Sonoma Valley High Grad is the chalk artist for menu boards across town

In 2021, most people are typing or tapping on screens to send messages to others. Messages fly through the air to the phones in our pockets, all written in uniform font.

Handwriting, especially cursive writing, seems to have followed the path of the telephone booth. It is an obsolete, mysterious and mysterious skill, once commonly practiced but now especially not. Show the kids a looping handwriting page today and they will lean in as the glyphs hold the secret keys to the universe.

But Sierra Ruelas, 41, grew up in a time when writing was important and was still taught in schools, and she spent a lot of time in her youth perfecting hers. “I have always been very attentive to writing at school. Almost a little obsessive, ”said Ruelas.

It turns out that those hours spent refining her style were well spent, as now Ruelas is being paid for her pretty calligraphy. She has designed and drawn menu boards throughout town, at Mary’s and Ramekins and at Burgers and Vine. Her writing advertised the daily deals at Trader Joe’s stores in Napa and Chico, and she advertises the ever-changing beer selection at HopMonk Sonoma.

It’s a secondary scramble, yes, but increasingly viable because people around Ruelas seem to have forgotten their handwriting. Someone needs to fill in the ubiquitous tables that have sprung up like kudzu in businesses around the world. Someone has to remember how to hold a chalk pen.

Like the writing itself, Ruelas’ approach to growing his business is quite old-fashioned. “It’s just word of mouth, not social media,” she said of how customers find her. Other times, however, she’ll be on the go and faced with a sloppy handwritten sign. “I’ll be like ‘hey, looks like you could use a little help with your board,’” she said, adding that she had picked up a lot of work that way.

“It’s the best feeling,” Ruelas said, seeing her work at companies she frequents. “The comments are extremely gratifying.” But don’t ask Ruelas to draw for an audience. “It’s a little intimidating to work when people are watching. I am most definitely a shy person.

Ruelas grew up in Sonoma and graduated from Sonoma Valley High in 1997, and has always been creative by nature. She was brought up in a house where the arts were valued. “My stepfather was Norton Buffalo,” she said of the deceased local musician. “My mom, Carrie Buffalo, was an artist herself and always got me calligraphy sets. I have always liked to write letters.

Ruelas drew logos and designs for T-shirts and snowboards, and designed handwritten wedding invitations. The job is always different and the results satisfactory, but her main job is still parenting her young son. “I’ve been very busy with it, but now that he’s 13, maybe I can have a little more free time,” she says optimistically.

Recently, Ruelas used some of his discretionary time to design and draw a new chalk mural at Sonoma’s Reel and Brand restaurant. “It’s very detailed, extremely colorful,” she explained. “He has a reel, representing sea fishing, then a mark, representing meat. I made a brand stamp with the word ‘brand’ and a wave – really blue and colorful – then a fish and a cow skull, ”Ruelas said. “It’s fun to see people looking at him.”

Her son, for his part, admires his mother’s work, impressed by her creative expressions in an endangered medium. “He goes to Altimira and they don’t teach cursive anymore, but he really likes it,” she says.

He will likely get the advice his mother gave to herself, back when she was a quiet kid with an unusual hobby. “Just practice,” Ruelas says. “It’s a little side job, but it’s fun.”

Contact Kate Williams at [email protected]

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