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Life & Work with Sheena Mays

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sheena Mays.  

Hi Sheena, so excited to have you on the platform. So, before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
My husband and I moved to Ohio in 2011 for his job – we actually moved and got married in the same week. Exactly one month later I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. A lot of things changed for me very rapidly. So, over the course of a few years, I spent some time looking for things to occupy my time and very over-active brain as I attempted to establish some sort of new normal for myself.

I had been a scrapbooker for a while before we moved and had always hand-lettered things for those projects. At some point around the end of 2014, I stumbled across this movement called Illustrated Faith. It sort of combined scrapbooking elements and my love for art and lettering all together. It challenged me in ways that I had never been challenged before. I was such a perfectionist – Type A! Illustrated Faith didn’t allow for nor did it care about perfection. I explored a lot of art techniques during this time, but ultimately ended up loving hand lettering more than anything and started looking for resources to help me develop that skill – there weren’t a lot at the time. I just found it so relaxing (which was great for my MS).

I began posting to Instagram in 2017. I kept posting as I practiced. I did some projects on the side for people. I hosted a few workshops and threw up a terrible website to help with workshop enrollment in 2018 – it had a few designs that you could purchase and some lock screens to download, however, I had zero clue what I was doing and it was still a hobby at that point. Somewhere in the middle of all of this, I discovered Sketch Notes-visual thinking-and new avenues in lettering expanded for me.

Let’s pause and rewind for a moment. I am a musician and music teacher by training. I have a performance degree in Musical Theater and Opera and a Master’s Degree in Music Education. I have taught music in some fashion for almost 20 years. I LOVE to learn, but I am VERY visual and some of the things I have struggled most with learning in my life (looking at you History) are because they were taught to me in a strict aural manner. Sketch Notes were a game-changer for me when it came to information retention plus, they were just beautiful. I have become a huge advocate for visual thinking in schools, in the workplace, and in your everyday life.

By the end of 2019 I was finally like, “let’s just do this!” I officially launched Shemazing Designs as a brand in January 2020. Read that again and think real hard. Yep. I got 2 entire months of running a pre-Covid business. (Side Note: Also remember that I’m immunocompromised during a pandemic.) Honestly, my normal for 2 years felt like a constant pivot. I didn’t get to do all of the things that most businesses like mine do. Markets weren’t an option for me. In-person workshops? Not an option. Those things that so many businesses relied on to help them connect with people pre-pandemic were not a safe option for me. However, I started this business because 1. I love some good snarky humor, 2. Other people love some good snarky humor and you can’t always find enough of it and 3. I need to be able to do things at my pace and in my own way. So, Shemazing Designs started with a couple of diverging branches – hand lettering and sketch notes. Those 2 things are finally starting to come together in my product line. You’re actually going to see a lot more of it because it’s just who I am becoming as an artist.

In 2022, this pandemic baby business is now in its toddler phase and we’re toddling along quite well. This year, the focus is continuing to expand our offerings and growing our wholesale clients. We would love to see our products in more stores across the country.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
As I said, the pandemic has been more than a bit of a challenge. Being an immunocompromised individual has added to the complications of running a small business during a pandemic. Attempting to navigate the lack of in-person opportunities I have for markets and workshops is frustrating, to say the least. So, you choose different revenue streams, and different opportunities to get your product and art in front of people. You get creative. I’m not sure the road is ever smooth for a small business owner/entrepreneur. There are so many ‘hats’ you end up wearing that you didn’t plan on wearing.   There are so many things you learn to do that you never, in a million years, would’ve thought about needing to know how to do (coding, for instance), and so many decisions you have to make about things you need to Google before you can decide. It’s quite the journey.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
Shemazing Designs is a female-run business that uses snark, irreverence, and a little heart to create cards, stickers and gifts that are deliciously sarcastic and delightfully colorful for all of your life’s special (or annoying and unexpected) occasions. 

We support our community. We collaborate when given the chance We strive for authenticity in business and in creative practice with the knowledge that our actions and words can impact a person’s mental and emotional well-being. 

Are there any important lessons you’ve learned that you can share with us?
Comparison kills creativity. This journey is my own and it will forever be my own. I walk or run at my own pace. I don’t have to do things like anyone else. 

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1 Comment

  1. Jennifer

    June 21, 2022 at 3:57 pm

    So excited for this amazing woman we have known for just a few years (actually like 25)
    Don’t let her be too modest either she is an Amazing musician and singer as well as a visual artist. Thanks for spotlighting

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