Sen Mendiola


My online journal filled with random musings on motherhood, life and my creative journey as an artist.

An Unexpected Opportunity

2017. First collaboration. Tons of discoveries and lessons learnt.

Who would have thought that one of the biggest brand in wedding industry would trust and include my work in their latest product shoot? Crazy awesome, right?! 

Chestknots has been part of our special milestones: they shoot our engagement, captured our wedding and document our daughter's simple first birthday cake smash sesh. It's easy to say that we've built a good relationship and we are very familiar with their style, work values and creativity.

So when Feliz messaged me if I want to do calligraphy for their product shoot, I want to scream (well, typed in all caps) YES!!! But instead, I froze for minute before I could think of a right respond. Why? Because I was not yet confident that my work is good enough to be included in a product shoot. But then I thought, well, they considered my work so maybe they see something pretty? 

Nerve wracking. Exciting. Fun. Above all, I am so grateful for this opportunity because it gave me a wonderful venue where I can discover and learn about my creative process and client engagement. So, what are those discoveries?



Communicate well then sketch. This must be a no-brainer, but I will still say this: good, constant communication is very important in any kind of project. This ensures that you and your client are on the same page and have greater understanding of what needs to be achieved. 

It is easy to get so excited and jump into the project. Stop. Get all the details that you can get or need, if there's something that is not clear - just ask, even though you think that it might be a stupid question. After gathering all the details, put everything into writing (you can keep one email thread or send a fresh email with a complete or summarized details of the project requirement). 

Appreciate the drafts also because we were already able to see the final output even before we received them (not everyone does that).

I got so surprised (in a good way) upon reading this feedback from the client! It proves that sketch, draft or digital proof is very important and valuable!

For me as the calligraphy artist, it saves me tons of rework because I got pre-approval and better idea of what my client wants or have in mind before I do the final calligraphy work. As for the client, no unpleasant surprises since they get a glimpse of the final output or layout.

Expectations are aligned and if you look closely, it's a win-win from both side. 


Pay close attention on the word REALISTIC.

I was feeling confident during our discussion of the requirement, until I asked about the deadline. I still have a week to finish the work however, I'm flying out the next day (for a much needed vacation with my best friends, planned months ahead) and will not be in the metro until the day before their scheduled shoot.

Yep, I know you sense the uncomfortable panic and silent scream. I do not want to pass up so I still said yes (I'm stubborn like that). You might be thinking I'm crazy but I'm not (well, okay, maybe a teeny bit) - I just made an assessment and a thought out plan on how I can accomplish this project.

The requirement: 3 short quotes, 3 different paper sizes, on my modern script. I can do this!

Why? I know my hand and speed after countless of hours of practicing and writing - I am faster with my modern script. I also made a couple of drafts of the 3 quotes that I need to write and with that, I was able to gauge how long each would take. 

How? I know my best friends and our travel itinerary by heart - before midnight most of them will be out snoozing the night away. Also, I've been to the place a couple of times hence I'm extra confident with the timeline. And so there I was, working on the project until midnight (thankfully our room has a decent table!) while everyone is fast asleep. And every morning, I sent out pictures showing the updated drafts and layout, asked for feedback and applied adjustments come night. I then worked on the final versions on our activity-free day.

Now what? Well, I said I will and so I did. I finish the job, I made time for it. But conciously without sacrificing the fun while being intentionally present with my supportive best friends. And I have the sun, sand and beach in the background as an extra bonus. :)

Now let's go back. For me having a positive attitude is great but being realistic is far more important. In this case, it's a calculated risk. If what they need is different, and requires more work and time to finish, then I will humbly say no and suggest another calligrapher that I trust. Yes, this opportunity might not come again but I'd rather face my own regrets for days (while shouting sayang!!!) than have a bad name. 


Being professional doesn't end on sounding like one - it's about building a relationship. And relationship is about trust, honesty and commitment. 

Be honest not just to your client but also to yourself. I will not argue that we should take the chance once the opportunity comes in, but is it worth it? Can I really make time for it? Is the timing right? This goes back to my creative process and realistic can-do attitude. 

Have the right amount of transparency. I intend to ship the pieces right after I completed them - however it will cost the client more. I brought up the situation and offer a suggestion that the client accepted easily - which I think because of my transparency right from the start. I have invested on a good relationship and set their expectations hence they trusted my input.


We are all scared of this but this is a good way of knowing how our creative process and engagement work with our client. Always expect to receive a number of "bad" feedback or criticism - it just means that we have room for growth and improvement. At the end of the day, acknowledge what you did well and your hard work. And get 2 slices of cake or pizza because you deserve them!

I know that each client is different, each project will bring out new set of lessons, frustrations and even failures. But these values will remain and besides, I can always say no or decline if the project doesn't align to my discipline.  Right? :)

Do you still remember your first collaboration or paid work? How was it? What did you learn and discover about yourself and process? :)