A Back-to-School Commission: Chalkboard Lettering

Ah, the smell of school supplies: As much as the thought of starting a new school year still turns my stomach, I can’t deny a certain giddiness upon perusing the school supply aisle or opening a new box of crayons. That waxy, complex rainbow of colors seems to shout: “Imagination! Expression! Fun!”    

Last week, when buying writing utensils for my first grader, I noted how my excitement was surprisingly similar to the experience of choosing a new calligraphy nib or paintbrush. Both kinds of shopping trips promise of an opportunity to create something. Something unique to learn from, cherish, and share. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t want to relive my elementary school years. But it’s cool to connect with my son over crayons.

Reminiscing over our school-aged days might play a part in the chalkboard trend. It’s everywhere from coffee shop menus to trinkets at big box craft stores and is the go-to canvas for DIY wedding planners. I was delighted by an invitation to paint a permanent chalkboard-style sign for the community garden at my son’s elementary school a few weeks ago. There is a wonderful plot of veggies and flowers tended by students, teachers, staff, and families. 

My garden sign commission was to paint the words over a black chalkboard/matte paint background. I wanted the lettering to have the chalk look, but needed a medium that could withstand the outdoor elements. I decided on an off-white acrylic paint and a clear outdoor spray-can sealant for the last step. Lettering on a large scale involving a step ladder was a new experience--more like an experiment. (The school setting was fitting for this job.) But in the end, I liked how it turned out and most importantly, the garden committee approved. I was grateful for the chance to contribute something to the school community, and for the learning opportunity. Maybe school is the place for me, after all.  So how about it, grown-ups? Chalk or crayons? Just one rule: Have fun.