What didn’t fit : Christy Johnson

Several hundred people have joined my mailing list the past few years, and I realized they may not know much about me. To fix that, I thought I’d do a profile on myself. There have been lots of changes for redshoes26 this year alone, so even those who have been around since Day One might learn a few new things. So, without further ado, and in a weird third-person interview based off questions from my network, here’s a little info about me!

State Icons by redshoes26, and me!

State Icons by redshoes26, and me! (photo at right by Emma Freeman Photography for Hearten)

Hey CJ (ha)! Tell us about you.
I grew up in North St. Paul/Maplewood with my twin sister, Wendy, my mom and dad, Kathy and Jeff, and our two dogs, Mookie and Fluffy (both lived ’til age 18!). I graduated from St. Cloud State University in 2000 with a BS in Mass Communications with an Emphasis in Photojournalism. I had a Coaching minor. I wrote, designed, and shot photos for the Lillie Suburban Newspapers in North St. Paul for one and a half years, then took a job as an intern at MSP Communications, where in four years I worked my way up to the position of Associate Editor. I wrote and edited for Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Viking Magazine, and many more, plus I wrote and edited copy for Twins Magazine, and was editor of the Official Scorecard of the Minnesota Twins. Upon leaving MSP after graduating with my Associate’s degree in Graphic Design from The Art Institutes International Minnesota in 2005, I continued to edit the scorecard for the Twins for three more years before the Twins took it in-house once Target Field was built.

After graduating from Ai, I worked as a Graphic Design Specialist for a short time at LifeSource in St. Paul, then took a job designing Exhibit Graphics at the Science Museum of Minnesota, where I spent nearly five years. I left there in 2011 to go solo full-time with redshoes26, which brings me to the present. On top of my work with redshoes26, I also continue to write freelance stories for MSP, and I have a couple part-time jobs, including my newest: Pilates Instructor at LifeTime Fitness in St. Louis Park. I also am the Art Director for MNfashion.

How do you juggle your busy schedule?
I’ve always been good at multi-tasking, and I’ve always been one of those people who needs to be doing 14 things at once. If any of you are familiar with the StrengthsFinder system, my #1 Strength is Achiever, which is someone who loves crossing things off to-do lists and getting shit done (pardon my French). That describes me to a T. I keep an old-school paper calendar that I take with me everywhere, and write down everything I need to do each day, and then cross each item off with glee as it’s finished.

Why art?
In addition to being anal retentive (see above answer), I’ve also always been “artsy.” I have drawn since I could hold a pencil. My sister and I used to draw and draw and draw, almost every day, and our refrigerator growing up was covered from top to bottom in our artwork. My dad’s friend even used to buy our drawings from us every once in a while. My main subject was fashion, as my first career aspiration (well, besides being a trapeze artist when I was really little) was being a fashion designer. I held onto that dream for many, many years. I still love fashion, and I love that I’m getting to blend two of my loves, design and fashion, by working for MNfashion.

What inspires you?
I’m really inspired by “talking shop” with my creative friends. We small-business owners really have to stick together, since we feed off each other for ideas and insight on each others’ businesses. I see my friends being successful, and I’m so proud of them and want to make them proud of me as well.

Do you have a favorite piece that you have created?
My favorite State Icon is one of the first ones I ever drew, the Grain Belt Sign. The real-life sign has always been one of my favorite landmarks in Minnesota since moving to Minneapolis, and I love how my simple drawing style captured the sign, and how colorful that one is.

