too though is that it’s sort of like a “problem” to be solved. I see art sort of like a math problem, except instead of seeing a problem and trying to solve it, I see the finished piece in my mind and try to figure out the steps to create it. The feeling I get after the piece in my head is in out in the real world is like a “high” that I’m sure other artists feel. We chase that feeling!

[Alex] It’s always been a part of me, my Grandpa took crime scene photos and I was always fascinated with that. And I think the day that stands out in my mind where I knew I was meant to be a photographer is the one I mentioned above where I took a really great selfie and my mum actually cried over how amazing she felt it was. It was that selfie that led my mum to buy me my first camera a few weeks later for my birthday.

What an INCREDIBLE afternoon with these two – and again, how incredible are these wood signs from Dear North Designs?! Mine is currently hanging in my office and I absolutely love it to bits. As an added bonus you can get Sarah’s “Life happens coffee helps” wood framed sign for 15% off the regular purchase price – all you have to do is send me a message. It’s that easy!

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Thank you so much for following along with The Social Project. As always, I want to leave you all with a question and a challenge – who did you inspire today? Who could you inspire tomorrow? Or maybe you need the inspiring? Whichever or whatever it is get out there and create, spread some empowerment and truth around and lift each other up! You never know what might be brewing, or what magic you might create. (quote from Jenna Stewart)

If you’re interested in being a part of The Social Project, please reach out to And don’t forget to follow Sarah & Alex on Instagram