H.L.O.S. is a Cleveland Maker that upcycles antiques into modern art. Owner, Kate Hardy, adds hand-lettering to beautiful pieces from the past. We love the way she mixes the old with the new to make unique art! Meet H.L.O.S. at our 2017 Ohio Explored Holiday Maker Mart on December 3rd, 2017!
Tell us about your local business. Let's start with your name.
Ah yes, the name. When I first realized I wanted to start exploring this creative outlet as a business, I was in an antique mall rummaging through a shoe box of old family photographs. My boyfriend and I were throwing names back and fourth but they all seemed somewhat forced or detached from what I was trying to do so I took a step back and said, “Let’s refocus. What am I doing? I’m hand letting on old shit...” and before I could continue, that was it. It was perfect. It was such a direct hit on what I was trying to do with the business. I wanted a name that spoke to the true nature of the product and sort of cut through the b.s. It’s ironic without taking itself too serious just like the snarky postcards and goods it represents. Sure it’s polarizing, but in a good way. Besides, hearing the constant stream of laughs through my shop will ALWAYS be worth the occasional slap on the wrist.
What drew you to your craft?
I’ve always been drawn to old, odd things, especially photographs. So often, it seems like a time so far removed yet they can’t be that different from you and me. I would contemplate how they may have been feeling and translate it into a modern voice, whether it be a catch phrase or rap lyric. At first, I just hand paint the photographs for family and friends in hopes of a good laugh, but eventually they sort of took on a life of their own... and so H.L.O.S. was born.
What is your favorite thing you have ever made?
I don't think I can pick just one because they are all so different, but what I can say is my favorite pieces to work on are custom commissions from others. I love to hear their ideas and stories and work together to find the perfect message and means to deliver it. The thought and effort that goes into a one-of-a-kind gift is so intentional, it's just an honor to be a part of it.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
"An artist." What that meant or what all it entailed, I wasn't really sure, but that was my response from preschool to high school. I grew up surrounded by creatives so I was lucky that upon high school graduation, I was encouraged to try Kent State's Visual Communication design program. It offers classes in illustration (more closely related to fine arts) and graphic design (so you can simultaneously learn computers and creative programs). To my surprise I fell in love with design just as much if not more so than illustration and I equally thank both avenues for my hand skills and creative eye today.
What is your creative process?
Sometimes I’ll pass a piece and it just speaks to me, I immediately know what it has to physically say. Other times, I’ll buy an old photo or object simply because I’m drawn to it, and trust it will find it’s voice in time. I also have a constantly growing list of slang and funny comments I hear from day-to-day in my phone. The preparation for each piece is different depending on the substrate. For example if it's a helmet, it requires hours of sanding and cleaning before I can start to letter. If it's a globe, I can dive right in.
What advice would you give yourself 10 years ago?
“Not everyone is going to like you and that's okay.” Obviously with a business title like “Hand Lettered Old Shit,” you’re bound to ruffle some feathers. When I first started, I was incredibly insecure and always on the defense about the raw and unapologetic nature of H.L.O.S., but over time, I have learned that those people just aren’t my demographic. If nobody hates it, no one will truly love it either. It’s hard to find resonance with something playing it safe. That advice is applicable to your work and who you are as a person.
Why is it important to support local artists & makers?
Small businesses add character and an economic advantage to their community. They recycle a much larger share of their income back into the local economy in comparison to big box stores while promoting product diversity and personalized service. I’m constantly getting advice and tips from other creatives in the local small business community and truthfully, I don't think I could do what I do without them. This state is saturated with talented, passionate people and we really are each other’s best support system.
Why do you love doing what you do?
I’ve always been in love with typography, whether it be digital, set, or hand crafted. It just so happened, hand lettering began to make quite the comeback in the design community right after I graduated from Visual Communication Design, and I was quick to join the movement. I loved how unapologetic and forgiving the craft was, which is a large reason why I prefer lettering directly onto the product today. Being able to see the letterer’s process and how they went about the strokes of each character is half the fun. I think that’s why hand lettering is so popular today, it adds humanity to the communication. After all, perfection can be a bit boring, don’t you think?
What advice do you have for other women who want to start their own businesses?
Keep your core confidence in touch. A lot of people will scoff when you mention you want to start your own business but you just have to trust you can do it and disregard what they think. Also you can’t be afraid to fail or feel uncomfortable. I’m constantly learning something new, especially from customers. What they like, certainly what they don’t like, and what they would like to see more of. Sometimes I’m hesitant I can pull off a request, but I trust I’ll find the resources who can lend some insight and know I’m going to have to sort of figure it out along the way. Not being afraid or to ask for help is truly the best advice I can give. In Ohio, it's always community over competition.
What is your favorite thing about Exploring Ohio?
No matter what, there is always something new to discover in Ohio. It's pretty liberating to live in a state where we can feel free to get lost yet know we will be greeted with that signature Midwest charm. We slow down to listen and appreciate. We want to hear what each other has to say and see what one another can make. There's a reason Ohio is referred to as the "The Heart of it All."
Meet H.L.O.S. at our Ohio Explored Holiday Maker Mart!