Chalk Of The Town: How To Talk Signs With A Richmond Chalkboard Artist

Rachel Humiston is in Belmont Butchery taking a look at a blank canvas with owner Tanya Cauthen.  It’s a chalk board that’s just waiting to be filled.

You’ve probably seen Rachel’s work if you are a Richmonder shopping at Trader Joe’s.  She’s been their resident sign artist for seven years — it’s a job she fell into unexpectedly.

She originally came to Virginia on a scholarship to Randolph Macon pursuing a math degree. Without any formal art training, Trader Joe’s handed her a marker and said, “go” as Rachel puts it.

“I feel like I’ve been getting paid to learn an amazing skill,” she says. 

I’ve learned how style and information can really build people’s confidence in buying a product.

After honing in those skills, she began taking private gigs to make chalkboard signs for weddings and local events like Fire, Flour & Fork and RVA Makerfest.  She’s found her art niche in temporary signage.

She’s learned a few things along the way to pass to the food and beverage community.  Communication is key when working with an artist for the first time.

They may not have a visual background and they don’t have to,” she says. “I can bring visual representations for the feelings they’re having about their business.”

Here are a few other takeaways from Rachel when thinking about signage.

  • Ask the big questions. — Define who you are marketing to and what your intention is with your sign.  Who is your audience? Is it informative?  Is it a mission statement. Is it a belief about who they are?  Is it something to help the ambiance? How will this information make me make a better choice?

  • Simplify. This is your chance to clear the clutter and find your focus.  Consolidate all those tiny things on the walls into a puzzle that makes sense.  

  • A good “A” frame will change your life.  Having one that looks professional is important.  If you have someone in store doing your chalk art, get someone official to do the headers to create that space that is structured so it still looks clean and organized.

“Signage can be about making things stand out in a really chaotic environment,” she says.  “I’ve learned how style and information can really build people’s confidence in buying a product.”

See more of Rachel’s work on Instagram.

Kevin Clay