The interior of Inkwell graphics begs you to start creating something.
The shop, just off College Corner Pike near Walmart, smells strongly of ink and wood. Its black-painted walls are adorned with t-shirts and plants dot the window sills.
It is operated by James Hamblin and his aunt, Chrystal Matix, both born and raised in Oxford.
Hamblin graduated from the Art Institute of Cincinnati in 2005. Eager to do anything that would put his art degree to use, he worked in several screen printing studios before deciding to open his own.
“I just went on Craigslist and bought some used screen printing equipment,” he said. “I was doing it in my garage and then building as much of a following as I could.”
When Hamblin started getting busy with orders, he started thinking about getting help. Realizing that the garage was not the best place to hire employees, he moved the business to its current location.
Matix had separately started his own vinyl business, primarily creating window decals. She and Hamblin decided to join forces soon after.
“Fortunately, we get along well,” Matix said.
“Yeah, well, we grew up together, so we already knew each other’s annoying qualities,” Hamblin said.
In fact, the only adjustment needed for Hamblin was getting used to the increased amount of sequins in the store.
“At the end of the night, you come home and you get changed and you look and it’s like you have glitter all over the place. And I’m like, why didn’t nobody say anything?” Hamblin said. , I’m much prettier since Crystal is here.”
“The store too,” Matix said.
Hamblin and Matix are passionate about small businesses in Oxford and eager to help other entrepreneurs.
“I want people who are passionate about print or art,” Hamblin said. “If you want to come in and learn how to do it, I want to be able to show you the process from start to finish just so you can see what’s done. There is no wizard behind the curtain.
“Between us, we know a lot of people so [the community] is something that is really close to our hearts. We want to see other people succeed and hope they help us succeed as well,” Matix said.
Matix, a Girl Scout troop leader, along with two Girl Scouts, brought a troop to learn about the printing process.
“We opened the shop on a Saturday for them to come and learn screen printing. I gave them three different models and so they could see the whole process, how to do it, and they thought it was super cool,” she said.
The store helps a number of local fundraisers, making jerseys for local sports teams and creating shirts for events like the Walk for Leukemia and the recent Taylor Metcalf Memorial Hockey Tournament.
“I want them to be able to fundraise,” Hamblin said. “I mean, I may not have deep pockets, but if I can give them the best possible price with shirts, I’m more than willing.”
One of Hamblin’s favorite recent projects was that of a Talawanda High School English teacher whose student created a snake design based on Hamlet.
“He wanted to wear it while they read Hamlet, and the design turned out so well. I mean, I love taking someone’s artwork and being able to put it somewhere so they can wear it every day,” Hamblin said.
Matix and Hamblin are currently preparing for their next local event: a table at the Oxford Wine Festival on June 1st.