Maker Monday: John Sawvel Design

Welcome to our newest tradition, Maker Monday! Our Store Manager, Marissa, gets to know a little bit more about the makers of The DIME Store. We believe in bridging the gap between our customer and the maker -- and this new project is a great way to learn about the person behind the product!

John Sawvel of John Sawvel Design is one of our newer makers at The DIME Store. He is multi-talented with tons of artistic experience. This week we chat about the opportunities he’s had and what his hopes are for the future.


Let’s start with your background: where did you grow up? How did you end up in Denton?

I was born in Fort Worth, moved to Denver CO when I was 6 and returned to Texas 7 years ago. My wife and I lived in Lewisville and Corinth before moving to Denton last year.

I have always had family in Texas.  My aunt and uncle have a ranch out in east Texas where I worked summers in middle school/high school. It was something totally different than staying in the air conditioning in CO. My wife had an internship in Goliad, TX so while I was down there visiting her,  I ended up doing some commission work with the Spanish missions. The plan was to go back to CO, but while we stopped in Corinth to visit her parents, I ended up getting a job I found on Craigslist. I’ve been there the last 7 years. 


What fills your days? What does your life look like in Denton?

My week days are spent working at Museum Arts, a family owned company that designs and builds museum exhibits. Outside of work I spend my time building my woodworking products in my garage.

What has your time looked like at Museum Arts?

When I was first hired I was a junior designer, the very bottom rung. I would draw all the designs by hand, scan them in and doctor them up to present to clients. Then, about 6 months went by and I made it to Graphic Designer. My illustration abilities were what got me the job and as the owner was getting older, he was looking for a sort of apprentice. I moved to Exhibit Designer and worked on projects like The Bryan Museum in Galveston & The Skeleton Museum in Orlando. Now, I’m Creative Director. I went to school and took studio classes and graphic design so I had a foot in both doors. With my illustration skills, it has lent itself well to this job.


 What was your journey as a maker? How did you end up working with your medium?

I went to the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley to pursue a career as an artist/designer. I studied illustration, printmaking, painting, sculpture, as well as graphic design, typography, and publication design. For those four years and a couple years after I was creating artwork. But time for art became limited once I took my job at Museum Arts. However, being surrounded by skilled carpenters, I began to admire the craft of building with wood. A few years back I started collecting the hardwood scraps from my day job that would otherwise be tossed into the dumpster. I was constantly asking those in the shop what tools I needed and how to go about building preliminary designs. I have slowly acquired the tools and knowledge needed to build my designs from home.

While woodworking has opened this new creative lane where I can build my skills as an artisan, I’m hoping to re-introduce printmaking, illustration, and some painting back into my mediums I work with under John Sawvel Design.


 How did you end up becoming a maker at The DIME Store?

I was a vendor at the spring Renegade Craft Fair in Austin last year and had the pleasure of meeting Savannah of Savvie Studio. We quickly discovered the other was from Denton (my wife and I had bought our house just a few days before) and she told me all about the DIME Store. You (Marissa) and a couple others stopped by my booth later that day and shared more about the DIME Store and encouraged me to apply. As a new Denton resident and a new maker I couldn’t have been more exhibited. I applied soon after and it’s been a delight ever sense.


 What are your hopes and dreams for John Sawvel Design?

I hope to continue building my skills and knowledge as a maker. I want to continue to broaden the scope of work I sell under John Sawvel Design to include printmaking, illustration, and furniture. Ultimately my dream is to work full time as an artist/maker. I see everything as another lane of creativity being opened up; an opportunity to work with my hands. 

Was there anyone that supported you in the very beginning? Where did you get the confidence to pursue your artistic endeavors?

My dad would never call himself an artist but he was definitely artistic. He was an illustrator. I remember him drawing on the front of my birthday cards as a kid. He really supported me and before I went away to school, had arranged for me to go meet one-on-one with the graphic design professor. Once I was in school, my teachers were really encouraging too.  


What is something you're the most proud of?

• Being awarded the Gala Scholarship from the School of Art and Design – One student is awarded each year by teachers in the art department and receives one years’ tuition.

• Designing The Bryan Museum in Galveston Texas. As the Creative Director at Museum Arts I led the exhibit design for the museum and am very proud of the finished product.


 If you could go back and visit "teenaged John", what's a piece of advice you would give him?

Mainly it would be to just stick with it. Keep being creating. So much worry went into thinking about “Is your stuff good enough, can you get in a gallery?”. I wasn’t even aware of the community of being a maker.

Thanks so much for your time today, John! I like to end every interview with a little fun question: If there was one movie you think everyone should see at least once, what would it be? 

Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind - I think it’s one of those movies that anyone who has ever been in a relationship can relate to. Everyone takes something different from it. It reveals human nature and how some choose to forget while others fight. 

Shop John’s line in the store or on his website

Follow John Sawvel Design here