When Opportunity Knocks...

by Jonathan Wright
Sarah Waldo/Violet and Ivy Photography

Just what is it that keeps young professionals fulfilled and thriving in a midsized community? Everyone seems to be seeking that elusive answer. For designer Chelsie Tamms, who graduated from Bradley University last year, it was simple. Her connections to the community created a magnetic pull that couldn’t be ignored.

“I did not plan to stay in Peoria, but throughout my senior year, I became more involved in the local art and entrepreneurship communities,” she explains. “The connections I made… convinced me to stay to start my business here.”

The Community Thread
Community is a common thread running through Chelsie Tamms’ work, as is plainly evident in her 100 Days of Peoria project, completed earlier this year. The objective? To explore and appreciate Peoria through lettering and illustration that showcases businesses, local attractions, events and more.

100 Days of Peoria

Each day for 100 days, Tamms unveiled a new design for a Peoria institution—and the project was so successful, she brought it back for the month of August. She plans to develop the project into a coffee-table book… and recently launched a Kickstarter to make it happen.

Tamms has also been intimately involved in the Live and Shop Peoria County initiative, encouraging residents to support local artists, retail shops and businesses year-round, as well as Hello Peoria, a curated project to visually highlight the best the city has to offer through the #hellopeoria hashtag.

Hello Peoria

Tamms’ rise to the top has been shockingly quick. In her senior year at Bradley, she earned first place in both the Brave Pitch and Project Springboard entrepreneurship competitions, took home the President’s Award at the Student Scholarship Expo, served on the winning team at Startup Weekend Peoria, and racked up a handful of American Advertising Awards. This dizzying array of accomplishments, along with a number of pivotal internships, convinced the Cary, Illinois native she could pursue her passion for hand lettering as a business.

And that’s exactly what Tamms has done. Citing her parents, grandparents and high school art teacher as inspirations, she founded Lettering Works, which brings brand identities to life through lettering and design. “I had always considered starting a business,” she says, “but believed it would come much later in my professional career.”

Today, Tamms’ entrepreneurial dreams are well on their way to fruition. Her distinctive hand-lettered designs can be found all over the region—including work for the City of Peoria, ArtsPartners and Peoria Magazines, along with a growing cadre of artists, startups and small businesses. Over the last year, she has led workshops in hand lettering, completed a residency at Prairie Center of the Arts, and launched a number of highly visible, community projects, all the while demonstrating a shrewd knack for marketing and self-promotion.

In the near-future, she plans to seek out more client work—“I most enjoy branding and community-focused design,” she explains. “Long-term plans consist of continuing to grow my business and the services I provide.” With her exposure in the community ever increasing—and a proven ability to leverage that exposure—these goals would seem to be a piece of cake for Tamms.

“Lettering has many applications, so I am often pulled in new directions and presented with new opportunities,” she adds. “I try to not only take advantage of these opportunities, but also create new opportunities for myself.” For more information, visit letteringworks.com. iBi

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