I have made almost a hundred custom family crests, and its a beautiful way to capture the personality of a family or couple. In some countries in Europe, coats of arms are awarded by a College of Arms; who confirms lineage and titles awarded. But here in America, a Coat of Arms or family crest is more like a personal logo, and not at all regulated.
I start many of my pieces by looking at an old document that interests me. I collect images of old coats of arms and documents on a Pinterest board, as well as pieces of clip art that looks interesting. Some clients come to me with an image already in hand. Others come to me with a list of symbols that are important or meaningful to their family.
The process is pretty messy at first, with layers of clip-art images and random pieces of text and mis-matched colors. Quick messages, ideas, and banter with my clients is exciting and engaging. The pieces emerge not from a vacuum or from a solitary artistic impulse, but out of a collaboration and a guess-and-test. They gradually become a story, with a color theme and their own unique style. Animals are edited, made to hold objects or take on personalities. Objects and ideas become graphical symbols on fields of color.
Sometimes it takes days and sometimes it takes weeks to get a computer drawing. Some clients have had ideas tumbling around for years, and it’s exciting to finally watch them take shape and become images. I use Illustrator to create text, warp it to banners and wrap it around shields, and then make sure the parts are centered and level. Then I transfer it to a paper and start to draw.
These pieces are my drawings, but the stories and ideas behind them belong to so many families. I’m amazed that I’ve shipped pieces all over the world. I am grateful that I can keep drawing them and creating art that is so meaningful for families.