*A version of this story originally appeared in The Budget’s Oct. 4, 2017, Local Edition.
There’s an old adage that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and it’s a one that perfectly describes Sugarcreek native Amanda Clark’s newest artistic venture.
In the summer of 2016, the Garaway graduate launched ASPECHTdesgins, a collection of uniquely-designed upcycled wooden signs and repurposed objects, all made from items that might be found at a neighborhood garage sale or laid out along the curbside before trash day.
“Abstract art paintings is what I started doing back in college, and then, just recently within the last year, I started doing things either with found objects or reclaimed pieces of barn wood,” explained Clark, whose maiden name is Amanda Specht. “I kind of like to turn it into something that can be functional and new.”
Whether she’s driving around her current hometown of Canton or visiting friends and relatives in the local area, Clark is always on the lookout for distressed pieces of wood that she can convert into signs and various objects that she can transform into one-of-a-kind lighting fixtures and other functional items.
“I keep going down to my family’s farm and relatives that I know and stealing their old barn wood,” the artist said. “They have great wood. I can turn it into so many things.”
While Clark has plans to begin using some of the wood for larger pieces of furniture, the majority of it will be repurposed into hand-painted signs featuring funny phrases or lyrics from songs. “Either listening to music or talking to people, if I hear something that sounds funny, I’m always like, ‘Oh, I should put that on a sign,’ or, ‘Oh, I should put that on a mug.’”
Clark’s current bestseller is a small wooden sign featuring the words “I slay,” taken from a lyric in a Beyonce song. “I’ve sold so many of those it’s crazy,” the artist shared.
For her lettering, Clark does not use any stencils. Instead, she hand paints each letter, sometimes with paint and a brush, but typically with refillable paint markers. “Those are real easy to use, and they have those in acrylic or oils,” she said. “You can kind of work a little bit faster than using a paintbrush, and you can control it a whole lot better.”
Clark noted that she also takes customer sign orders, which are typically to mark special occasions like weddings. “I can do anything custom size to whatever font,” she said.
Signs can be ordered online through Clark’s Etsy shop or purchased from her tent at the Downtown Canton Flea Market, held the third Saturday of each month from May through October.
“The good thing is I can come up with whatever,” Clark shared. “Sometimes, if I have extra pieces of reclaimed wood, I’ll take it to the shows downtown and then I can make somebody a piece right there while they’re walking around the flea market.”
Clark’s passion for creating began at an early age. As a child, she was inspired by watching her mother draw and paint in her family’s home, and her interest grew even stronger once she started school and began to train under former Garaway instructor Sherry Crilow. “I was lucky enough to have her for elementary, junior high and high school,” Clark shared. “She was a big influence as well.”
She went on to major in painting at Mount Vernon Nazarene College, but it wasn’t until many years later, after moving back to the area from Chicago, that she began making signs. “I would just kind of make those signs and different things like that for my friends, and they were always like, ‘You know, you should try to sell these,’” Clark recalled. “I was like, ‘Ok. Maybe I will.’”
Clark soon selling her pieces at one of the flea markets in downtown Canton, where she began to develop quite a following. “People really liked my stuff, and I was like, ‘Ok. This is a good idea,’” she said.
To this day, Clark said one of the things that inspires her the most is when one of her pieces gets a laugh out of someone passing by her tent. “The thing that I love the most that I watch when people walk past my tent is that they’ll be walking by and they point to one of my signs or something and they’ll start laughing,” she shared. “I was kind of like that with my paintings. I would kind of put in cartoons mixed into my paintings kind of behind things for people to really look for, because I just really love making people laugh and smile.”
To see more of Amanda’s work, follow @ASPECHTdesigns on Facebook, visit her Etsy shop by the same name or stop by Arts on Broadway in Downtown Sugarcreek, located at 112 N. Broadway. Gallery hours are Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.