From Concept to Creation: Pen & Ink

Happy Valentine’s Day! With love in the air and hearts all around, I thought today would be a good day to show all the love that is poured into the designs in my Etsy shop. I love what I do and that I get to do it from home, and I am happy to share this process with you.

All of my unique designs in my shop are created by me and I’ve been asked several times how I go from concept to creation. So, I thought I would share a little more about how I make my designs come to life. One of my favorite new designs that is full of playful pattern is my “Triangles” from my Pen & Ink Collection.

Pen&Ink Triangles, Birth Announcement by Kat Phillips

1) I begin with my hand-drawn sketch. Sometimes this is a doodle on a scrap sheet of paper, that as I am going just takes on a life of it’s own and the design just happens. Other times, it is more planned and possibly inspired by something like a great pattern or an architectural detail that caught my eye. The design usually starts out on paper with either a trusted Sharpie Permanent Marker or my favorite Pilot Precise V5 Rolling Ball ink pens. The sketch is first scanned in to my computer to create a digital version that I can tweak, and clean up before placing it in the design. 2) Next I play. A lot. Shuffling the elements from here to there until I like the layout. Sometimes I even sleep on it and come back the next day or two and continue to tweak. Then I get to choose the font styles, which is one of my favorite parts as it makes the design come to life. I add the wording and an image, and do any color palette adjustments. Then the layout is ready for it’s debut on my Etsy shop. 3) The layout is then customized by a lovely client, proofed and approved, and then beautifully printed and carefully packaged and shipped to it’s new home.

Concept 2 Creation - Pen&Ink - by Kat Phillips Designs

Also available in a soft feminine colorway.


Muddy Waters

I’m in the middle of the “moving in” after moving, and it has been overwhelming. This is the not so glamorous part of my creative process.

I came across this post on the Free People Blog and it put into words perfectly how I have been feeling as of late. My process, my work, and my life right now. I have moved into a new house and the only way I can describe it is like taking a step into a calm clear river and shaking up all the grit and grime at the bottom. The result is water that has turned opaque, visibility is gone, and you can’t see anything as clear as before when everything was settled and in it’s place. Why can’t I just make decisions about where to put everything, or how to decorate, or to just unpack. The process of moving has jolted me creatively and caused me to access my surroundings, my belongings and my life. I tell myself, it is all part of the creative process (I’m trying to spin this positively) and will just help me whittle down all the unnecessary things I need to get rid of and therefore be left with the things that I love and adore. Obviously I am not alone in this. I’ve heard so many people tell this same story, but I guess I’m just really caught in this place right now and the Free People post really spoke to me. I just have to push through the grit, right? Things will fall into place. I have to wait for the waters to clear a little and when I get those moments of clarity, I need to take full advantage and act.

The author speaks about being weary at the end of the winter, and the process of spring cleaning her body, mind and life.

My favorite line she writes is, “I milled and wallowed in it.” I can relate. Being crippled by the daunting task of not knowing where to begin.

I don’t know about you, but I found myself with some negative energy at the winter’s end. Starved for sun and fatigued, it seemed only natural. I milled and a wallowed in it, sometimes tilting my lips out of the water, hoping for that fresh breath at the water’s surface. And it was there.

With renewed oxygen, I began to delve into the little crevices: pockets where energies that needed to be let go had stored themselves.  What I encountered were not necessarily things that could be intellectualized, but also sentiments and feelings that had lodged themselves in there. I paid mind to the things had been pushed under the rug, and gave them light by verbalizing some, and physically wringing others out.

What I learned is that happiness and positivity aren’t just things that come without work. You have to scrub at the insecurities, and wipe down the mental blocks that are standing in your way. Sure, the dirt isn’t always visible at first glance. You may have to move the couch and vacuum up hidden dust bunnies. It takes energy and a desire for something better.


Onward I go …

Custom Birth Story Keepsake Print

I wanted a keepsake print for my own kids. The print I imagined needed to be more of a narrative and not just a list of the facts. However beautiful I think their birth announcements are—I may be a little biased since I designed and loved each of them respectively for different sentimental reasons—the print I was thinking of needed to tell the story of their birth day!

This fresh & botanical keepsake print emerged from the beautiful design details of my Flora & Fauna collection of designs, and is the perfect way to capture a child’s unique birthday story. It’s great as a keepsake for your child or as a gift for a child in your life. Isn’t it just so pretty?!

The Gray Attic - Kat Phillips Designs

Each little one’s birth details are nestled within hand-drawn floral elements, loosely inspired by the timeless design of vintage cigar labels, all in varying color palettes representative of the four seasons of the year (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter), see below.


This keepsake print coordinates beautifully with the Flora & Fauna Birth Announcement sets sold in my shop.

This card speaks volumes … record the time, type of day & season, and actual date your child was born; whether a doctor or midwife delivered your child & placed him or her in your arms; your baby’s weight and gender; how early, on time or late they arrived, and how long it took for your baby to be born once admitted to the hospital or birthing center; and most importantly what you chose to name your beautiful baby. Designed using subtle “letterpress-style” elements, this keepsake print is a wonderful blend of vintage and modern. Friends and family will lend you compliments on this announcement, and may even ask to purchase a print of their own to frame and hang on their wall!

The felt finish paper compliments the design and was hand-selected by me for its unique look and tactile feel of fine handmade paper. Its acid free, warm white color and thickness lend a premium quality to each print. Digitally printed with archival quality inks, you’ll be able to treasure this print for years to come.

