In 2015, illustrator Sarah Baumann launched Signet Sealed on Etsy, featuring her original “city prints.” Baumann’s prints are original illustrations of various cities and places.
Each 8x10 or 11x14 print features Baumann’s colorful and fluid drawings, originally done in watercolor and ink on cardstock. Each one displays the name of the featured city in the center of the print surrounded by doodles of iconic landmarks, places and people associated with that city.
“I like that my city prints can allow people to tell their stories. They can use my prints to tell where they are from, where they have been or where they got married or met. I love giving people the chance to create their own gallery of sorts,” said Baumann.
Baumann enjoys illustrating the special pieces of a city, especially the parts of a city that just the locals know. She always includes something that locals would call their favorite part of their city.
For instance, in the Memphis city print, Baumann includes not only favorite Memphis tourist spots - the Hernando DeSoto Bridge, the Pyramid, barbecue, the Grizzlies and blues music - but also includes pieces of Memphis only residents know and love, such as the Levitt Shell, Crosstown Concourse, Poplar Ave. and the Shelby Forest General Store.
It’s these small personable and knowledgeable touches that set Baumann’s prints apart from others and makes her city prints sell out in hours after a new release.
After graduating from Rhodes in 2016, Baumann began running Signet Sealed fulltime. As a young entrepreneur, she hit the ground running and now Signet Sealed supplies 19 Memphis retail locations and multiple retailers across the United States.
Not only is Baumann still selling city prints as fast as she can make them, she has added another product series that features her lively illustrations and colorful point-of-view in a Memphis coloring book, a Mermaid series, dishtowels, mugs and woven blankets.
The creation of Baumann's original city prints began as a way for her to remember the places she traveled.
So far, Baumann has produced over 60 different city prints, creating a successful female-owned business that is spreading a positive way for people to celebrate and share their stories through fun prints.
“Baumann’s products are just so easy to give as gifts. Her city prints and dishtowels are so personable,” Rachel Bassett, a customer of Signet Sealed since 2016 and Rhodes College senior, said.
Bassett has bought not only a Rhodes College and Memphis city print but also has purchased multiple dishtowels from Baumann. She added that she likes the idea of being able to use Baumann’s city prints to tell a story.
For instance, she is contemplating buying her sister and her sister’s husband prints of London, where they met and fell in love, and a print of New York City, where the couple now calls home.
The ease of purchase and pick-up is also a reason Bassett keeps going back to Signet Sealed. Baumann conveniently places same-day local orders in a pick-up box outside of her apartment.
“Her city prints are so appealing because it helps you celebrate and remember the places you have been, your hometown or that trip you went on. I think she represents that really well in her work,” Bassett added.
The creation of Baumann’s original city prints began as a way for her to remember the places she traveled to on a Rhodes study abroad trip. She said the idea of formally journaling about her travels daunting.
“I could not focus on a blank piece of paper long enough to write a journal entry. I made, what I called, city prints of everywhere I went. The drawings would feature the name of the city we were visiting in the middle of the paper. I would then add personable snippets of memorable conversations we had in that city, the food we ate, the people, the scenery, etc.,” Baumann explained.
People loved them. Her co-travelers requested she create prints of their own hometowns. Baumann said while art had never been a major focus in school she was constantly “doodling in the margins of papers and worksheets.”
After returning to the states, Baumann launched her first online shop, Signet Sealed, on Etsy. Baumann wasn’t yet offering her city prints, that would come later. At the time, she was only creating hand-lettered prints.
Of the name, Signet Sealed, it is a reference from the Bible, Baumann said. Her website explains that in ancient times when documents were considered true and honorable, kings stamped these documents with their rings of “signet.” She added that the name was chosen because she wanted to create products that would qualify for this signet stamp, products that she was proud of.
It took a trip to San Antonio, TX to wake Baumann up to the potential of her city prints. She said it started when she was frustrated at the lack of personable mementos to remember the trip.
“San Antonio has so much culture but there are so many terrible touristy trinkets being sold as souvenirs. I wanted to make something special to remember our time there,” Baumann noted. She eventually made a city print of San Antonio and later added a city print of Memphis to her Etsy shop.
They both sold out in hours. “I was blown away! I was thinking how do I even take money for this? Where do I start? How do I sell this?”
Baumann began adding different cities to her series of city prints. She began to realize the potential of her city prints and decided she wanted to run Signet Sealed fulltime.
Bauman has added dishtowels that feature her lively illustrations and colorful point-of-view to her product line.
