Using cast-off license plates in unique ways, Gahanna Ohio resident and artist Floyd Appleman has created a thriving business called Rustic Apple Art that is capturing international attention. As fans of his work (after he participated in our Gahanna Convention & Visitors Bureau events including the Creekside Blues & Jazz Festival and Holiday Lights Celebration) we chatted with Floyd to learn more about his journey …
What is Rustic Apple Art and when was it established?
We create and sell license plate signs, art, and other rustic pieces. I created it in early 2015 and we have grown a lot in a short time.
What inspired you to start creating this kind of art?
My mom was an avid crafter and decorator when I was growing up (and she still is). She decorated our house, at first for every holiday, and has moved into a theme for every month. (June features cows for national dairy month.) My dad LOVES cars and I have been to many car shows with him over the years (’56 Chevy Bel Aire is his favorite). The combination of my hobbies through the years and my mom and dad’s influences helped inspire me to create Rustic Apple Art.
What is your background?
I have degree in Finance from The Ohio State University and a “masters” in enjoying colors, travel, and people, which go along nicely with collecting and creating with license plates. I enjoy creating pieces for people when they bring me their plates. To hear the stories of a family’s travels and life experiences when they had those plates along for the ride makes the art piece—made with those plates—mean so much more to my customers. I love being able to help customers create a nostalgic art piece out of something that was previously stored in a box in the garage or basement. For customers who don’t have their old plates tucked away somewhere, I have plenty of plates to create something that will be meaningful for them.
How do you find your materials?
I have been a license plate collector for years and after running out of room to store them, I started creating pieces to sell to support my habit. Flea markets, eBay, Craigslist, and donations have helped me build my collection of plates. I love the nostalgia that goes with each of my creations. I think it’s pretty cool knowing that an old Ohio plate, say from 1966, once traveled and was destined to be put in my hands to create a custom Ohio sign for someone.
What inspires your designs?
How I live my life inspires my designs. I’m a very positive person and that leads to many license plate signs that have a positive message such as “Dream Big” and “Be Epic.” My love of World War II aviation history has led to plane designs and my love of animals led me to “FIN,” my 6 foot long license plate shark, plus the cardinal–which is my wife’s favorite piece.
What’s the most unusual piece you’ve ever created?
I often do customized pieces in which I add a family name or phrase by request. Occasionally I take on more complex commissioned work. A piece I just completed was the Pathfinder badge for a military family. It was a little outside my comfort zone design-wise, but I like to take on projects like this every once in a while, to help me grow as an artist.
How has your business grown over the past few years?
My brother and I started out in a few flea markets and really received great feedback from customers. Columbus has a strong Made Local community and we were fortunate enough to get accepted in several local retailers specializing in locally made products. We are now in 9 locations around Ohio and continue to do festivals and Ohio arts and crafts shows. Country Living magazine even contacted us recently and featured one of our pieces in the July/ August issue. That really increased our online and social media presence.
What makes Gahanna a good place for your business?
Gahanna festivals have been getting bigger and bigger every year. We moved to Gahanna 14 years ago and are so happy to be raising our family here. The Creekside Blues and Jazz Festival in 2015 was our first big show and the Visit Gahanna team that put on the show could not have been any more supportive. We had the pleasure of participating in the festival again this summer, as well as the Holiday Lights Celebration last November. I love sharing my work with the community that I call home! I buy a lot of my supplies locally from Gahanna Hardware. Twyla and the staff there are amazing. They have assisted me with supplies for my business and many home improvement projects. They even started telling customers they can drop off license plate donations for us, which makes for a great example of Gahanna businesses supporting each other.
What’s the furthest your art has ever “traveled” to find a new home? (As far as you know.)
I sold a piece to couple from Norway who were visiting Ohio, and I have shipped a sign to a pub owner in England. The pub owner ended up emailing me and wanted to know what state each letter was from so he could tell his patrons when they asked.
Where can people find your art?
Social Media: Rustic Apple Art on Facebook, @RusticAppleArt on Instagram and Twitter
- Celebrate Local at Easton and Liberty Center (Cincinnati)
- Simply Vague at Tuttle Crossing and Polaris malls
- Wholly Craft on High Street
- Ohio Made in Pickerington
- Urban Emporium in Bexley
- Heart & Soul in Lancaster
Anything advice for those who are looking for follow their creative passion?
I love passionate people and I want to reassure people that they really can achieve anything they want in life with hard work. One of my favorite quotes is from Denzel Washington: “Dreams without goals remain dreams.” (There’s a great YouTube video also). Write your goals down, then read them every day and go after them with discipline and consistent action. My current success is due to others giving me this same message that nothing is impossible and you don’t fail unless you give up. Never give up!