Jewel tones and tassels are Sarah Baumann’s jam. She also loves candy, mostly the unpopular chalky variety, and her greyhound rescue, Moose. Full of personality, this Midtown-based creative entrepreneur has doodled her way into many homes through her trademark city-inspired prints, mugs, dishtowels and more. This year, she and her online business, Signet Sealed, are drawing up some new ideas. Check out what’s ahead for Sarah Baumann, today’s FACE of Memphis.
You’re originally from San Antonio. How did you decide to attend Rhodes College, and what was your major?
A lot of people in my church growing up actually went to Rhodes. Nobody from my high school, but a lot of people that I looked up to and thought were really cool, interesting, creative and generous. So I came to tour the campus, and I loved Memphis. I really liked that Rhodes was so tiny; it was smaller than my high school. I was an urban studies major, which is sort of funny. I feel like the normal reaction whenever I say that is like, “That’s so random.” But then when you think about me making city prints, it’s not as random.
How do you describe your business?
For most people, I say I own a stationery and gift business. Then, if they are curious, I’ll say I have city-themed illustrated gifts. The city thing is sort of an easy introduction into: “Oh, which cities do you have? Do you have my hometown?”
When and how did you launch Signet Sealed?
I started the business when I was a student at Rhodes. While studying abroad, I was supposed to keep a travel blog. That was just boring to me, so I started making basically what is now the city prints of all the cities I traveled to. I would write the city name in the middle, and then I would have things like our hostel, random people that we met, snippets of conversations, an inside joke or the wine we had at a winery. Sort of like visual blogging. Everybody on that trip was super-encouraging and said, “You should really do something with this.” I started an Etsy shop on January 24, 2015.
That spring, I had no Etsy sales; nothing was really working, but for some reason, I thought: “I’m on a good path. I’m doing something right.” So I went home to San Antonio that summer and worked on my business all day, every day and loved it. The San Antonio print is the first one I made. I posted it on Instagram, and my Memphis friends were like, “Where’s the Memphis one, and how do I buy it?” So I made 10 or 15 of the Memphis and San Antonio prints and posted them on Instagram. They sold out in like an hour and a half, and I was like, “I think there’s something here.” Since that summer, things have just exploded. I came back to Rhodes and ran the business during my senior year. It was really crazy and really, really hard.
How do you decide which locations to feature in your city prints?
I have a form on my website that people can fill out, and if I see a city that has been requested a lot recently, it definitely moves up (on my priority list). I try to do a little bit of research on my own, but I always find a local to talk with.
Which prints have been the most popular?
My biggest sellers have been Chattanooga and Knoxville.
Tell us about your 100 Hijabs Project.
I wanted to bring something to my social media presence that isn’t found in similar feeds, like hijabs and burqas. I started the project in February 2017 and am still doing it, slowly. It was a big goal to draw 100, and I’ve done about 30 so far. I started the project right after the “Muslim ban.” I had friends at Rhodes who were Muslim and wore hijabs and burqas and were so poorly misunderstood. I feel like there’s such a lack of understanding and compassion, such a stigma when you see someone out in public wearing something so different from what you’re wearing. And they might feel the exact same way about you. There’s a girl at Rhodes who leads an art-based Muslim group, and I think I’m going to give them some of the prints for a fundraiser that they’re going to do this summer.
Have others helped you with the business side of Signet Sealed?
My first business mentor was Laura Joseph. She’s based in Michigan and has a business called Paper & Honey. I got to meet her in person for the first time last year, which was crazy. We both cried. Locally, I feel like artist Dorothy Collier, Mary Claire White, Stephanie Jones and Kat Gordon have been mentors.
Any new projects to share?
I’m about to do gold-foil city prints. All the black lines will be gold, and there won’t be watercolor. I feel like some people have a hard time placing the colored prints in their homes, especially if you have more of a minimalist home. I’m also working on a box set of pep-talk cards. My idea is that they’re going to be these cute little fun, crazy designs, and you can put them on your mirror, leave them in your best friend’s glove box or stick them in someone’s purse on a bus.
My new lifestyle prints truly started on accident. I realized that “National Drink Wine Day” was coming up, so I made a wine graphic to post on Instagram. The post got a ton of traction and positive feedback, and I got a couple of direct messages and texts from friends asking if it would be available for purchase as a print. Getting it printed wouldn’t be a problem; my only real issue was that I wasn’t sure where to put it on my website. Sort of as a joke, I created a new section called “Lifestyle Prints,” the joke being that wine is a lifestyle. Then, I started thinking of other items that are “a lifestyle” in the same way — beer, cheese, bread, etc. — and everything just took off from there. I can work like crazy when I’m excited about an idea, and that was definitely the case. Within a few days, I had designed and listed illustrated prints for wine, beer, pie, cheese, bread, and cured meats, and within another week added chocolate, coffee, sushi, and tacos. The next batch up will be a trio of plants, as well as classic cocktails. It has been a total blast and huge success!
Tell us a little-known fact about yourself.
In high school, I founded the European History Club, which is still in existence, I think. We all took a charter bus to the renaissance festival near Houston, and I’m still so proud of that. I designed shirts that had King Henry VIII and said: “How am I supposed to breathe with no heir?” Like that Jordin Sparks song.
On your website, you describe yourself as “a candy-loving illustrator.” What is your favorite type of candy?
Omigosh, I love Hot Tamales so much. I love the things that everyone else hates, like black licorice, Necco Wafers and Valentine conversation hearts. I also love Nerds ropes and those Mexican coconut bars.
What is your best piece of advice?
I feel like I sought out mentorship, and people who were ahead of me pretty early on, like the second week I owned an Etsy shop. I think it really helped me to get their expertise and see where this could go down the road. It helps to have people encourage you, teach you, coach you.
Aside from faith, family and friends, what are three things that you can’t live without?
Color, my dog, travel
Thank you, Sarah, for sharing your inspirations, fun stories and valuable insights with us! To learn more about Sarah’s work and to shop her wares, visit signetsealed.com.
Thank you to Mary Kate Steele for today’s awesome photos of Sarah.
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