Cathy Jackson is a graphic designer, artist and painter. And she loves the beach. That combination eventually led her to making unique signs for beach home owners out of her home studio. That was 10 years ago. Now she's operating a full commercial sign shop offering a range of products and services from design to graphics, displays, banners and a variety of signs with beach house signs as a continued specialty.
I first took notice of these creatively colorful beach home signs when I started visiting Topsail Island along the coast of North Carolina. It was a favorite vacation destination. Now I affectionately refer to it as my island since moving here full time. I love the beach, too.
As a "sign-guy" myself, I wanted to meet the maker of all these wonderfully creative signs that adorn the fronts and facades on many of these island homes. That curiosity took me to Jaxon Signs where I had the opportunity to meet Cathy in person and see first-hand how she and her staff make their one-of-a-kind hand-painted signs.
Cathy is humble. So is her production manager, CJ, who does the majority of the heavy lifting in the shop while Cathy oversees the artistic processes. They make a great team together as partners in the business and partners in life. Though humble, their talent shines bright and does the talking for them. Most of their business comes from word of mouth and reputation.
They describe their business as a creative imaging studio that looks beyond the confines of their walls with no limitations to the imagination. With their years of experience, they work through a patient process to learn the wants, needs, and wishes of their clients, look at each situation and project, and then creates the right design and solution, with each one being different and unique.
And unique they are. Here's the name of just a handful from the hundreds they've created ... Mermaid Cottage, The Birds Nest, Sweat Tea by the Sea, Somewhere Point, Seas the Day, Lil Loggerhead, MeMe's Dream, Mussel Beach, Sea La Vu, Arr Cottage. PalmTini ... and a lot more on their website ... each one different and colorful to provide a unique brand and identity for the home it was created for.
When it comes to the beach house signs, the goal is to provide something new, fun, and independent using a blend of materials, textures, and techniques. As a result, Cathy Jackson and Jaxon Signs are building impressions for themselves and for the homes along the beaches of Topsail Island.
I was recently able to get Cathy to slow down for a moment from her busy schedule and ask her some questions about her signs and her sign business.
Me: How long have you been in business and how did you get started?
Cathy: I started in 2008 as a hobby basically. It allowed me the opportunity to paint the creative beach house signs that people were always asking me to do even though I had yet to form an actual incorporated business.
Me: How did you arrive in the niche of working with owners of beach houses and providing custom signs for their homes?
Cathy: It really all came about by word of mouth. People would talk and refer to me as the artist and the one who makes these signs. Word of mouth was the driving force and that works really well in small community towns like the ones around Topsail Island.
Me: What media do you work with?
Cathy: We use exterior and marine grade materials, sealers, and paint that is primarily acrylic. The beach is the worst environment to place a sign into, so we treat them as if they are boats. We are continually learning and adapting our materials to achieve the ultimate long-lasting sign while making sure that a pretty result is achieved!
Me: Explain a little about the process of making house signs.
Cathy: People come in by appointment or just drop by and we start with a conversation just to get the ideas flowing. Often we just end up with them explaining what they have in mind and I sketch on paper. Sometimes they bring in their own rough drawings. Then I design the concepts on a computer until artwork is approved for production. At this point the sign is produced using hand tools, cutters, routers, layering up materials to make the signs dimensional, and graphics produced with vinyl and acrylics. Much of the signs are produced by hand and are hand painted.
Me: What do you like most about those kinds of signs?
Cathy: I like that these are very personal to the customers, are typically family oriented, and have a strong sentimental value to them. Their ideas are always fun and different, and we just try to make them a reality.
Me: What are some of your favorite signs you've made and why?
Cathy: My favorite sign so far is one called "We'll Sea" which was drawn by a child in the family. We digitized and cleaned up the art and fonts a bit, but we also tried to stick to the original idea that was dreamt up by a 10-year-old. Children are so creative and fear no colors! It was challenging and fun. The sign turned out wonderful.
Me: What are you doing now that is new?
Cathy: We are currently working with new software and figuring out how to make a more dimensional and carved or sandblasted look by using our new CNC router table which will open the door to materials such as HDU foam, cedar, mahogany and maybe even teak woods. Who knows where this road will take us!
Before moving to my island as a brand consultant and designer, I owned and ran my own sign company for more than 25 years. In that span of time, I designed and made signs to name businesses, buildings, cars, trucks, boats and shows. Only twice was I able to create a sign for homes situated on nearby lakes.
Cathy Jackson and Jaxon Signs have shown me that lake houses, beach houses, historical houses, and any house that is special or has a unique story or connection to time, place, or people, is an opportunity—not only to make a sign, but also to become a line of signs you can scale and grow for your own sign shop. And they build unique impressions for both the house, and your business.