Sarah Evans and Laura Shoemaker are the owners of ten-year old Appalachian Signs in Boone, North Carolina. Appalachian State University is where they’d both earned undergraduate degrees in 2000 — Sarah in music and business, Laura with a fine arts degree in sculpture. They loved the area and wanted to find a way to start a creative business there, and by 2005 they’d opened up Appalachian Signs.
The company designs and builds a variety of custom signs, from combination CNC’d and hand-carved wood signs, to custom-cut lettering and logos, to printed vinyl signs. They split the responsibilities to a degree, with Laura handling customer service and administration (as well as most of the printing), and Sarah running their ShopBot CNC and doing most of the hand woodwork as well.
I caught up with Sarah recently to learn more about their work. “To us, this business is about art and design,” Sarah said. “Our job is to express the essence of a unique company. We strive to make things of beauty as well as functionality.”
By about 2008 they knew they wanted to be able to do more creative and technically complex dimensional work for their customers — this meant stepping up and purchasing a CNC tool. To Sarah the ShopBot was the natural choice because of its smart design and reputation for reliability. “We knew ShopBot meant quality — it’s kind of like, if you want an iPhone, you have to buy an iPhone.”
Sarah said that they didn’t have much knowledge of working with CNC at the time of purchase, but with a background in vector drawing and working with plotters, things came together quickly for them.
“The ShopBot tool has met and exceeded expectations,” noted Sarah. “You really find that with CNC, the world is your oyster — the possibilities are endless. For us working in the sign world, CNC allows you to come up with whole new engineering concepts.”
“Even at a basic level, it’s a game changer for us. For example, a lot of customers will come to us looking for sandblasted signs; they really like that look. Well with the ShopBot, we can program the tool to essentially cut so that it creates a sandblasted look without the intense labor of traditional sandblasting technique. This is just the beginning of the tool’s capabilities for us — and we’re also creating non-sign work such as cutting out guitar bodies, making massive Christmas yard decorations, creating all kinds of materials for carpenters…and we even built a whole new kitchen using the tool.”
So yes! Sarah and Laura are big fans of ShopBot. Here’s some of their eye-catching work: