By Brooke Geery
Colleen Wilcox, 30, a Pittsfield-based artist whose hand-lettered designs brighten up Instagram feeds across the globe under the moniker Wander on Words, has always loved language and been drawn to the outdoors.
“Growing up, my mom would send me to school with motivational quotes in my lunch box, so you could say I began collecting words at a young age,” she said.
Wilcox spent her earliest days in Illinois before moving to Montana and working in Yellowstone National Park, where her obsession with nature grew.
“I would constantly doodle uplifting words on every piece of paper I could find,” she said. “The whole experience of living in such a beautiful, wild place deeply inspired me, and I wanted to share that inspiration with others.”
She moved to Vermont in 2013 and currently resides with her husband in Pittsfield. After five years working as a designer at Boss Office Works, she took the leap and went out on her own in 2018, beginning with selling her work online. The name, Wander on Words, was initially destined for something else.
“I’ve always had an extreme fondness for words and travel, and this phrase came to mind out of the blue one day, right around when we moved to Vermont. I originally wrote it down and wanted to open a bookstore with the name. Then came the push from my husband to start a business with my lettering. I looked up the domain name to see if it was available, and sure enough, it was! I snatched it right up and created myself a logo. I thought it was an excellent play on words and melded my passions nicely,” she said.
In addition to being quite visually pleasing, her pieces also spread messages of positivity.
“I love figuring out how letters can fit together to create visual balance and interest, while inspiring others, spreading positivity, and rekindling a love for nature. The smallest details and changes in form can change the feel of the words,” she said.
2020 was shaping up to the biggest year yet for Wander on Words, but then, Covid-19 hit.
“This year was interesting in that I had originally signed up for more shows than ever before – and then they were canceled. As I’m sure many felt, I was very nervous going into the spring of 2020. Luckily, online sales have been steady,” Wilcox said. “It is wonderful to see how much Vermont came together to support small businesses and artists in this uncertain time.”
If you’re in the Killington area, you’re likely to spot Wilcox out on the town in the “Wander Wagon,” her van which is adorned with decals featuring her lettering.
“I have actually heard from many folks who have found me because they spotted my van somewhere: usually parked at trailheads, my favorite coffee shops, or driving to and from the post office. I created the artwork and the wonderful Green Screen Graphics made it a reality. It makes me so happy to know that the Wander Wagon is recognizable. I hope that it brings people joy! I am a snowboarder and sometimes when I go through the parking reservation checkpoint to ride at Killington, the attendant will say, ‘nice van!’ I love these moments.”
Next up for Wander on Words is a lettering challenge and giveaway in February. To learn more, follow her on Facebook and Instagram @wanderonwords or visit wanderonwords.com.