Christy Johnson the talented founder of redshoes26. She uses her training in graphic design, illustration, photography, and writing to create digital illustrations in handmade frames that she calls State Icons, as well as custom wedding and event stationery, and branding. Christy has shown her work at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, AZ Gallery, Altered Esthetics, The FrameWorks, Flow Art Space, Twin Cities Pride, Paper Hat, J.A. Geiger Studio, Roe Wolfe, and Foiled Again Salon. Her work can be found in more than 20 shops and galleries in Minnesota, California, Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and Texas.

Christy received a Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications (Photojournalism emphasis) from St. Cloud State University, and an Associate of Arts degree in Graphic Design from The Art Institutes International Minnesota. She grew up in North St. Paul, Minnesota, and resides in Minneapolis.


How has living in Minnesota impacted your work?

My State Icon illustrations first started out being inspired by landmarks only in Minnesota, so I’d say living here impacted my work a great deal! It wasn’t until I began traveling to other states for art shows that I started drawing iconic places in other states. And now the collection has exploded. I currently offer State Icons from 26 states, and plan to add several more this fall. As many and as fast as I can! The plan is to someday have lots of options from all 50 states.

What do you hope your products add to the ‘Made in MN’ community?

candle_pairI like to say that my State Icons “celebrate the everyday” because the illustrations are not of grand structures such as Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower, but the less recognized—but still awe-inspiring in their own way—landmarks such as the Aerial Lift Bridge and the Foshay Tower. These are not structures that you’d find on a t-shirt or postcard or as part of the backdrop to a romantic comedy. But to the people who know and love them, they are just as memorable and important.


Also, I hope that my products add to the Made in MN community because they are 100% handmade in Minnesota. I draw each of my little digital illustrations (using a mouse) in my Minneapolis-based home studio. The frames are made by my parents in Maplewood, MN. I print and frame everything myself. (As a bonus, the glass we use in our frames is recycled, and purchased from a local hardware store!)

Why do you shop local?

Shopping local has become a passion of mine, as well as shopping for items made in the USA. Once I became an entrepreneur, I looked at what I was buying so much differently. I’m very passionate about putting my money where my mouth is and buying only locally made or U.S.-made items. No more cheap clothes from retailers that fill their stores with garments made in factories overseas. No more buying shoes made in China that fall apart after one season. I buy from local designers and shop for shoes (another passion of mine!) made in the USA. I’m very, very adamant about that these days. I hope more and more people make the same kinds of choices every day.


Also, with shopping local, it’s so cool to get to meet the person who made the item I’m buying. The item instantly has so much more meaning to me when I know whose hands made it.

Talk about the fulfillment that comes from being a maker.

drawing_3.5yrsI’ve always been an “artsy” person, starting from when I was a really little kid. My first career aspiration (well, after I decided I no longer wanted to be a trapeze artist in the circus) was to be a fashion designer. My most favorite pastime as a kid was drawing. When I look back, it seems I was always happiest when I was making things with my own two hands. But after graduating with a degree in Mass Communications and later Graphic Design, I worked at jobs that I really liked, but I wasn’t passionate about them. Once I settled on doing my illustration work as the main focus on my business, I decided that this is what truly made my heart soar.


Showing my State Icons at art fairs and via other avenues is so fulfilling. I love seeing people’s faces light up when one or more of my drawings tug on their heartstrings or remind them of great times in their lives. It’s a fantastic feeling that I don’t think I could get doing anything else. I’ve had two women in my booth at art shows burst into tears once they saw a certain State Icon. In each case, what I drew reminded them of something from their past, and it touched them so much they began to cry. And both times it brought *me* to tears as well, to see how much my art affected them. It was really special.

What has this path given you? 

This path has given me an outlet to share my work with others and help them celebrate their memories. It’s also allowed me to be part of the “locally made” culture, which is a great group to be part of. It’s so cool how everyone in this circle supports each other and lifts each other up. There isn’t much cattiness or anything nasty like that. Most makers are more than happy to offer up input or a referral when needed. I’ve also been collaborating with other people who make cool things, and that’s just expanded my product line even more. I can’t be an expert in everything, so it’s so great to be able to tap into my local resources (i.e., my fellow makers) to create cool work. It’s very inspiring, and incredibly fulfilling.