It’s the perfect addition a child’s room decor. Use this print to share your child’s birth story with them, and watch them beam with pride as they delight in how they entered the world. Let your kiddos feel special and honored as they grow.

Vintage Americana Baby Shower Invite

I had the honor of designing a very special baby shower invite for my dear friend, Kelly. We were in design school together and nearly spent every day together in class, but didn’t become good friends until a few years after graduation. Needless to say, with a shared love of design, fine papers, and the meaningful thought that goes into the details … I wanted to make this invite very special.

Kelly’s nursery theme was “Vintage Americana” so we (the hostesses) decided that would be the shower theme as well. Too fitting if you know Kelly! She is expecting a boy and so I kept the font choices masculine, classic, with a nostalgic nod to the type treatments of vintage war posters. The more I designed, the more fun I had. I turned to the invitation style of today’s modern weddings with varying sized cards typically stacked in the envelope with different information on each sheet. This layered-paper approach gave me freedom to add lots of detail without getting cluttered. I used various papers of the same hue from my stash of sample sheets from various projects over the years. This was a great exercise in creativity.

Here is a little peek into how this invite came to  be …

I created a “3” card that was a mini-flashcard style to sit at the top of my stack, with the look of a hand-stamped number “3.” The answer to the fill in the blank of “Baby” reads on the backside of the card along with her registry information, a fun additional lesson, and lyrics to a school yard song. Next in the lineup was a vintage linen postcard that I purchased from the Flea Market. The idea behind the postcards was to create a “Greetings from” postcard collection from around the United States. This would serve as her “Blessings” book and it would allow ALL of her invitees to participate even if they couldn’t be there in person to sign a guestbook. Each postcard was stamped with these fun set of 50 Greetings from State Stamps on Etsy. Next was the “We Want YOU” card, clearly inspired by the War enlistment posters. This was the perfect place to list the hostesses, or “sponsors.” I used two vintage illustrations from books passed on to me by my mother-in-law. The illustration with Christopher Robin and a very vintage-style Pooh is from the sweet little book When We Were Very Young. And the adorable marching children carrying the flag is by Genevieve Foster 1939, Stories of Early America. The Mail Ticket tag came next, and it was a nod to vintage Air Mail and Postal documents, and this card served as the instructions for recipients on what to do with the vintage postcard. Each recipient was instructed to write their blessings, well wishes and encouragements to her on the postcard and drop it in the mail to be received by her in the days leading up to the shower. **Side note, the mommy-to-be, Kelly, has absolutely loved receiving all the vintage postcards in the mail.** Last, but not least comes the Invitation card. I have a small collection of vintage Dick and Jane flashcards that I used in my daughter’s nursery, and so I used those as my inspiration for the invite card. I combined the style of the word flash cards with the addition flash cards to create “1+1=baby.” I coffee-stained each of the cards to age them before printing them. I wanted the invitation wording to look like someone just used an old flashcard and “wrote in” the information with their fine penmanship. To keep all the elements secure, I used red and blue rubber bands alternately between invites. Kelly’s invitation was adorned with real vintage stamps to complete the look.

Kelly never ceases to amaze me with her reactions. I was on the phone with her as she opened the invite and sweetly marveled at the details. It makes everything worth it when you know you made someone feel loved with a design you created just for them. I cannot wait for the day of her shower to arrive to celebrate this big milestone with my friend.

Flora & Fauna Birth Annoucement – Design #1

Meet my newest birth announcement design from the oh-so-lovely Flora & Fauna Collection:

Ain’t she pretty? I really enjoyed working on this design. Fresh & botanical. The new babe’s information is nestled within hand-drawn floral elements, loosely inspired by the timeless design of vintage cigar labels, all in a soft feminine color palette. This is the first design to debut in the “Flora & Fauna Collection.” The boy version is so fun, and the two additional designs for the “Fauna” side of this collection are on the horizon.

Check my Etsy store to see all my designs.


150 year old sofa redo – inspiration

Source: via Kat on Pinterest


Sooooooooooooooooooo, pretty. Here is the inspiration for my sofa. I’m going to include a photo of my sofa for a comparison so you can see that they are similar in size and slightly in style. So, I think it is a good goal to work towards. I love simple neutral sofas, so you can change your mind throughout the years as much as you want with pillows. My original idea was just a basic light mushroom-colored linen, since this will be my first upholstery job. I just wanted to add a little something to it, and when I saw this Cisco Brother’s + Lumi collaboration … I fell in love.

My plan is to photograph the graphite writing and signature on the wooden frame and blow it up and either option 1) print it by spoonflower or option 2) use inkodye from lumi, just like this inspiration sofa was created. Read up on the Inkodye process here.

I make things look pretty

Why I do what I do—I love taking people’s favorite things and creating an entire design around them … childhood toys, favorite trips, memories, family heirlooms, or funky traditions.

My style—Clean, modern, elegant, playful, whimsical—and yes, I believe that all of those things can mingle in the same place. My big dream is to have my designs lovingly squeezed through a letterpress, but until that day, I’ll just design like they are just that “impressive.”

The Gray Attic on Etsy

The Gray Attic is the name of my Etsy shop, where I made my first sale in August of 2011.  Since then, I have mused over and designed all sorts of lovelies in my head, and then scratched them onto pieces of paper. Some of those ideas have come to life and now reside in my shop where they await a new home.

So, why the blog? (You might ask) …

I wanted to log my creative process and collect all of my inspirations and musings in one place. Here, on thegrayattic. I’ll try to be interesting, but I can’t promise anything ground-breaking, but I do commit to making it a true and real record of MY process.