Culture Maker: Artist Shelby Rodeffer
Hello!! I’m super psyched to introduce you to super talented Shelby Rodeffer, sign-painter, muralist, and creative community cheerleader. She’s all-around awesome.
I first saw Shelby's work in the ARTery at the Kohler Arts Center while on a family trip to Sheboygan for a mid-winter beers n' brats run. She was a teaching-artist-in-residency and had painted a large mural (see pic below) in the space to accompany a series of lessons on lettering. I loved how she blended vintage fonts and graphic imagery. And then the colors were just so darn good.
Shelby refers to herself as a sign-painter and, although that may seem like a REAL understatement, it connects her to a craft with a specialized skill set and a strong cultural history. Originally from Nashville, Shelby works primarily in Chicago and has been painting signs for The Chicago Reader, Pitchfork Music Festival, and so many more with the group Finer Signs since 2015. She pursues non-commercial work on the side and is on a mission to create more visibility and support for working artists.
She agreed to answer a few questions in this week’s Culture Maker. Here’s Shelby!
What do you do most days?
Most days I am doing stuff related to my sign painting business, either actually painting signs or more likely doing administrative stuff (checking emails, going out for consultations, running errands, prepping for jobs, writing proposals, etc.) which tends to take up more of my time. I also luckily get to spend a lot of time with my partner since we are both self-employed.
Do you have any daily rituals?
I'm one of those people that has to have coffee as soon as I wake up no matter what, so usually first ritual of the day is to make a cup of coffee in my aeropress. Another ritual I have is using magnesium oil. It may be purely placebo, but I've found that since I've started taking it daily that my stress and anxiety are much more manageable. I wish I could say I had a daily exercise ritual, but for the past year I have let that come second (or third) to working. I'm hoping to get back in the saddle with that. Also, flossing.
What are you currently working on?
Right now I am on my normal grind of painting restaurants and a few murals, which I am really excited about. Outside of that, I am working on producing events/hangouts for the Chicagoland/Midwest sign painting community. Many cities have their own network of sign painters that meet up regularly (Portland, OR has an amazing group that meets almost monthly), but Chicago doesn't seem to really have that. I feel like as a relatively new face in sign painting, I could benefit so much from frequent interactions with my peers, and hopefully veteran sign painters can get something out of it as well! So, my goal is to spawn some kind of community from creating programming and awareness of our sign painting scene.
Who/What is inspiring you?
Currently, I'm inspired by the change in season and the big attitude shift that it gives me. I'm from the South and it PAINS me that it's not warm here by March. I'm also inspired by artist's spaces. Last fall I participated in a teaching residency at the Kohler Art Center in Sheboygan. The museum focuses on preserving art spaces and it really opened my eyes to a lot of what was on the periphery of my knowledge of American Folk Art.
What’s your favorite book? What should we be reading?
My favorite books are by Haruki Murakami. I think I've read everything in his portfolio except for What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (don't know why I haven't made it there yet!). I love his pacing and use of mythology in storytelling. Lately, I've been taking a break from fiction and I've been challenging myself with White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg. When that gets too arduous, I've been switching over to Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond, which is nonfiction but written like a story vs. an essay.
What’s your favorite album/song? Why? OR What music are you digging these days?
What clothes are making you feel good?
Right now, I am really enjoying the contrast in my work clothes and my "day-off" clothes. My work clothes allow me the mobility to do the work that I need to do, but they also show a lot of visible wear. I've been dressing with intention in the rare times when I'm not working, putting on lipstick and special jewelry even if I'm just going to a friend's house.
Any other favorite artists, poets, designers, or activists we should know about?
I really love the crew of people I keep around me: my studiomate Elizabeth Kovach @saltybroadpress is an amazing women-focused screen printer; my friend Jenna Blazevich @vichcraft runs her own feminist apparel company; my buddy Francesca Gabrielle @quasinu_ is a gifted stylist and vintage clothing buyer; sweet pal Camilo Medina @camilo.m3dina is making insane art, as well as the lovely Kyle Letendre @heykyle; and of course my wonderful partner Julian Baker @theywillseemee is an ephemera archivist and talented painter and designer.
Finally, what’s your professional goal?
My professional goal is to create community through the work that I do. I'd love for more small businesses to hire and aid other small businesses, and I'd love it if all of my friends worked with and supported each other!
Thanks so much, Shelby! I’m with you on that flossing goal.
Be like Shelby and show your support... for Shelby... by
1. Following her on Instagram @smellby.
2. Hiring Finer Signs for all your sign-painting needs.
3. Buying some of Shelby’s art.
4. Visiting her beautiful website.
And check SCM tomorrow for Uncovering the Cool: What Shelby Likes!
Cover photo by Marta Sasinowska