To Top

Meet Michelle Anilao of The Letter Chelle

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michelle Anilao.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Michelle. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Before I ever knew that lettering existed, I was and still am many things: a yoga teacher, massage therapist, an office manager for a physical therapist, and a co-founder of our family business. I love movement and like to stay challenged and busy. So I had an expectation that I would remain busy and active as possible throughout my pregnancy.

But life always has other plans. Four months into my pregnancy, I slipped on water while teaching a yoga class. It caused my hip bones to shift in opposite directions. Since I was pregnant, there was no chance of the ligament healing completely until after birth. I had pain while walking, sitting and sleeping, pretty much all the time. I had to teach a fraction of classes and could barely leave the house. That year, I watched every series on Netflix, I scrolled through Instagram and Facebook so long that sometimes there wasn’t anything else to see. I looked at all the yogis on Instagram taking care to curate their social media presence. I wondered when I would ever get back to the one thing that keeps me balanced, yoga.

Passing the time with endless TV made me feel useless both physically and mentally. I figured that since I couldn’t make much use of my body I could find something that made use of my mind. I tried so many things. Reading was hard because that requires a comfy seat. To begin a meditation practice unguided and seated was painful to think about. I picked up a guitar, figured I had a teacher in my talented partner and started learning. It was fun, but 1 month later my baby bump made it hard to hold a guitar. It occurred to me that I could utilize my hands to create something… anything! Cue my short-lived journey into crocheting. I sucked at it. I made two decent items and called it quits. Not to mention that the long periods of time sitting was painful.

I fell back into the vortex that is Instagram. Serendipitously, I stumbled onto posts of people doing lettering and calligraphy. If you don’t know, there are these types of satisfying posts that get onto your social media stream that just suck you in; skateboarding fails, cute animals talking, people making slime to name a few. I happened to see a video post of someone writing words slowly and gracefully. I got addicted. I watched enough of them, got bored and finally tried to copy what I saw. I was surprised at how difficult it was to find the right flow to do modern calligraphy.

It reminded me of practicing yoga. The flow of yoga can be so beautiful, simple and calming. Surprisingly, this type of art brought me a sense of calm I had been missing. I kept with it and I was gifted with more stressless moments. The chaos and noise in my head would quiet down. Much like yoga, I could leave the pen and paper and return whenever I felt like it. I mean, how many times a day do we put a pen to paper? I could practice anywhere and anytime between mom life and everything else!

It’s been almost 3 years since I started. I wrote any words, quotes, names and verbs that came to mind. I wrote on anything I could get my hands on! I posted some of my work on social media where I received my first request to do a custom piece. I thought it was a fluke that I actually sold my work! It wasn’t until I met with my amazing mentor/coach, Sheri Colosimo that I felt that this work was viable, real and more importantly aligned with who I am. So I started reaching out to businesses, asking them to let me write on their menus, windows, coffee sleeves and signs.

Today, I am getting more requests for work and starting to collaborate within the community. My next project is to host a workshop that combines lessons I’ve learned from yoga to the healing power of art. I hope that I can connect with more small businesses and create more things that I can write on! I’m learning more every day and finding the community to support me. Where the rest of this story goes? I’m not sure but I’m so excited to write it out!

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It has definitely not been smooth which is the way most paths are drawn. But the journey so far has only been 3 years. I struggled a lot with my pregnancy and afterwards my postpartum anxiety. I also compared myself to everyone I saw on Instagram like many of us do. I watched others grow and turn their art into work, all while I dealt with the changes that motherhood brings. It was the loss of identity that created a huge obstacle for me.

It’s hard to connect to something, whether it’s work or a relationship when you can barely connect to yourself. I wanted to improve my skills and struggled with finding the time to do so. But at the same time, lettering gave me enough peace and calm to stay sane! It’s true what they say about the healing power of art. I encourage everyone to find a form of art that fits their personality.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
About your Business, I create mostly custom art and logo design that I paint onto signs, menus and windows. I have done everything from menus to baby shower decor and business window logos. I am passionate about teaching basic modern calligraphy and am looking into teaching more consistently.

I am more adept at modern calligraphy but also do lettering. There are confusion and debate between the two. But in my opinion, calligraphy is the art of writing words, lettering is the art of drawing letters. But there is a thin line between the two and I love both! I have been noticed most for my recent window designs and I’d have to say that those are what I am most proud of so far. They were labors of love. You never forget your first and it was no different with my first projects on windows.

Everyone has a unique artistic personality that goes along with their own process and design. I always start with getting to know my client. I feel out the vibe they give off and the feel of their workspace if they have one. I take the intention of their request whether it is business or personal and use it to search for inspiration for their custom design. I look at the person as a whole because even a small part of a client’s personality and character can go into the inspiration for the design.

The piece becomes truly personable and customized to each person I work with. Who you are IS the inspiration and I think of the client often while I’m creating. It can be hard to create anything for anyone if I can’t connect to the client. If you are interested in working with me, let’s meet at your favorite place and get to know each other! There are so many talented people in this community and you can literally learn lettering anywhere with anyone!

Since I have a passion for yoga, I’m so excited to combine that with my passion for lettering. I believe that everyone can do yoga and everyone can do lettering. Most importantly everyone could use some stress relief. I aim to create a welcome place where you feel confident in your effort, are able to allow space/time for yourself to create and to find a sense of peace or calm in the practice of lettering. It won’t always be easy but like any practice, it gets easier the more you try. Follow me on Instagram if you are interested in attending my next workshop in Ocean Beach!

What were you like growing up?
I was super quiet and observant as a child. But I always knew I wanted to contribute to the conversation. I stayed shy until my late 20s when I discovered dance and yoga and really started to come out of my shell!

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Brian Calilung

Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

More in