Selling items wholesale to retailers also began to increase. Savannah Webb, Signet Sealed packaging and wholesale manager, said the business is now focusing more and more on wholesale. They are expanding their reach to retailers across the nation. On average, the business is shipping out more than 20 prints a week, Webb reported.
One of Baumann’s first wholesale buyers was local retailer Mary Claire White, owner of home and lifestyle boutique Falling Into Place in the Broad Avenue Arts District. Baumann said White was one of her first mentors that taught her how to successfully sell wholesale to retailers.
“One of the first people I wanted to sell wholesale to was White and her shop. I was terrified and I was shaking. I didn’t even know how to talk to her about what I wanted,” said Bowman. “She walked me the through the entire process of wholesale. I learned about the relationship between the stockist and the retailer from her.”
Now Signet Sealed has buyers all over the city. Baumann is also shipping her prints wholesale nationally to 30 different retailers across eight states, including KS, TX, AR, FL, and CO, to name a few. She said that her quiet, personal goal is to find an international buyer in the future.
Baumann and Webb both agreed that while there are many “city print” types of prints out there across the Etsy and Pinterest online worlds, Signet Sealed is different because of its lively style, its personable nature and, most importantly, its ability to authentically capture the essence of a city. Baumann puts large amounts of time and research into each of her city prints. You can also request a city to Baumann on her website.
“I am a nut about talking to a local from each place I draw, especially if I haven’t been there. Most other city print type of illustrations out there are stereotypical representations of that city. I strive to include genuine pieces of local feeling that reflect the real places people go to in their city,” Baumann said.
Her two newest series uses the same authenticity to explore unrepresented women in art, titled “Mermaids” and “100 Hijabs.”
“100 Hijabs” is Bauman’s personal challenge to illustrate 100 women in hijabs. She started the project in February and has completed 12 pieces to date. It is a personal project for Baumann and none of the pieces are for sale at the time.
She began this project as someone who opposes the Presidential Executive Order that limits entry into the U.S. of citizens from Muslim-majority countries including Saudi Arabia and Egypt, popularly called the “Muslim Ban.”
After the ban had been instated, Baumann wanted to humanize this issue, saying “I started thinking that maybe I could celebrate these strong women and bring some positive light and attention to them. I feel like so often we see that community getting negative attention from extremist members, and I wanted to bring some positivity and sort of normalize the hijab as much as I could. That is why some of my images have sunglasses, or cell phones, or the Adidas symbol - I wanted the hijab to be relatable and normal.”
Baumann has also created a Mermaid series that is for sale as well as a Memphis coloring book filled with pages of iconic Memphis landscapes drawn in Baumann’s style. The Mermaid series depicts different woman as mermaids, typically unseen representations of women in art as well as different types of mermaids that are not the classical skinny white mermaid.
Baumann Mermaid series includes elderly mermaids, African-American mermaids, mermaids in hijabs, and plus-size mermaids. She said this series stemmed from a conversation with a friend who asked her to draw an African-American mermaid because they had never seen one illustrated before.
Helping other new entrepreneurs, especially other women, is another passion of Baumann’s. This past April, she and artist Dorothy Collier launched Memphis’ first Rising Tide Society Chapter.
Rising Tide is a national organization that organizes meet-ups for entrepreneurs. The meetings not only provide education for small businesses owners but also provide a way for entrepreneurs to meet other entrepreneurs, network and mingle.
“The idea is to get all these small business owners together for support and networking because most work inside their homes. That outlet is really needed as someone working for themselves because you can feel alone and like you have no one to ask for support or advice and no one knows what you are going through,” Baumann said.
In the future, Baumann aspires to be able to help other women and small business owners.
“I would love to be in a position where I could help people launch and invest in their business dreams. I love talking to other women who are at the beginning stages of launching their own business.”
Baumann and her team are looking forward to an exciting pop-up that will give the public more insight into the world of Signet Sealed and Baumann’s bright illustrations and products. This August, Signet Sealed will be participating in the Downtown Memphis Commission’s “Open on Main” activation initiative series, which hosts 16 different local businesses within a seven-month span at 7 and 9 N. Main St. Signet Sealed will setup shop at 9 N. Main for Aug.5-16.
Baumann is looking forward to experimenting with the space, conceptualizing what Signet Sealed would look like as a brick and mortar store.
“I think it will be super fun to interact with people that follow my work in the social media sphere and show them this little world we created. It also gives us a chance to celebrate what we have accomplished so far.”
To checkout Baumann’s colorful prints and products go to www.signetsealed.com/home. Keep up with her on Instagram @signetsealed and Facebook facebook.com/signetsealed.