Shoestring Spotlight: Artist Ivy Dever of Signs that Ivy Makes

Ivy Dever: Artist with a message.
The path of the artist is always rough --and a rotten economy doesn't make it any easier! So, naturally, artists that keep on doing their thing, even when cash flow ain't exactly flowin' truly inspire me, and, one artist that I think is just terrific is Ivy Dever of Somerville, MA. Dever is the fun, free spirit behind Signs that Ivy Makes and she specializes in --you guessed it!-- signs. But her work is far more than just words on wood: beautiful, quizzical, often mysterious, Dever's art truly says something. I recently chatted with Ivy about her work and it was a true delight. Read on and be...inspired!

Contact artist to inquire about availability.

S: First off, what got you started making signs & how long have you been doing this?

I: I took a trip to Hawaii years back... maybe 2002...and there was a sign in a tree that said "smile." it made me feel so good each time I drove by. I decided then that I was going to do this too--paint signs that make people feel good. So I made a long list of lines from poetry, song lyrics, and random fancies I created.
Available as of this posting. Photo credit: Henry Hung.

S: What about this form of creative expression appeals to you most?

I: In undergrad I majored in graphic design and was a typography nerd. I got sick of sitting at the computer though and enjoyed calligraphy much more. The letter form as art has just always been something I have been drawn to. I also love when artists paint on anything and everything... canvases cost too much!! I wish I remembered his name but there was a painter I found one night while perusing the World Wide Web who had done a portrait on a rusty old cookie sheet. I was so inspired!

S: Why do your signs say what they do? In other words, what things inspire your signage? Do you see any consistent themes in what your signs say or is it more a free-form/stream of consciousness approach?

I: My signs say things that make people feel good. I have been asked to make signs that say things like "shit happens" for example and I just won't do it. When commissioned, I try to explain that before they even present me with what they want, but money is money so I have done it, but as a rule, they are kind. I love to hear what people want. I love to do signs for weddings. People have great ideas!!

Available as of this posting.  Photo credit: Henry Hung.
S: You've stated you often use “found wood” to make your signs. What are the best places to find it & what do you look for in a canvas? 

I: I have posted on Facebook, "Who has wood for me to paint signs on?" My stepfather is often doing jobs around the house where there is a lot of scrap wood leftover...I take it all. My friends at Mingo Art Gallery in Beverly [MA] gave me a whole bunch last year. I trash pick.

Available as of this posting.
S: So would you say your approach is strictly pragmatic, i.e. I need a surface to paint on!, or are you more often drawn to materials that suggest something they could become? Does sustainability also play a part?

I: There is something so nice about wood. I like how the shape and texture dictate how the art will look. It’s like a joint effort between me and the wood. I also feel I am giving some otherwise thrown out or burned piece of junk a new purpose. I am using up all the old scraps and I can be less of a consumer and more of a re-user.

S: Expanding on that, what do you think is the artist’s role in creating environmentally-conscious art?

I try not to make decisions about what anybody else should do, but if artists used more and more found objects, maybe the demand for new, new, new would eventually seem more excessive. None of us needs any more crap than we already have!!

S: About other materials: what types of paint, tools, etc. do you like to work with most and why?

I: I use acrylic paints, they are the cheapest and dry the fastest... good for wood too. I use twine, screws, and nails. I like a utilitarian look with some pretty colors thrown in. I also use found and donated supplies. I accept all donations of supplies. Again, I like when the art is somewhat dictated by the medium.

S: You’ll be the first to admit that you create your signs on a shoestring budget. In addition to the use of found /donated materials, what skills & techniques have you developed to stretch a dollar & not let your creativity be dictated by your bank balance?

I: If I ever finish a sign and have paint left on the palette, I paint a nearby piece of wood with it. Even if I don't want that background color on the new piece, it coats the wood and makes it ready for the next time I paint.

S: You have a terrific Facebook page, Signs that Ivy Makes and you will be setting up an Etsy site in the future. It seems like Etsy is everywhere these days. What are the main advantages you see in selling your signs via Etsy?

I: People that know about Etsy know that it is a great place to get gifts from local artists and creative individuals. Most of what I sell is at my open studios, friends, and word of mouth, but Etsy will be a great chance to sell to people I don't know.


Available as of this posting.  Photo credit: Henry Hung.

S: With the economic climate what it is, so many people are “holding back” pursuing their dreams—particularly when it comes to career decisions. What advice do you have for fellow creatives considering taking their art to the next level by making it a business?

I would say do plenty of craft shows (if you make crafts), always have affordable versions of your art. I make so much of my art money on ornaments and hope to make even more when I print my designs on t-shirts. I have an illustrator friend Andrew Houle who does a lot of zombie work, and his paintings costs hundreds of dollars but a necklace made from a replica of his work is $20. My last bit of advice, invite people with money to your open studios!

Available as of this posting.

Contact artist to inquire
about availability. 

Lastly, I asked Ivy to finish the following sentences:

When I paint I feel… soothed and accomplished.

Imagination is… part of every minute of every day for everyone, and they often don't even realize it.

If for some reason I could only ever make one sign again it would say… the longest run on sentence ever so I could keep going and going and going.

You can peruse more of Ivy's work and contact her at: 
She sells both pre-made and commissioned pieces.


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