The Lincoln County Dispatch

November 19, 2014

Jeffery Shirley, Artist

Yachats is the home to quite a few creative people and one of them is Jeffery Shirley of Jeffery Shirley Designs. If you live in Yachats or visit Yachats you’ve probably seen some of Jeffery’s work. I had a chance to catch up with him and asked him to tell folks about who he is and what he does.

By Rick Schultze

Jeffery installs a new sign on the fence he designed for Ocean Haven.

How long have you lived in Yachats?

“My wife, Zeora Sage and I moved to Yachats seven years ago this November 27th.”

What brought you to Yachats?

“The scenery and opportunity to be inspired by it, I had been painting “Fantasy” scenes of this place long before finding that it actually existed. Zeora came back from a trip to help a friend move to Washington and said “I know where we should move!” After getting her friend moved in she drove down the coast and fell in love with Yachats.”

What is Jeffery Shirley Designs?

“I’ve got a very eclectic background in the arts. My “Day Job” has been printing, graphic design and marketing for 30 years but I’ve also done costume design, sculpting, painting, mold making for cement casting, custom book binding, ceramics… it would be faster to list what I haven’t done, stained glass windows. I’m looking forward to learning that next. So when I started my own business I didn’t want to be limited to one thing. The word designs is sort of all encompassing, I believe art can be applied to anything with just a little thought.

It’s working out great too.

In the last two years, besides designing the usual print media, and signs for local businesses I’ve done custom wrought iron sign brackets like the latest one for The Drift Inn’s new sign behind the restaurant. I designed that and with Newport Signs help fabricated it in stainless steel so it’ll stand up to Oregon weather. I also got to build a 10 foot tall amanita mushroom for a charity event. It’s now standing in my front yard, it’s got a steel frame, covered in papermache with a polystyrene hard-coat to protect it from weather. When Ocean Haven needed a fence around the business I designed one with a wave pattern across the top. I didn’t build it, I drew up the designs and created the cut path for the Shopbot at Newport Signs that cut the wave into the tops of the cedar boards. When there’s something I don’t do myself I can usually find an expert that can help me get it done. It’s not easy to market for something as vague as “Whatever you can imagine, or ask me to imagine for you.” But people are starting to call for things I would never have thought of on my own. Like a lady who asked if I could make a headstone for her late husband designed with a winged Terrapin… a turtle. I hadn’t had an occasion to do cement casting since moving here but it was a fun challenge and she seemed very happy with the result. Now that I’ve broken the ice again on that craft I’m itching to do more, I think cement garden art or furniture would be fun.

So Jeffery Shirley Designs is a source for whatever creativity you need to make your business a success, from marketing materials, flyers, posters, business forms or brochures, to maps, signs, makeovers for your business, branding and curb appeal. At least forty thousand people a year visit the coast, you need to present yourself as exceptional in whatever business you have so some of them stop and take a look. We’re seeing more and more of that now, I love what some business owners are doing to stand out from the competition. It’s not enough to be the best, you have look like the best so people will give you a try… even if it’s ‘just’ a bakery or gift shop. If you look like the best, and provide the best, you can expect more customers and get what you deserve for your product.”

How did you get into designing?

“As a kid I was always reinventing things. I was the kid that spray painted the KFC bucket silver, stuck an ostrich feather in it and used it as a helmet for a knight’s costume on Halloween. I’ve always noticed how others had designed something and couldn’t help but think about how it could be improved or just done differently. When I see something done really well I ask myself what about it makes it so successful, and when I see something done poorly…. that’s a learning opportunity too. I can’t think of anything that can’t be lifted to the level of an art form if you just take the time. So many people have told me they’re not artistic… “I can’t even draw a straight line!” … but after a few minutes talk I find that they love gardening, or working with wood, cooking or tinkering with old cars. If you’ve ever seen the carburetor of a 64 Mustang taken apart and put back together by an expert, you’ve seen an artist at work.

The top definition of art on dictionary dot com is ‘The quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.’

…and anything can be of more than ordinary significance if you care about it.”

What was your background?

“My background for my day job? The one that paid the bills… I started working for the largest print shop in Orange County California in 1982 making plates for the presses. I took the graveyard shift so I could go to school in the daytime. There are four community colleges within 50 miles and over the next 20 years I took classes at all of them, I signed up for “Credit/No Credit” rather than a grade so I could keep taking classes over and over to use the equipment. Ceramics, glass blowing, woodworking, sewing, photography… all the arts including Graphic Design. At night I learned the printing craft, by 1988 I had gained journeyman status as a stripper…. no, not that kind… A stripper composited film to create images, the word was from back in the days of glass plates with silver coatings. I was the youngest journeymen in Orange County and got to enjoy that status for about five years until everything went digital. Desktop printing had begun to emerge in the late ‘80s but didn’t really take over the industry until the mid-‘90s. The shop I worked in had three shifts with 12 strippers each, almost overnight everyone was laid off and four guys with Macintosh computers were doing it all.

