Words and photos by Olivia Bauso
Jill Taft is a Rochester born and raised artist with color and design in her bones.
As a graduate from RIT’s Graphic Media program, she caught the color bug from her father who is an engineer. She says, “I thought that printing was fascinating because of colors. I was so interested in CMYK and RGB and how everything came together.” However, Jill found that the printing business is a tough career-builder now that it basically operates itself. Jill admits, “I felt kind of lost when I graduated. I didn’t feel like I was enough of an expert in graphic design, and there weren’t enough career-building printing jobs.”
A few years ago Jill began following the hand-lettering trend on Instagram, and thought it might be something to occupy any free time she had while working as a stay-at-home mom. Though her “cat-scratch” handwriting deterred her from taking the plunge, Jill found that with guidance from some of her favorite letterers, she could develop a style that worked for her. Jill says, “Courtney Casper was really my inspiration. Her lettering was messy, but cool, and I thought that would be my kind of style.”
Jill adds, “It seems so easy, but it was not at all-- at least, it wasn’t for me.” She sat down with tracing paper practicing and pumping out letter drill after letter drill until she developed a personal font she was happy with. “You just sit there practicing and practicing and think what you’re doing so good, until two weeks later you look back and realize what you were doing was total crap,” she laughs.
Now comfortable with her skills, Jill offers gifts and custom lettering as Tiny Ruby Designs, and sold her first pieces to non-family members last September. If you’re looking for something a little fun and off-kilter, Jill is certainly the letterer for you. She says, “I shy away from the more traditional, pretty calligraphy. Though I’m envious of people who can do it so well, It’s a little too soft for me. I’m more into that rough style with mismatched letters.” Every piece lettered by Jill done by hand with pencil or marker before it’s scanned into the computer.
Moving forward, Jill’s biggest priority is to keep creating and putting her work out into the community. After connecting with Sarah Knight, contributing to her first Roc Girl Gang interview and speaking with other local letterers, she feels like she has found the right supportive people to grow her art with. She says, “My primary goal is to get more organized so I can make more things and sell them. When I first got into lettering I wasn’t trying to monetize as much, but now that I’ve connected with more people in the community through it I have more of a drive to keep making and pushing out more work!”
If there’s one thing Jill has learned since she launched her business, it’s that there’s room for everyone. She affirms, “You just can’t compare yourself to other people. It will drive you nuts. Customers are looking for different things from different letters, and there is certainly enough work to go around.”
In preparation for Spring, Jill is working on some fun and funky Mother’s Day cards, wine glasses, coffee mugs, shrinky dink earrings and wedding gifts. For custom projects, contact Tiny Ruby Designs via email or Instagram.
Catch Jill alongside other fabulous vendors at our upcoming May Brainery Bazaar. As always, the first 25 people to enter the Bazaar will receive a free tote bag! We will also be celebrating the warmer weather with the Roc The Mint and Effortlessly Healthy trucks parked outside.