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Enjoy San Joaquin Valley Living

Custom Wood Signs with HarperGrayce

Oct 25, 2017 11:00AM ● By Jordan Venema

Signs and Wonders

November 2017
Story by Jordan Venema
Photo courtesy of HarperGrayce

It’s amazing what a person can do with a little ingenuity and some reclaimed fence wood. Well, that and a laser cutter. Other than that, Jen Bier, founder and owner of HarperGrayce signs, says everything else just kind of happened by accident.

A graphic designer by trade, Bier quit her job after her first son was born, though she continued to design and sell wedding invitations and Christmas cards. She eventually began selling them under the name HarperGrayce. 

“One word, but with a capital G – it’s my daughter’s name.” Bier laughs when she admits she has three kids, and that someday her two boys are going to realize they don’t

have a business named after them. “Well, they’re boy names, so they’re aren’t as cute. But I struggle with that because when they get older, I feel they’re going to be really mad they were left out.”

About two years ago, a friend of Bier’s invited her to sell her invitations at the Old Town Flea Market in Clovis. “Two weeks before, I don’t even know why, I got this idea to make signs. So I asked my husband if his laser cutter could cut wood.” 

It could, so on a kind of whim, Bier made about 50 signs. “By the first day I was selling out,” she says. “I like them, but I didn’t know everyone else was going to like them, too.”

The signs sold so quickly that Bier doesn’t even recall what she made.  

“Oh my gosh, I honestly don’t even remember,” she says. “We were up all night during that two-week whirlwind.” 

From that moment on, HarperGrayce moved from paper invitations to wooden signs, and Bier’s decision was practical: People liked the signs, they sold for more than paper, and unlike invitations, the signs couldn’t easily be duplicated – at least not without a laser cutter. 

“Farmhouse is very popular right now,” explains Bier, which is the style of her signs. “And anyone can paint a sign, but not everybody has a laser cutter. My signs are 3D, and my husband has an industrial workshop, so we can cut huge sheets of wood.” 

True to the farmhouse style, HarperGrayce signs are fairly simple: wooden frames with a wooden back, with an overlaying quote or custom design. Since she uses reclaimed wood, each sign is additionally unique.

“For the first year, we were scouring the side of the road,” Bier says. “I had to buy a truck because I’d be driving down the road and I’d stop to pick up stuff.” But since demand has increased, Bier arranged with a local fencing company to have excess wood dumped at her property.

“You can’t buy old fence wood, and you can’t make it look old. We tried so many treatments and it just never looked like it had been out for 20 years. So now they just drop it off.” 

While HarperGrayce mostly works with the natural grain and color of the wood, Bier recently began offering white and black colors as options for the signs. 

Sizes of HarperGrayce signs do vary. The largest she created was a custom piece that she shipped to Chicago. It was 5 by 9 feet. 

“But usually 40 by 20 inches is the largest I’ll ship, which is the largest that I offer on my website,” says Bier, adding that her most popular size is 30 by 15 inches, a rectangle that ranges from $90 to $100.

Naturally, the sizes of her signs are limited, but not so much the designs themselves.

“I have a ton of fonts. We’re talking 20, 30,000. I tend to stick with what works, so I have about 20 fonts on my website that are standard,” says Bier.

“But, in theory, if you wanted your name printed in Wingding, you could do it.” 

Most of her signs include inspirational quotes and phrases, and the most common request is a family’s name. She has standard designs on her website, but since Bier is a graphic designer, she is able to print custom logos and designs. 

While potential designs for her signs might seem unlimited, the time to order them certainly is not. Bier sometimes receives as many as 20 orders a day.

“I stay at home with three kids. I’m a mom. That’s what I do,” says Bier. “I know people like the signs, but I didn’t realize just how much. I wake up every day shocked that I still get orders.”

HarperGrayce Signs • 

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