“I had seen it coming so I started teaching myself to use a Mac. I was shop foreman on the graveyard shift in 1992 and spent a few hours every night studying Mac manuals, there were no schools back then. I had to teach myself. When the ax came down and everyone was let go I made the transition to graphic design. Those four guys on the Mac’s were just setting up the designers files to print, I wanted to be the one creating the designs. My first design job was with a little printing & design company that had just bought their first four color Heidelberg press. I was hired because I understood how to set up files for the press, and everything else… I also set up the darkroom, and taught the owner’s son how to run the equipment. By then graphic design schools were teaching desktop publishing but kids graduating didn’t know anything about the process of printing. I had a head start.

Then in 2000 I got my first marketing job.

I started working at United Yellow Pages designing marketing materials but was also given the “Redheaded stepchild” of the departments…. the community section. No one wanted to deal with it, it was considered a dead end expense. Other phone book companies had them, so they had to have one too. It’s the section without ads that just lists things people need to know like government numbers and local churches and hospitals. The first year there I became the first non-sales employee to win the President’s Choice award, an award that usually went to the top selling sales person. Over the years my section of the book grew to 56 pages in 65 books covering most of California. My thinking on that section of the book was that it was vital information everyone could use so I started creating guides to even more vital information. Youth activities, addiction & drug abuse hotlines, disability services, hotlines for child support, bankruptcy advice, student loan relief, mortgage payment assistance… I knew so many people who needed help but didn’t know where to find it, or that help was even available. To pay for those guides I started selling banner space at the top of each page. An insurance company might want to be at the top of the section for disaster relief, or a pizza parlor on the page for youth sports. I was given the title Director of Marketing Research and continued to receive the President’s Choice award every year for the remainder of my stay at United Yellow Pages.”

From your web page you explain a bit more about your “day job”

“This page is about art, both fine art and graphic design. I’ve studied the arts all my life and make my living with it, graphic design is my “Day Job” but I’ve done a little bit of everything and will be sharing upcoming projects.

For graphic design I charge $45 an hour but I’m willing to work a sliding scale for start up businesses, give me a call. I consider it an investment to help someone get started.

For fine art, or other creative endeavors, I like challenges. If you have an idea you’d like to discuss I’d love to hear about it. If I can’t help you realize it, I probably know someone who can!”

How is Jeffery Shirley Designs received by the community?

“I don’t know you’d have to ask the community. Many of my clients are out of the area, that’s the great thing about the Internet, I can work with people all over the country. I just built websites for someone in San Diego and in Bend, and created some Photoshop special effects images for a company in Canada. My goal is to build my business locally, and gradually build a studio that can accommodate all the different kinds of things I enjoy doing. Eventually I’ll need a showroom or gallery to sell things I make. My house is getting filled up with art, if I sell it I’ll have room to make more.”

Do you ever work with other local businesses?

“All the time! I’d like to build a network of complementary business services. I work with Steve Travis at Fresh Print Newport when I need printing, and with Ken Spencer at Newport Signs when I need a sign fabricated and installed… he’s excellent! I recently met Chris Sherwood of Sherwood Consulting, an IT expert that does a lot more than Internet technology and have referred one of my clients to him. I like to be able to offer small business owners services they need, and be able to send business to people like Ken, Steve and Chris. I can make the introduction, or be the middleman for people too busy to do it themselves.

Also I think cross promotions are very helpful for small businesses. I suggested to a friend and client, Franny Matsco at Loofa Soaps & Creations, who makes hand made bath products that she get together with a local candy store and wine shop and find a jewelry maker to offer gift baskets. Imagine a romantic Christmas gift that’s bubble bath, a bottle of wine, chocolate, and a necklace or ear rings… They could all have the baskets in their shops, and the four of them going in together on promotions spreads the cost. One quarter the expense of promoting a great gift from all the stores. It doesn’t have to be competition, like the wine store against the candy store… with a little creativity and cooperation everyone can win.”

What does the future hold for Jeffery Shirley Designs?

“I’ll always offer graphic design, I enjoy it, but I would like to expand into more creative areas. I’ve been thinking of opening a place with a showroom or gallery where I can feature the work of friends, that also has a studio big enough for everything from steel fabrication to costume making, and while I’m waiting for someone to come look at the gallery I can work in the studio or sit at my desk and build websites or design marketing materials.

I might have to change the name of the business to Jeffery’s Imaginarium or some such.”

Let’s Work Together


If I don’t know how to do what you’re looking for I can learn, and if I can’t learn it I probably know someone that knows how. I’m always happy to discuss creative endeavors and help you achieve your goals.