What part of being a business owner do you enjoy the most? And the least?
I really enjoy making people smile at my art shows. It’s such an awesome feeling when you see someone walk up to your table and get a huge grin on their face when they see your work. I wish I could bottle that feeling!The thing I like the least is all the tax stuff I have to keep up with. It was never really a problem until I started doing shows in other states. Now I feel completely, 100% lost when it comes to when I need to file my sales tax with those states, etc. It’s overwhelming.
Who’s your most favorite person you’ve met at an art show?
I’ve met so many people at art shows since I’ve been doing them, and some favorites who stand out are Sarah Sweet from i like you (she was the first business owner to carry my work, and I met her at one of my first “real” shows); Karoline Wells from The Elixery; Jen Merchant from Jennifer Merchant Design (we did one of our worst shows ever together, but I found her, which was a score!); Mickie Clark from Rare Bird Studio; photographer Shelly Mosman; and Molly Waska, the former Minneapolis director of RAW: natural born artists.But by far my favorite, favorite, favorite is my best friend, Larissa Loden. I actually met her at a show *she* was doing, the Walker Jewelry Mart, a couple years ago, and gushed over her work. I then followed her to other shows and gushed some more, and realized I liked her as much as I liked her work. A few months later we were booth neighbors at a terrible show, but it was so worth it because we became BFFs.

What was your first sale when you started your business?
The first show I ever did was a little holiday open house at a friend of a friend’s place in Minneapolis. I only sold greeting cards back then, so it was a bunch of cards. I did really well at that show and was hooked!

If you could learn how to do something new, what would it be?
It would be so helpful to me to know more about web design and development. I’ve done quite a bit of training but the info doesn’t seem to stick.
Where do you get your inspiration for your shadowboxes?
I actually use my shadowboxes as therapy. All of them are based on feelings I was having at the time of the piece’s creation. They’re very raw to me, but I like that they’re obscure enough that they can mean different things to different people.What makes your art worthwhile/meaningful to you (or to others)?
See the above answer as far as what makes my shadowboxes meaningful to me, and hopefully to others. As for the State Icons, I like to celebrate the everyday, so it’s fun making a piece of art out of a building or bridge that people see every day. I love that they are meaningful to people for a variety of reasons: they got married there, they used to visit the landmark as a child with a relative, etc.

What is one thing you can’t live without?
Practically, I can’t live without my computer, since it’s basically my entire business!

Who is your favorite shoe designer?
I’m a sucker for most Manolo Blahnik or Jimmy Choo heels.

What’s your favorite pair of shoes from your collection?
I’m currently in love with a pair of black leather strappy heels I bought on vacation in Jacksonville last fall. They’ve got a dark brown wooden platform heel. Since the weather in Minnesota has been abysmal, I have yet to wear them this year, and that makes me sad.

Describe your favorite pair of shoes you’ve ever owned.
I found the perfect comfortable yet fashionable Simple red sandals on clearance for $30 many years ago. I wore the crap out of them and even had them fixed twice, so I *definitely* got my money’s worth. After a strap broke again, I decided they weren’t worth fixing, and that they’d had a great run, and I threw them away. It was a bittersweet moment!

And what’s with those “red shoes?” What’s behind your business name?
I think I best described in in this blog post a year or so ago.

What’s your “dream job” for wedding stationery design?
I’ve worked with some pretty fantastic people who have let me go, creatively speaking, so I can’t really say I have a “dream job” per se. I’ve been trying to get a couple to let me do a spot varnish on a stationery design for a couple years, though, so that would be fun. Someday….

Have you ever written something and a few years later learned that what you wrote about was not accurate/incorrect/outdated?
Not that I’m aware of!

How many icons do you currently have in your collection, and what are your plans for future ones?
I now have more than 100! My goal is to have at least one Icon from every state by the end of the year. A big task, but I know I can do it! I also have plans for some other Icon-related artwork and products. Stay tuned….

You get bombarded with requests for various Icons. How do you decide which ones are truly worth your time and yet are still fun for you to do?
I love getting suggestions for Icons from visitors to my booth at art shows. I can usually look at a photo of the suggested landmark and tell right away whether or not it would fit with my simple illustration style. If it does, and it’s something I think other people will connect with as well, then it’s usually a “go” in my book. Most are equally fun to draw, so I don’t put much consideration into that. I used to cringe when I had to draw lettering, but now I love when the icons I’m drawing have letters in them. I don’t know why that changed!

