The inside of Inksmith Graphics begs you to start creating something.
The shop, just off College Corner Pike near Walmart, smells strongly of ink and wood. It’s black painted walls are hung with T-shirts and plants dot the windowsills.
It’s 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 let him use his art degree, he worked at a number of different screen-printing shops 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 just building as much clientele as possible.”
When Hamblin started to get busy with orders, he began to think about getting help. Realizing the garage wasn’t the best place to hire employees, he moved the business to its current location.
Matix had separately begun a vinyl business of her own, creating mostly window decals. She and Hamblin decided to join forces not long afterward.
“Luckily we mesh well together,” Matix said.
“Yeah, well, we grew up together so we knew each other's annoying qualities already,” Hamblin said.
In fact, the only adjustment necessary for Hamblin has been getting used to the increased amount of glitter in the store.
“At the end of the night you get home and you're changing and you look and it's just like you got glitter everywhere. And I'm like, why didn't anybody say anything?” Hamblin said. “You know, I look a lot prettier since Crystal's been here.”
“The store does too,” Matix said.
Both Hamblin and Matix are passionate about small businesses in Oxford and eager to help other entrepreneurs.
“I want people who have the passion for printing 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 beginning to end just so you can see what's done. There's no wizard behind the curtain.”
“Between us, we know a whole lot of people so [the community] is something we really care about. We want to see other people succeed and hope they help us succeed as well,” Matix said.
Matix, a Girl Scout troop leader, with two daughters who are scouts, brought one troop in to learn about the printing process.
“We opened up the shop on a Saturday so they could come to learn how to screen print. I gave them three different designs and so they got to see the whole process, how to do it, and they thought it was super cool,” she said.
The shop 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 raise money,” Hamblin said. “I mean, I might not have deep pockets, but if I can get give them the best price possible with shirts, I'm more than willing.”
One of Hamblin’s favorite recent projects was for an English teacher at Talawanda High School whose student created a snake design based on Hamlet.
“He wanted to wear it while they were reading Hamlet, and the design turned out so well. I mean, I just love l 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 gearing up for their next local event: a table at the Oxford Wine Festival on June 1.