S’Clusive! Interview with Kim Fox of Worker Bird

Worker Bird Peace sign

Worker Bird Peace sign

Those of you who know Kim Fox from L2 Design Collective, may not be familiar with her super-cool alter-ego as Worker Bird, creator of things funky and fabulous. Her creations include, most recently, a really spectacular line of signs featuring reclaimed wood, vintage tins, and lots (and lots and lots and lots) of tiny nails.

Recently, I had the opportunity to nab an exclusive interview with Kim, who shared info about her work, her life, and her signs.

Let’s start off simply: Who are you?

I am Kim Fox—a mom of one boy named Whistle. I have an awesome husband, Steven, who runs his own recording studio called Yellow Couch Studio. We live in Pittsburgh, PA, with two dogs, a cat, a hamster and four chickens—my little suburban farm!

Kim Fox photo

Kim Fox

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I remember being nine when I knew I wanted to be an artist. I went to art school and majored in Printmaking but it wasn’t until I turned 30 that I fully committed myself to making art and was able to tell people, “I’m an artist.” I am interested in a ton of things and I often say, “If I had another entire life I’d be a…veterinarian/contractor/ librarian.” (Those are actual dreams.)

Now that you’re grown up, what do you do?

I cobble together quite a few things that add up to more-than-a full-time job. I work with the crew at L2 Design Collective doing some design but mostly just running our little boat (it’s not a ship!).

I also work on a farm but I’m not a farmer. I do a little of everything, but mostly help run the special events on the farm like our Churchview Farm Dinner Series, for which I design the table-settings and place cards, menus, etc.

Lastly, I own my own studio called Worker Bird. This is the umbrella under which I make whatever I want, including mixed media art pieces, screenprinted cards and prints, and recycled tin signs.

Worker Bird name sign

Worker Bird name sign

Who inspires you in your work?

I think my most important creative inspirations and mentors are two guys who I work with at L2—Jeff Matz and Paul Mastriani. They own Lure Design, a design firm where I worked in Orlando, FL. From day one they gave me support and encouragement and allowed me so much freedom to explore ideas. I love them dearly and am forever grateful for their parts in my life.

The very most important person who keeps me going emotionally is my husband. He is eternally supportive of me and gives me time and space to do my thing, while also managing to be a terrific dad, amazing musician, and super-funny dude.

What is your workspace like?

Ooooh, my workspace is insane. I have two beautiful rooms on the third floor of my house that I have absolutely trashed. I semi-jokingly refer to my decorating style as “post-robbery.”

Worker Bird studio space

Worker Bird studio space

I also have taken up a third of our basement for screenprinting and making the signs. I use the original coal cellar as my dark room to expose screens and have a printing table set up. With the tin signs taking up a lot of my creative time, I now have shelves and shelves of old biscuit tins filling the basement. (Please refer to above comment about my wonderful husband allowing me space to do things.)

Working in the basement is good, as the tools I use are right there: I use a table saw, chop saw, two different sanders, various tin-snips, pliers, hammers, etc. I’ve thought about moving the endeavor upstairs, where there is heat, but the proximity to the tool room is appealing; my knees don’t love the multiple trips up and down four flights of stairs!

Worker Bird workshop

Worker Bird workshop

Tell me about your first sign. What inspired you to make it? Did you construct it with the idea of creating a whole product line of up-cycled signs?

Awhile back my husband and I took a day-long workshop with a tin artist here in Pittsburgh. I loved it and wanted to continue working in tin, but doing something different than what he does so as to not copy him!!! (He does amazing large-scale pieces that I could never do, by the way!)

Anyhow, the first sign I made was a thank you gift for friends who invited us to their lake house for a week two summers ago. My husband loved it (blush blush) and encouraged me to do more, so I made him one with our house numbers on it. From there, I just kept finding more reasons to make them.

Worker Bird 131 house numbers sign

Worker Bird 131 house numbers sign

How do your customers use their signs?

I began by promoting them simply as house number signs, but people started asking for words like “Home” and “Nest.”

Worker Bird Nest sign

Worker Bird Nest sign

When my brother’s wife had her first baby, I made one for them as a gift with his name on it. I’m currently working on a rooster for a kitchen, a nickname for a Christmas gift, and a logo for a local farm-to-table restaurant. My favorite use for them is for Tenth Anniversaries. Tin is the traditional gift for Ten Years, and I think this is a perfect way to honor tradition in a non-traditional way.

What’s your favorite part of the sign-constructing process?

This is such a good question. The design is the most “fun” part—going through the tins and looking for patterns, words, and colors and then cutting them apart is great. Once I have it all cut out I tack it in place and then comes the somewhat tedious part—but maybe my favorite part—hammering in the nails.

I’ve read that creative people tend to like mindless activities like vacuuming, washing dishes, etc., because it frees your mind to wander and ideas to come in. I think this part of the sign-making process provides that outlet for me: I put on my headphones, grab my box of tiny nails and a glass of wine and disappear into my head for a bit. It’s methodical and I feel productive while also getting to daydream.

Worker Bird Pray for Snow sign

Worker Bird Pray for Snow sign

Do you take special requests? For example: a particular color palette, or wood type, or lettering style?

I welcome input from customers as long as they understand that these are absolutely one-of-a-kind and come from my head and heart. Of course, I want to know if someone hates primary colors or if the room it’s going in needs a hit of red in it—that input is great and helps get me started.

Are the signs all-weather? Will they rust?

I have been using Wormy Chestnut for the most part, which I read about; it has a natural resistance to decay. If someone wants the sign to be hung out in the elements, I take the additional step of applying clear polyurethane before and after the sign is complete. The nail heads gently rust and add a natural character overall.

Worker Bird

Worker Bird “Our Fair States” sign – Pennsylvania

Where can people purchase your signs?

My work, including customizable pieces, is available through my Worker Bird site on Etsy.

Before we wind this up, tell me: What’s next?

Hmmm. Next? I am starting a new series called “Our Fair States” and am creating tin signs of various states. I’m currently concentrating on Ohio and Pennyslvania, as I have craft fairs coming up in those states. I also have commissions for Virginia and Michigan, for Christmas presents.

Worker Bird "Our Fair States" sign - Ohio

Worker Bird “Our Fair States” sign – Ohio

A big thank you to Kim for her time and the cool peek into her life, work, and signage! Worker Bird is still accepting commissions for the holidays, but be sure to contact Kim soon through her Etsy store, to place your order. (Christmas is less than five weeks away!)

Worker Bird Happy Holiday sign

Worker Bird Happy Holiday sign