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Meet Tuts+ Survey Grand Prize Winner Catherine Dawes


Name: Catherine Dawes

Location: Vryburg, South Africa

Topics of Interest: Graphic Art, Print Design, Hand-Lettering

Occupation: Graphic Artist and Printmaker

Last month, we unveiled South African graphic artist Catherine Dawes as the winner of the grand prize from our 2014 survey. Here's a chance to meet her and discover how she made the amazing journey from a job in restaurant management to fulfilling her dream of a creative career.

And if you live in a remote location where opportunities seem hard to come by, read on. Catherine lives in a dusty farming town on the edge of the Kalahari Desert, and built her skills and her business using online resources.

Catherine Dawes
Tuts+ survey grand prize winner Catherine Dawes

Growing up in the bustling seaside town of Knysna in the Western Cape, Catherine always knew that she wanted to pursue a career in the visual arts. But like many people, she initially struggled to make that dream a reality.

She started off by studying photography at college while working in restaurant management to support herself and pay for equipment. But her college focused mainly on film photography.

Although they did teach us the basics of Photoshop, I knew that I had to learn more! This is when I first came into contact with Tuts+.

Studying online helped Catherine hone her digital photography skills, but as time went by, she discovered that although she enjoyed photography, it wasn't something she wanted to pursue as an everyday career. 

So she made two big changes in her life. One was to move from the seaside to a small town on the other side of the country, on the edge of the Kalahari Desert. The other was to start studying graphic design, both on Tuts+ and via an online course in graphic design with the University of Cape Town. 

Here, I made good use of Tuts+ again. I also spent a lot of time practicing my calligraphy and hand-lettering. 
Heart and Soul gold hand lettering by Catherine Dawes
Hand-lettering piece by Catherine Dawes

At this point, her studies began to bear fruit. She focused on calligraphy and hand-lettering, and began to win clients who admired her work.

Bloom typographic poster by Catherine Dawes
Typographic poster by Catherine Dawes
I didn’t know that hand-lettering was a “thing” until I studied! I just thought that drawing words was some weird thing that I did…  And that’s what I do now. 

Besides client work, Catherine makes typographic posters and art prints that she sells. She also designs and makes modern calligraphy invitations, envelopes and save-the-date cards, as well as putting together entire wedding suites. 

Wedding calligraphy suite by Catherine Dawes
Wedding calligraphy suite by Catherine Dawes

Now, Catherine is planning to open her own print shop using silk-screen printing, woodblock/lino, etc. 

I have my ears to the ground hoping to hear about a letterpress printer I might buy, but they seem pretty rare here so I know that I’ll be waiting for a while. Also, I’ll be moving into a bigger studio to accommodate these plans as I’m quickly outgrowing my current one!
Monday coffee hand-lettering piece by Catherine Dawes
Hand-lettering piece by Catherine Dawes

Catherine has one final, practical piece of advice for anyone who wants to do what she's done:

Make sure that you’re properly registered with all the appropriate authorities in your country!  And have proper contracts drawn up detailing everything that is expected between you and your clients — I’ve seen too many talented people fall because they don’t take this into account.  

Want to know more? You can connect with Catherine at:

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