Angela Mathis has been enjoying her unusual hobby for five years. It’s called Word Art. The concept was born when she tried to come up with unique Christmas presents.
“It was a matter of can’t run to the store and find special gifts,” she explained
Mathis got the idea of Word Art when she was visiting Gatlinburg once, but she has carried it further — improving and changing — putting her own inspiration to work. Although the idea isn’t original with Mathis, the development of it is.
The former Cleveland Daily Banner photographer drew upon her love of photography to carve out her new avocation. She begins by cutting wood to length to fit the number of letters needed to make the “word,” then spray paints it black. If the photos have been chosen, from that point, she says it takes about an hour to attach the photos.
However, since she selects the photos specifically to make the word, blending photos by depth, darkness and light and compatibility with each other, the first steps usually take longer.
If it is a commissioned piece, Mathis shoots the pictures related to the subject in some way. For instant, in her yacht piece, she shot photos on the yacht to compose the piece. Every picture is identified on the back, so the buyer knows the source of the subject.
There are some mail order places where this kind of art is offered, but most do not designate when or where each photo is taken — just random.
Mathis’ are all her original photos. And she studies the layout, edits, changes until it’s just right for the person the Word Art is made for — which takes more time. “I want to have the word just right visually,” she added.
To pay for her hobby, Mathis only charges according to how many photos are used, and for any traveling expenses she incurs to get specific photos at special locations or out-of-town projects. To her, the hobby is definitely a labor of love.
Although Mathis’ Word Art can be ordered online through her Facebook account, a home party seems the best and most efficient way for people to see what can be done, she said. The hands-on choosing and putting together makes for fun in the home atmosphere with a group of friends. She has also been to schools where teachers had their names done.
Some of commissioned Word Art includes the yacht, a fire hall, a church and even a hospital where Word Art names were gifts for some 25 employees. All the photo letters were taken at the hospital.
When she does a commissioned piece, she takes the photos relating to their specific interests. For example, an “A” was used from a Bel Air for a couple’s anniversary, because their first car was a Bel Air.
Mathis takes every opportunity to shoot “letters” — sometimes stopping unexpectedly when she sees something interesting she can use. She has photos from local stores, farms, churches, schools and signs, as well as from places she has visited or worked, such as New York City.
She sees letters in such places as fairs, malls, streets and rural settings — the artist gleans from all places she goes and everything she sees. There’s even an “E” formed from piano pedals and a “3 o’clock” on a clock face forms an “L.”
Although customers can ask her to do special photos to use, Mathis has an inventory of stacks of letters a buyer may choose from. They are all catalogued on Facebook in Custom Word Art.
All a person has to do is click on Photo Album titled A-Z and open each page of letters needed to spell the Word Art. The customer can send a message on Facebook or email the letters (and identifying numbers) needed to spell the Word Art to firstname.lastname@example.org. For example, to order “HOPE,” open the H page and find the H character you want. Then open the O page and find the O character and so forth. The order message or email for your art could look something like this: H(4), O(8), P(2), E(6).
Mathis attended Cleveland State Community College and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. She holds a bachelor of science degree in business administration with a minor in communications. She got her first “real job” right out of college at the Banner as photographer. She resides in Georgetown with her husband, Barry Mathis, and her two stepchildren.
She is now employed with the American Cancer Society — “love my job helping people and will continue working” — and enjoys her hobby in her spare time. But she does have a vision of growing her hobby and acquiring a website where people can actually put their word together and view it before it’s made.
Mathis said her art is carefully thought out and edited. “When I’m working on a piece, I step back and view it as a whole — changing until it’s just right. Taking the photos, she added, is the best part, but “laying it out is the most time-consuming.”
She said, “I love it — going to keep doing it.”