Artist Spotlight:
Daena Johnson
Bart Sullivan, 08-27-2019

One of many wallets made by Cuyahoga Falls artist Daena Johnson, created from pages of comic books.
Daena Johnson
By looking at the current blockbuster movies and top children’s’ cartoons, it is not difficult to see what audiences are enjoying in pop culture. Superheroes are beyond popular, especially given the continuing Marvel Cinematic Universe. Fans watch the shows, follow the movies, dress as the characters, read the comics from which these characters originate, and purchase ephemera wherever it may be sold. For local artist Daena Johnson, though, she wanted more from the products available.

“I started making wallets from comics because I wanted one for myself,” Johnson explained. “I know I am not the first person to do this, but I couldn't find a wallet that was made at a high enough quality.” Using comics, Johnson used her love of fashion design to map out different images and scenes to present a portable story that is not only in the shape of a strong, usable wallet, but also an unconventional art piece. “I still want it to be a great conversation starter and something eye-catching,” she said. “While I will splice panels together to fit a certain pattern piece better, I want the wallet to still ‘make sense.’ It might not be completely readable, but I try to be clever with the speech bubble placement.” After assembly, each piece is laminated, allowing the wallet to withstand minor spills or exposure to the elements, and then hand-sewn into its final form without using any adhesive, such as tape or glue, as a mass-produced product might be made. Thanks to this process, her wallets have been known to last a minimum of 2-3 years.

While her company ReGeeked has only been around since 2011, she has been creative for as long as she remembers. “I think I just always knew I was [an artist] and that I would end up doing something creative with my life” she recalled. “I am very fortunate to have a mother who is a naturally gifted artist who brought us up in a home with limitless outlets for creative expression.”

Since starting ReGeeked, Johnson’s business has expanded immensely to include bi- and trifolds, card holders, checkbook and passport covers, luggage tags, and even pins & keychains made from smaller comic images unusable in bigger pieces. “The most challenging part is definitely the pattern making process for a new design. I go through a couple cardboard and scrap paper prototypes before I go in with any actual comic books.”

In addition to her wallets, Johnson continues to work with as many different mediums as she can. Having shown her photography and two-dimensional art at multiple local shows in the area, though, she said her “one first true love and passion was fashion design and sewing either with traditional textiles or some not-so-traditional materials,” which she originally attributes to the show Project Runway. This passion has shown itself in the many costumes she has created and worn as a cosplayer at different conventions where she sells her products

Johnson says she loves her hometown and everything it offers, especially how it has impacted her work. Recently closed Studio 2091 on Front Street was the first business to offer her wallets for sale, and she has joined CraftyMart during its first two years in downtown Cuyahoga Falls. No matter what she is making or where it may be, Johnson sees the freedom she has to create and the limitless options available.“I'll never get bored, because when I start to, I can always find a new medium to work with or a new skill to learn” she said. As a result, her work and the ReGeeked business continue to prosper 8 years later, but she remains sentimental: “I still have that first wallet and now there are hundreds of ReGeeked comic book wallets all over the word.”

Daena Johnson’s work can be found online and is available to purchase at https://regeeked.com.


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