Shelby Owen-Johnson studied graphic design at the Kansas City Art Institute but never felt a calling to be a graphic designer. Sitting at a computer all day didn’t appeal to her. So she worked in restaurant management for a while and did artwork in her spare time. Until recently, that is.
Now she’s focusing all of her efforts and attention on designing and handcrafting home decor and spare yet witty greeting cards for InkSauce Studio, her Etsy shop. Her new direction allows her to feed her love of type fonts.
Tell me about the different types of wood letters you make.
I make prints on wood letters using transfer techniques. I photocopy the designs, then apply it to the wood with Xylene, which thins paint but also can separate printer ink from paper and transfer it to whatever you’re applying it to.
I also do wood-burning or engraving using a stylus with a hot little metal tip.
I love doing hand-lettering and typography, so I also engrave these little wooden spoons with words like yummy, enjoy and nourish. I start by transferring my type design onto the wood, then I burn the letters with the tool.
What kind of wood do you prefer to work with?
Balsa and bass because they’re lightweight and have a smooth texture like paper.
How much do your letters cost?
Letters engraved on a piece of wood are $10 to $15. The wood wall letters are $21 for big ones and $10 for the small ones.
Do you carve your own letters?
No, I buy them from CraftCuts.com and then print on them.
How did you get started in this?
I wanted to physically make stuff, and I found these applications that allow me to produce and sell. I have always been doing this type of stuff, but after awhile I started making a line of items that I could cohesively sell. I started selling on Etsy in September.
How is InkSauce Studio doing?
A few of my cards were featured on Huffington Post, MTV.com and BuzzFeed, and I went from making one or two cards a day to dozens. One day during February I got orders for 90 Valentine cards. I was buried. Each card looks a little different, they have a weathered look and don’t look mass-produced.
What are your best-selling cards, and where do you get your phrases?
A card with “Thanks for not psychologically damaging me” sold really well for Mother’s Day. That’s the kind of thing I would say to my mom. But sometimes I get quotes from TV shows or movies. I always give credit for the quote.
Do you sell your stuff anywhere besides Etsy?
Goldie & Myrtle’s, a new market in the West Bottoms, is selling my spoons. They’re my first wholesale customer.
How do you draw your designs?
I use Pigma Micron pens on white paper, then photocopy them and use the Xylene to transfer the photocopies to the wood.