The writings on the wall: Artist Anna Frederick

If you find yourself at the corner of Court and Second Avenue in downtown Des Moines saying “this must be the place” — you’ve experienced the work of Anna Frederick.
photo from Art Beacon Des Moines

What started as a love of lettering during a part-time job at Trader Joe’s has become her very own startup story. Frederick’s artwork is unique in the art world in that her focus is on hand lettering, carrying the local torch in the revival of hand painted signs – a practice that fell off the radar during the ’80s and ’90s.

Since making this her full-time gig, Frederick has led hand lettering workshops in both Des Moines and Omaha, shown in galleries throughout the midwest and most recently, has made a habit of attending Letterheads in both Chicago and Amsterdam.

The arts aren’t always the first thing you think of when you see a startup hashtag, but Frederick proves, often times in paint, her entrepreneurial spirit is alive and flourishing.


C&M: What are you currently working on that’s exciting to you?

Anna Frederick: Everything I get to work on is exciting, at least for me! Each project is a little different: be it a logo for a band or signage for a restaurant; that’s part of why I love this path – every day is new. To be able do what I love to do and get paid for it is a dream.

C&M: What keeps you motivated to pursue this?

AF: Variety and endless challenge. I get to do and learn new things all the time. Plus, I think it’s the first activity in my life I’ve ever really enjoyed practicing! I will say, too – I am a total people-pleaser, and I love finding the right solution to clients’ creative “problems”… it’s a warm, fuzzy feeling like no other.

C&M: Who do you consider to be a mentor? Who do you look for when seeking advice?

AF: I am so very fortunate to have John Parker (founder of Parker Signs in Indianola) as my mentor (and friend). He is willing to share his experience with me on anything and everything, and he does so with great patience and heart. I wouldn’t be doing this without him.

I’ve got some amazing peers and role models all over the world that I connect with through social media and email – we’re able to critique and share notes anytime, anywhere. Instagram really opened a lot of those doors for me; I’ve been able to forge real relationships with people who’ve absolutely changed my life. The lettering/sign painting communities are pretty close-knit, and the folks I’ve met are all more than willing to offer their expertise and friendship.

C&M: What advice would you have for fellow entrepreneurs/artists/startup founders?

AF: Have a financial safety net. Take risks. Do not be afraid to fail in a fantastic way. Find people who are willing to tell you the hard truths and keep them close. Be genuine on every level.

C&M: How do you stay sane or keep yourself level? (i.e. what do you do besides work?)

AF: This was my way of staying sane/level when I was working other jobs full-time, so I’m in need of finding/reclaiming some of my other hobbies and outlets. I love traveling the very most. Spending time with my incredible friends and boyfriend. Being outside. (I love going to the lake to look at/throw rocks.) Photography. Going for drives.

C&M: What are you afraid of?

AF: Disappointing people, failing to meet expectations. And spiders.

C&M: How else do you think your brand might grow?

AF: I’m excited to see how the future unfolds. I have a very avid interest in public art (especially murals), and I’m a big advocate for knowledge sharing. Long-term goal: I hope to find a way to combine the two as time goes by and start teaching the next generation some things. Short-term? I hope to grow my brand by helping others grow theirs. I love that symbiotic relationship.

About Anna Frederick
Age: 34
Location: Des Moines, Iowa
Instagram: @xheart

Jami Milne is the interim managing editor of Clay & Milk. Send her an email at