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What is United Goods?

about background story

By Christy Johnson, founder of United Goods

We're well into summer now, and as a Minnesotan, it's been nice to be outside so much and enjoy the best parts of the year. Because I've been doing so much activity in the sun lately—stand-up paddleboarding, bike riding, even pulling (seemingly endless) weeds from my garden—it feels like I'm going through a bit of a refresh.

On top of that, I've been updating my website for, oh, about a year now…. Yikes. It really shouldn't be taking this long, but there was a lot of room for improvement! I've still got work to do, but I hope you're finding it easier to navigate and get the info you're seeking.

With renewal and transformation in mind, I thought it might be fun to reintroduce myself and share with you a little background on why I started United Goods in the first place. 

How can I display my memories in a unique way?

Everyone has a story. I like telling mine visually. But even though I have a degree in Photojournalism and can take a decent pic, I wasn't interested in hanging my most memorable photographs on my walls. Everyone has their own decoration style, but I've always put my photos in albums rather than framing them. (I realize I just aged myself there…some of you may not even remember a time when people had photos printed at a store!).

After honing my simple digital-illustration style while working as a graphic designer in the Exhibits Division at the Science Museum of Minnesota, I began drawing—with a mouse—straightforward, clean images of local landmarks. I was having fun doing it, so I kept adding more to my collection. 

Slowly, I started taking part in local art fairs. Once I got feedback that others liked my little prints, my collection of State Icons grew even more. And my business followed.

How can my art be 100% handmade?

From the beginning, I felt it was important to use materials that are made in the U.S. I also wanted my entire product, every State Icon, to be completely handmade. In the first year or so, I used store-bought frames, but when the big-box retailer couldn't keep up with my demand, I asked my electrical engineer/hobby-woodworker dad Jeff to create my frames for me. He unbelievably agreed.

Today, more than 10,000 frames later—seriously, my mom, the painter of the frames, has kept a count—my dad still makes them. He's been retired for the past several years, and most days you can find him in his shop (a.k.a. his garage) grinding out wood frames on his CNC router.

My mom Kathy sands and paints every frame. By hand! I'm very thankful to them both for being such an important part of my art.

How do I make you smile?

I've done hundreds of art fairs over the years, and my favorite part is seeing people's reactions when they set (often misty) eyes on a particular drawing that means something to them. That's what has kept me going.

Hearing your stories is what has propelled me to illustrate more and more these past 18 years. And it's what will keep driving me toward my goal of representing all 50 states.

It's my hope that when you see these mini prints, in their handmade frames, in your home or office, you’ll be reminded of special memories. That the buildings, landmarks, and memorials I draw are a simple way of remembering fantastic times in your life or people you love.

What are your favorite memorials?

Tell me: What should my next new State Icon be? Comment below, or reach out to us on our Contact page. I'd love to learn more about what you want to see and what's important to you!

Thank you for being with me on this ride. I appreciate you all so, so much.

Want to know more? Hit up our About page.


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