Hope Johnson is a visionary. She is both an artist and a businesswoman, an inventive mind with an exceptional focus. People are either creatively minded or processes-oriented. But not Hope—she is dually gifted. Her acumen fuels her artistry, and her innovation transforms her artwork into a thriving profession.
Her latest creative work is a new line of wallpaper with a vintage feel. This wife and mom of three began her career making stationery and invitations, after completing her degree in fine arts from LSU with an emphasis in letterpress. As Johnson designed custom invitations, she would often doodle in her studio while “Marlin,” her hundred-year-old lithograph machine, worked its printing magic. As time passed, she began to incorporate these doodle images into her invitations. Soon she would be lining envelopes with these intricate patterns. “That’s when I fell in love with pattern making,” she says.
“I will normally make a doodle in my backyard studio,” says Johnson, “often while the kids are in there with me.” Once she draws an image, she uses a computer program to scan the image. The program then digitizes her works and situates it into a repeatable pattern. From there, she can change the size and scale of the pattern to fit her wishes.
At first, Johnson says, she didn’t realize that she could license her work and have others manufacture it. Not until she took an immersion printmaking class did she understand that she could have it brought to life by an outside firm. So that’s what she did. Johnson now licenses her patterns to a few children’s companies: Pink Chicken is an apparel line and Saranoni makes adult and children’s blankets. She also has a fabric collection with Cotton+Steel, which distributes quilting cottons. “Once you have the image you want, you can put it on anything: fabric, upholstery or paper,” Johnson affirms.
Johnson also works with a few local interior designers and other decorators whose online work resonates with her early 20th-century style and flair, and she has a wholesale website exclusively for designers. A few showrooms represent her as well.
Johnson’s made-to-order work normally takes about four to six weeks for turnaround and delivery. Her new collection includes nine patterns, which allow for customization in multiple color waves. She is proud of the fact that she does not keep her work in bulk. “This allows for less waste and a smaller carbon footprint,” she says. Samples, however, are readily available for immediate shipment.
The artist says her wallpaper line “was a response to what my audience wanted. And when people talk, I have to listen.” Their wishes struck a chord with Johnson, who asked for her mother’s opinion on the matter. “My mom says ‘have a warm and fuzzy feeling about something’ and ‘when you have that, you have to go for it,’ and that’s exactly what my wallpaper does for me,” she says. “I wanted something with my name on it.”
For Johnson, working with interior design professionals is a natural move. “I almost majored in interior design, but realized I am too much of a homebody,” she laughs. “Home is my safe place, so having my work fuel the home is what felt most at home. To see my work live in that space is really just what works for me.”
Johnson’s patterns are known for a vintage feel with a modernized twist that becomes apparent in the hunter greens and mustard yellow palettes. To know why her works possess such a nostalgic feel, one must also know the manner in which she grew up: in an early 20th-century Victorian home with gingerbread lattice. “I loved growing up there,” she says. “My parents still live there. On the weekends we would go looking at old houses. Other weekends, my mom would take me antique shopping.”
That love for older homes never died. In fact, she and her husband Michael built a farmhouse inspired by an old one they originally planned to occupy. “When that fell through, we built our own farmhouse. It has all the feel and charm of an older home, but without the high electricity bill.”
And what sorts of items live in the Johnson home? Antiques and upcycled furniture, of course. Along with the happy sounds of this self-professed homebody and the laughter of her children. Johnson spends most of her time in her home, so she welcomes virtual visitors anytime. “Come into my space”, she posits with passion. “Let’s make some pretty walls together.”