So, have you ever developed an Instagram crush on a brand? Because that’s totally how I found Hand-Lettered Old Shit. The products are cool, quirky, and a perfect blend of funny and pretty.
They were the things you’d display in your house that from a distance just looked nice and then you got a little closer and there was a subversive kick to it.
Then I actually got to connect in real life with Kate, the creative mind behind the brand, at the Winter Market. And my crush was confirmed. So, I thought maybe you’d like to learn a bit more about the story behind the brand…
What gave you the idea to start Hand-Lettered Old Shit?
I’ve always been drawn to old, odd things, especially photographs. So often, it seems like a time so far removed yet they can’t be that different from you and me. I would contemplate how they may have been feeling and translate it into a modern voice, whether it be a current catch phrase or rap lyric. At first, I just hand painted the photographs for family and friends in hopes of a good laugh, but eventually they sort of took on a life of their own and I began making mass print runs. Over time the messaging began to translate to other substrates, not just old photographs, and so HLOS was born.
Tell me about how your business first started and how it’s grown since then.
When H.L.O.S.’s online shop first launched in 2017, it was predominantly hand painted vintage photographs converted into postcards. Over the next year it expanded into records, globes, pinnable travel maps, and miscellaneous custom commissions ranging from motorcycle helmets to skateboards decks. Just in the past year, custom jackets have become one of my biggest sellers and this summer I’m excited to make the transition into windows and murals.
How has your business pivoted during the pandemic?
Commissions are still a big part of my business but while weddings, showers, and other in-person events are being rescheduled, a lot of my work has shifted towards efforts of uplifting spirits and commiserating from afar. People are ordering humorous mini globes and postcards to send a laugh to those they may not be able to see in person. I’ve also tried a few online “shows” or “digital markets” though I’ve noticed they just don’t seem to have the same draw as the in-person experience. It’s lacking that face-to-face connection between vendors and customers that we all love so much…not to mention food trucks, doggy pools, lemonade served in a mason jar.
Tell me some of your favorite local businesses to work with and why local partnership is so important.
When you partner with local brands, cafes, and artists, you’re supporting your neighbors and strengthening your community. Lakewood boutique Fetch & Co. carries one-of-a-kind H.L.O.S. jackets and serves as an official drop-off location if customers are looking to get a piece of their own lettered. Everything I sell is printed or sourced in Cleveland. Maps are printed with HKM in Gordon Square, postcards are printed with JakPrints downtown, and jackets and apparel are all curated from local thrift and consignment stores. When you spend your money in Cleveland, it stays in Cleveland and goes towards local supplies, wages, services, taxes, and so much more. We’re stronger when we work together, a concept I think few places better understand than this city.
What are your personal favorite products you create?
Leather is probably the most satisfying material to paint on, I can letter globes in my sleep, but I think my forever favorite will lie in where it all began, vintage photos. They were the foundation of this brand, marrying the old with new through humor, and have since been the catalyst of all that has followed. They’re certainly the most simple product, but serve as a constant reminder of how far this business has come and where it may go next.
So, if you’re looking for a great gift or just a fun way to express your frustration with 2020…