By Keysha Drexel
When Jason Johnson moved his family from Atlanta in 2012, he was puzzled when he heard people refer to his new hometown as “B’ham” or “The Ham” when referring to Birmingham proper and the surrounding metro area.
But now that the part-time artist and father of four has settled in Hoover, he’s determined to spread the word about his love for the Birmingham area.
Johnson, owner of Jason’s Vintage Signs & Designs, has created a logo that is popping up on bumper stickers, T-shirts and even baby clothes.
The logo, marketed under Original B’ham products, plays on the porky part of the city’s name and features a B and a rendering of a bone-in ham.
“When we first moved here, I noticed that people were always referring to the area as B’ham or The Ham, and I just wondered if anyone had ever put that together in a visual way,” Johnson said.
Last summer, Johnson sat down at his home computer and started playing with the idea.
“You see these bumper stickers that say ‘HH’ for Hilton Head and you see stickers for other cities, and I thought that this would be a way to market Birmingham using a little bit of humor,” he said.
Johnson made a few T-shirts and decals last summer and gave them to family and friends, including his wife of 22 years, Andi, 15-year-old daughter Claire, 14-year-old son Chase, 12-year-old son Chad and 10-year-old son Cody.
“I think Chad has worn one of the T-shirts almost every day since I started making them,” Johnson said.
Chad wasn’t the only one who took a liking to the Original B’ham logo. Over the Mountain retailers soon started carrying Johnson’s line.
“I wasn’t anticipating on making any money when I came up with this idea, but the products started selling quickly online,” he said. “Then they caught the eye of the owners of Alabama Goods in Homewood and Smith’s Variety in Mountain Brook, and both of those stores have sold a number of products.”
While Johnson marveled at the healthy start of the Original B’ham product line, he said he wasn’t convinced that he was on to something until a couple of weeks ago.
“I saw the decal on someone’s car–someone I didn’t know–while I was driving down John Hawkins Parkway,” Johnson said. “I didn’t think I had really sold any on this side of town, so it gave me a real boost to see it on that car. I immediately called my wife to tell her about it, and we both thought it was pretty cool.”
Johnson said he’s thrilled that more people are embracing his idea to show their love for the Birmingham area.
“We love our new city, and we want to celebrate it with these products,” he said.
The Original B’ham products aren’t Johnson’s only foray into the creative arts.
A native of Anaheim, Calif., Johnson grew up with a sketchbook in his hand, played guitar and wrote songs.
“I guess I always had a creative outlet, but it’s something I never thought of making a career of,” he said.
Johnson has been in the insurance business for his entire career and said Jason’s Vintage Signs & Designs is just a part-time way for him to flex his creative muscles.
Jason’s Vintage Signs & Designs was actually started before Johnson created the Original B’ham products, he said.
“We’d go on family vacations down to Destin and see these ’30-A’ signs and stickers everywhere,” Johnson said. “We went into all these shops down there that have these quirky sayings painted on driftwood, and that kind of gave me the idea of making the signs.”
Johnson uses disassembled wooden pallets and other scrap wood and hand paints scenes and phrases that resonate with him, he said.
A sign in his living room featuring an image of oranges is an homage to a drive-in movie theater near Johnson’s childhood home in California.
“I’ve done a lot of signs that represent that area and all the beaches from my childhood,” Johnson said. “Those have sold well at arts and crafts fairs.”
Johnson also created a “Sweet Home Alabama” sign and a small wooden replica of the Alabama Theatre’s iconic sign.
“These kind of symbols can draw people back in and remind them of what is great about our area,” he said. “When you talk about Birmingham, you’re talking about all of us, and yes, we can be different and still have some kind of brotherhood.”
And now even the youngest Birmingham fans can show their pride with Original B’ham products.
The company makes infant onesies emblazoned with the logo that are available online and at the Brookwood Medical Center gift shop.
In addition to the B’ham Baby clothes, Johnson also offers the logo on car air fresheners, canvas bags, embroidered hats and front license plates.
To check out the full line of Original B’ham products online, visit www.originalbham.com. To see Johnson’s other work, visit https://www.facebook.com/jasonjohnsonart.