Art 2 the Extreme
Business is Booming For a Local Woman Creating Art from Recycled Crayons
Writer: Christy Heitger-Ewing
Photographer: Jamie Sangar
“I wanted the students to make something from recycled materials that they could use as an art supply for a texture rubbing project, so we melted crayons in Dixie cups,” Lewis says. “The kids loved them, and I thought how great it would be to have crayons in different shapes that would be easier for kids to grip.”
Lewis began exploring various molds and created Rainbow Crayons in the shape of hearts and stars. In November 2007, she opened an Etsy shop called Art 2 the Extreme: The Original Handmade Crayon. When she wasn’t teaching, she was selling her product at local craft shows. A few years later, she began working with her brother-in-law, Jason, who uses a 3D printer to print the molds.
The 3D printer enables Lewis to fashion many more designs. Currently, she offers more than 380 different shapes, including novelty pieces like a ring you can wear on your finger and a fortune cookie with a real fortune inside. She also designs business logos and other custom items. She even made a Hollywood clapboard as a “wrap gift” for actors on the television show “Queen Sugar.”
“Right now I’m working on a periodic table of elements for my science geek customers,” Lewis adds.
Over time, her fan base grew — in part because, as Lewis puts it, “some people want the Pinterest look without doing the Pinterest.”
The business really started to take off after her products were featured in Parents Magazine, Southern Living Magazine and Buzzfeed. Just before Christmas, US Magazine included Lewis’ name sets in their holiday gift guide. The personalized name sets spell out names or phrases, making them ideal stocking stuffers, Valentine’s Day gifts or Easter basket goodies.
At times, popularity has spiked so fast that Lewis has had to temporarily shut down her store to fill orders. This past year, for instance, Lewis received more than 2,000 orders in a week’s time.
“Filling orders is a labor-intensive process,” says Lewis, noting that each step is done by hand — collecting recycled crayons from churches, daycares and schools, then peeling the wrapper from each one and putting crayons into the mold.
“Thankfully, I have family and friends who help out,” Lewis says. Her mom, Denise, works as a nurse. On her days off, she helps with her grandsons William (3) and Connor (1) and pitches in with whatever her daughter needs for the business. “She’s been a lifesaver,” Lewis says.
Her husband, Eric, is also a huge help. Though he works full-time and attends law school in the evenings, he pitches in as well.
Lewis has adored art ever since she was a little girl. In fourth grade, she sold braided friendship bracelets. In seventh grade, she organized an art camp for neighborhood youth.
“Parents dropped their kids off for a couple of hours, and I taught Art 2 the Extreme classes,” says Lewis, who kept the name for her business.
Though Lewis stays plenty busy, “There’s not been a night in the past three weeks that I haven’t gone to bed before 3 a.m.,” she says.
She still carves out time to attend local craft shows because she likes sticking with people who have stuck by her from the very beginning.
“I go to those shows now and have parents tell me, ‘We started buying from you when my little one was two years old. Now she’s going off to college,’” Lewis says. “People like to get behind a brand that’s small, and they like to see small businesses make it big.”
For more information, visit art2theextreme.com.