The best part of waking up is…?
Knowing I get to do what I love for a living! Truly—I’m not being corny.

You’ll know you’ve made it big when?
Ooh, good question. I guess when I have more people coming to me for my work than me seeking it out myself. I’m getting there! And I have a lot of you to thank for that. So, thank you, from the bottom of my heart, as well as my red shoes.

Want more? Sign up for my mailing list and get redshoes news in your inbox every month on the 26th.


Filled with pride

I’m very excited to announce that *two* of my mixed-media shadowboxes were chosen to be part of the 2013 Twin Cities Pride Art Exhibition, which will be displayed at the 2013 Twin Cities Pride Grand Marshal Reception on Friday, June 21, 2013, at The Aloft Hotel Minneapolis, and during the 2013 Twin Cities Pride Festival on June 29-30 in Loring Park.

Not only will my pieces, Please Come With Me (below, left) and I Choose You (below, right), be a part of the exhibition, but they’ll also be up for Best of Show, People’s Choice, and Chairman’s Choice awards.

Mixed-media shadowboxes by Christy Johnson, redshoes26. From L to R: Please Come With Me, and I Choose You.

Mixed-media shadowboxes by Christy Johnson, redshoes26. From L to R: Please Come With Me and I Choose You.

Here are the details:

Twin Cities Pride Grand Marshal Reception
5:30-8:30 p.m.
Friday, June 21, 2013
The Aloft Hotel Minneapolis
900 Washington Avenue South in downtown Minneapolis

The Twin Cities Pride Grand Marshal Reception will feature hors d’oeuvres and desserts, wine from Barefoot Wine, beer from Samuel Adams, and live jazz by Jazz Front Trio. Awards for Best In Show, People’s Choice, and Chairman’s Choice will be announced during the awards presentation at 6:30 p.m.

The event is free and all are welcome to attend. Please invite your friends, family, and colleagues. The exhibition will also be avilable for viewing from June 29-30 during the 2013 Twin Cities Pride Festival in Loring Park in Minneapolis.

Up to five pieces of art will be selected by representatives of the Aloft Hotel for display on their feature art wall in the hotel lobby. These works will be displayed Friday, June 21, 2013 through Friday, July 19, 2013. It would be so cool if one or both of my pieces were chosen by The Aloft Hotel!

This weekend : Renegade Craft Fair – Austin

The Renegade Craft Fair season begins this weekend in Austin, TX! Join redshoes26 from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. on Saturday, May 18, and Sunday, May 19, at the Palmer Events Center. I could not be more excited to be part of this curated selection of makers.



Doors open at 11am, no early bird shopping.
Directions here.
Free to attend!
Street parking or plentiful $7 parking in the Palmer Events Center lot.

See you this weekend ATX. Visit the RCF Austin homepage to find out more. You can RSVP on Facebook + follow us on Instagram and Twitter. Hashtag it #renegadecraftaustin!

This weekend : Craftstravaganza

Whatcha doing this weekend, May 11? You’re coming to see me at Craftstravaganza?

That’s what I thought!

The eighth annual event runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and this year moves to the Eco Experience Building on the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. It will feature 90 artist booths, including redshoes26.


From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 11, you can browse a variety of cool crafts. It’s all work done by artists and designers, so you can meet the real creative forces behind the work being sold. Free workshops are scheduled throughout the day, and the first 100 shoppers will receive free swag bags with samples of vendors’ work and other goodies.

This year’s activities include opportunities to:

  • Make little books and buttons with the Minnesota Center for Book Arts
  • Crochet, felt, and learn traditional Japanese braiding with the Textile Center
  • Learn about selling your art to a shop with the owners of I Like You
  • and more!

Craftstravaganza is free to attend, and there’s plenty of free parking around the Fairgrounds as well. I’ll see you there!