February 11, 2021 | Contributor: Joey Johnson
In my humble opinion, we all began our life’s journey as creators.
My creative journey started with mudpies in 1976. I would mold a wad of wet black dirt into a perfect disc. Then, each time I finished one, I would line it up neatly behind the other until I had what resembled an assembly line. As time progressed, my interests in mudpies dwindled and a truer passion emerged: doodling.
By ’79, I was drawing big bushy green trees with trunks that resembled upside-down machine screws.
Fast forward to about 20 years ago.
How I got started
While earning a degree in Visual Communications, and working for a federal public health agency, I started what is now Bulb Graphics, LLC. It is an award-winning, boutique graphic design firm that specializes in print and digital designs serving federal state and local governments, academic institutions, nonprofits, and other small businesses.
Being a designer is a close second to being a mother and homeschool teacher to my two daughters, Ramona and Josephine. Together we produce a television show for a local network in the Atlanta area called Craft Your Imagination for Kids. On it, we transform disposable things into fun, viable, creations for kids and adults alike. With help from producer, partner, and dad, Johnny Mapp, the show doesn’t just encourage viewers to become stewards of the environment in innovative ways, it celebrates the idea of family. We also share lots of upcycling how-to videos on my crafting blog called In The Craftroom.
I bought my first Cricut® machine about 4 years ago.
Working with Cricut
Thanks to a friend raving about her Cricut Explore Air® and all the things it could do, I was inspired to get my own. Like most creatives, I know, if there’s something I want to make, I’ll find a way to do it despite the challenges. But when I got my Cricut Maker®, it changed the game. It allowed me to create more professional-looking projects at a much faster and efficient pace.
When I had to create signage for our show, instead of hand-painting it (which would’ve taken much longer to do) or hiring a sign company (too expensive), I cut and stained a piece of scrap wood as the backdrop and was able to use my Cricut Maker to cut vinyl letters and attach them in less than an hour.
When I wanted to quickly embellish new handmade, upcycled, denim accessories for my online store with a simple, but eye-catching design, I used my Cricut Maker to add a polka dot pattern.
And finally, when my daughters are particularly inspired and want to build something amazing, we download and cut a Cricut-friendly template of an architectural structure that they quietly work on until their masterpiece is complete.
Owning a small business
If being a small business owner has taught me one thing it’s that finances can and do fluctuate.
One month your savings can be flourishing and the next you may find yourself meticulously analyzing how to increase your sales to earn the minimum revenue you need to cover your overhead. My decision to turn my dormant Etsy store into a self-service, SVG image shop was spurred by the latter.
My business had slowed down to a crawl and I knew it was time to cultivate another revenue stream. My good friend, Letitia, suggested creating and selling SVGs online. I started out by posting 10 illustrations. She purchased them immediately. I was enlightened by the whole process—how simple it was; how it was yet, another way to earn cash via art; how it was so much fun. But, most of all, I was enlightened by how I had complete creative freedom to design original doodles that would embody the black culture, feminine empowerment, humor, and nostalgia from a place of gratitude.
I am so excited that my designs will be on Cricut Design Space®! I hope that users are just as inspired by them as I was by the idea to create them.
When I started my graphic design business in college, I tried to brand myself in an everybody-friendly way. I didn’t want anyone to feel left out. I rarely showed people of any race in my marketing collateral, just objects or typography.
Respect your process
As time passed, I realized that the inclusion of one culture doesn’t have to mean the exclusion of another.
Revealing clues about your way of life from your unique perspective is essentially an invitation to someone else to broaden their own. One of the biggest draws of my business has been my perspective as a black female entrepreneur. Authenticity (whatever it looks like from business owner to business owner) is a characteristic that reassures potential customers that you are more likely to be honest, and fair.
As humans, we are all beautiful, unique creatures. But as women of color, we are blessed with a complex perspective to which everyone is not privy. This is what inspired me to create my designs. While they don’t represent every woman of color’s experience, I hope they will remind people of how relevant that perspective is and evoke a good feeling in the process.
If I could give advice to a future artist, I would say respect your process.
Respect your creative blocks just as much as you respect the creative flows. Those phases work together to help you create the magic.