For Laura Maxcy, owner and designer at Wild & Free Designs, crafting custom, travel-inspired pieces is a way to fulfill her wanderlust without leaving her Fulton, Miss., home. Maxcy hand-letters each item with uplifting words, chosen by her or the customer. Her product line includes mugs, prints, postcards and most notably, vintage globes.
“I always loved doodling,” Maxcy said. “When I was getting a degree in graphic design, I enjoyed all of the technical stuff. I love minuscule details. I’d rather be holding a pen than a paint brush.”
Her doodling hobby became a small business in the fall of 2013 when she opened her Etsy shop. Maxcy got the idea to hand-letter a globe after seeing other artists hand-lettering over thrift store paintings. Her designs are influenced by the beauty of nature and relics from bygone eras. She hand-selects each globe and vintage photograph that becomes part of Wild & Free Designs’ portfolio.
“At that point, I was the only person who had done that from what I could tell,” Maxcy said. “Now, you can go on Etsy or Instagram, and there are a lot of people doing it.”
Not long after opening her business, she took a week off from working before starting a new job. During that time, her work was featured for the first time by an online publication, and orders began pouring in.
“I made more money in that week than I had in a month before. I said, ‘I think it’s the time for me to do this,’” Maxcy said.
She most enjoys making and selling globes, especially custom orders.
“Sometimes you worry that you will sell something and eventually, it will fall by the wayside,” Maxcy said. “The custom ones, I know they will have for a long time, because they chose that. It’s neat to have people put a message on it that is special to them.”
Recently, she completed a custom globe for the wedding of two avid travelers from Arizona. The couple will wed in France, and at their reception, they plan to spin the globe to choose where their next adventure will take them.
Maxcy’s two best-selling designs read “The World is Your Oyster” and “Adventure Awaits.” She credits their popularity to the wide variety of situations the messages can apply to — weddings, babies, relocations and new jobs. Actress Beverley Mitchell, of “Seventh Heaven” fame, ordered an “Adventure Awaits” globe for her son’s nursery.
While Maxcy does sell to brick-and-mortar stores in the United States, most of her sales come from her online store. She has shipped globes all over the country and to several others, including Australia, Russia and multiple Middle Eastern countries.
Now that she has developed a solid customer base, Maxcy has turned her focus to wholesale sales and the online community of makers. While she enjoys the friends she has made through Instagram, she is interested in starting craft shows and other resources for creatives in Mississippi.
“In January, I decided that my word for the year would be ‘openness.’ I was afraid that people would rip off my designs, but I want to teach people about lettering, anything that they want to know. I love being able to share something openly with no reservation,” she said.
This was the idea behind #LaurasLetteringTips. Every few weeks, Maxcy posts a hand-lettering video to her Instagram page with corresponding tips and answers questions about her technique in the comments. Since she began in October, the posts have become increasingly popular, with upwards of 3,000 views. Her goal is to eventually teach an in-person lettering class.
Maxcy’s best piece of advice for anyone who wants to start a handmade business is to not wait.
“Mainly, don’t be afraid everything isn’t perfect. Make stuff as much as possible, and show it to other people,” she said. “Validation is not the most important thing, but you need to know if it will sell. These days, it has to be something unique.”
See more photos from our interview with Laura in the gallery below.
Photos by Lauren Wood // Story by Carmen Cristo