By Christy Johnson, founder & CEO of United Goods
At art events over the years, countless people have taken one look at my State Icons and asked, "What are these?"
I get it—when walking into our booth and getting that first glimpse at rows and rows of "small framed pictures," you're curious. But as soon as I explain that my State Icons are digital illustrations of U.S. landmarks—or simply mini pieces of art—the eyes open wide and the head nods as the concept sinks in. Then begins the scanning through my hundreds of offerings from so many different states.
So yep, mini framed art prints! They're little because I've always enjoyed tiny things, and I've always liked drawing at a small scale. It works well, because the wee size of my State Icons gives them the ability to fit in just about any space, whether that's sitting on a flat surface or hanging on your wall.
But while art does help you decorate a room, sometimes I get a little Eeyore-like and wonder what actual good my work is doing in the world. I mean, it's not curing ailments, fixing issues, or making peoples' lives easier. I often consider the products my small-business friends create that physically help people: skincare that heals, hair products that eliminate plastic, or, heck, even mixers that make a better Bloody Mary.
My feeling in this department gets worse when I consider the directions marketing experts push on us entrepreneurs; to "share the ways our product solves a problem." Artists like me, who make 2D art in particular, often get frustrated with this approach to promoting our work because, well, art doesn't really "solve" any "problem."
But after getting hung up on this for a couple years, I started to really pay attention to the words you were using at in-person events, and the feedback you were sending me in emails. What I came to realize is, my State Icon prints might not be solving a problem, per se, but they are bringing joy to your lives. And that's something.
I've come to see my drawings as "memories in a frame." They capture moments in time, and prompt your favorite recollections to pop up every time you look at them.
I witness this all the time at art fairs. The nostalgic feelings that emerge when you discover a meaningful landmark are almost palpable! I see it on your face when your eyes land on a particular print. It's my absolute favorite thing. I hope the same reactions happen when someone finds my online shop from a Google search or even when long-time fans like you visit my website to take a peek at what's new.
Either way, the heartwarming feelings you get from my State Icons are hands down the reason I do this work. I'm a softy myself, so thinking about all of you out there, scrolling through my collection and gasping when you land on a print that reminds you of a good time, special person, or significant event...well, that just gets me right in the feels. And then when you share the story with me?! My heart explodes! I love love love hearing your stories.
So in summary, no, art does not "solve a problem." But my work in particular does conjure up nostalgia and hopefully makes you smile. And I think that's pretty damn important.