GTPulse: Shaky Hand Co. Makes Hand Dyed and Printed Goods in TC
Charli Bradley goes with the flow. Between feeling under the weather and an exposure scare, I moved our interview around a million times. In-person, or not? Outside or inside? Each time she was kind, understanding, and willing to do whatever both of us felt comfortable with.
“These are crazy times! And I’m a patient person anyway. I definitely have no problem going with the flow.”
Flow is something that she understands. Shaky Hand Co. is Charli’s printing business that she started here in Traverse City. Initially a hand lettering business, Shaky Hand is a play on the steadied control Charli needed to draw the calligraphy and hand lettering.
“I’m kind of that person that really likes those mundane, tedious tasks, so the hand lettering to me was this very therapeutic thing and that’s part of the reason I really dove into it, too. That’s a time where you’re not thinking about anything, you kind of rise out of your body and you’re not stressed or worried about anything.”
I met Charli through past GTPulse stories Schyler Binkley and Jack Senff. Schyler is Charli’s significant other, but it was actually a retirement party where I first saw some of her work, in perfect handwritten letters wishing my beloved boss congratulations on 30 years of service.
She and Schyler were living in California before moving back to Traverse City in the early winter of 2017. They found an off-season rental near Duck Lake that they could quickly move in to as a temporary solution.
“We were renting this teeny tiny cottage. It was so cute we loved it, it was probably our favorite winter. We were completely secluded, there was nothing going on out there and we just had this one-room place.”
It was there that Schyler began encouraging Charli to put some time into hand-lettering and even try out printing. They had all this time and seclusion that lent itself well to creative projects.
“It was the holiday season so I started making cards. I think that was the connector between hand lettering and just doing it for fun, to an actual product. So I thought greeting cards would be cool. Of course, Schyler being my big motivator said, ‘You should try this printing thing.’ I really think you would like it.’”
Printing is different in hand lettering in that it can be less time consuming, more consistent, and offer just as much if not more creativity. Instead of a pen in her hand, she would use an inked stamp.
“It’s something more reusable than hand lettering. So the first stamp that I did I actually ordered. I lettered it and sent away for it and made some greeting cards. After that, I knew I could make my own.”
Those first greeting cards were simple and elegant Thank You cards in her own letters. She began carving her own stamps after that first set of letters she ordered, with the first one being a Northern Michigan inspired scene of winter trees and a large moon. She draws a lot of inspiration from the natural beauty in the area, and although she still does print letters on some items, she’s been having fun with creating designs lately.
“I’ve been doing a lot of design work recently, but I’m working on a tote design right now that is going to be lettering, so I still do both, but I don’t really sit down with a pen and paper and letter anymore.”
Instead, she has filled her online shop with totes, baby jumpers, pillows, and soon, masks. All on fabric dyed by her by hand, with some of the dye being from natural dyes like coffee, turmeric and avocado. Although she has a list of items she’s created for purchase, she’s open to working on something custom if someone is looking for a unique gift.
“I think it’s a blessing and a curse, but I have a really hard time saying no. If somebody asked me to do something, odds are I’m going to say yes, let’s give it a shot. And I appreciate ideas like that too. I never thought I would have made pillows but I had somebody who wanted a Petoskey stone pillow, and after the first one I made her, I can’t stop making them now. ”
It’s easy to see why. The pillows are a Petoskey print made by Charli with a combination of different combinations of colors that look like something from an Anthropologie spread.
Charli has a full-time job at Haggerty, so most of her time is dedicated to working, but during downtime, throughout the week she is in her studio coming up with new ideas for prints and shop items. Whether you have an idea of your own, or something in her store catches your eye, keep Charli and Shaky Hand Co. in your mind for upcoming holiday gifts.
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