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Duluth gets stuck on stickers

Permanent vinyl stickers are hot souvenir items right now, and local artists have crafted many designs available for sale.

Wooden Lake Superior shape, covered in Duluth-themed stickers, is propped on rocks at the lakeshore with lighthouse visible out of focus in the background.
I Love Duluth staff used a wooden outline of Lake Superior to display some of the sticker designs available for purchase at its Canal Park souvenir shop.
Contributed / I Love Duluth
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DULUTH — Every era, it seems, has its own sticker fad. In the 1960s, rectangular bumper stickers proliferated among American drivers who wanted to display their travel history or political preferences for the world to see. In the 1980s, children traded Gremlins hologram stickers and puffy adhesive images of Cabbage Patch Kids. Inspired by European country-of-origin markers, oval decals with state abbreviations or resort insignia became status symbols in the 2000s.

Now, permanent vinyl stickers are the craze of choice for tourists and teens to slap on their stuff.

Transparent racks are filled with colorful stickers for sale, showing various Duluth landmarks.
By May 25, the Canal Park souvenir shop I Love Duluth was well-stocked with stickers for the summer season.
Jay Gabler / Duluth News Tribune

"Look at any college campus or high school campus in the Duluth area," said designer Biff Ulm, of Nisswa sticker-maker Nice Enough. "They're no longer vending plastic water bottles, and this younger generation, they're using the Hydro Flasks, Yeti and that type of (insulated water bottle). They just want something that symbolizes them."

From the 1990s onward, as advances in digital printing technology made it more cost-effective to produce high-quality stickers in limited quantities, small businesses and independent designers started producing their own swag for consumers to sport. "I think the whole sticker culture really started heavily in the breweries," said Ulm. "You can't go to a Duluth brewery without seeing really cool stickers."

Two stickers in the shape of arm patches resting on brick surface: both say DULUTH, MINNESOTA. Left sticker has stylized image of Aerial Lift Bridge; right has stylized image of two trees.
These two stickers, available at Two and Co. in the DeWitt-Seitz Marketplace, feature vintage styling that seems to nod to the "Me Decade."
Jay Gabler / Duluth News Tribune

Superior resident Kateryna Nelson used to work in various Canal Park souvenir shops, and she kept getting customer requests for Duluth-specific sticker designs. "They'd tell you, 'Oh, hey, do you have a sticker with a ship going through the (Aerial Lift) Bridge?'" she said. "We didn't have anything. No one made those designs, because for bigger companies, it's hard to make a custom design specifically for one account."

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Two stickers, photographed on a cloth background: black and white images of a cat head and a puppy, each wearing Viking helmets.
These adventurous animal stickers, available at Siiviis Gallery in Canal Park, come from Minneapolis wholesaler Lilleknappen. "We designed these years ago and they've been best sellers for us (along with other items that share this image), which has been fun to see," wrote Lilleknappen owner Anna Bloomstrand in an email to the News Tribune. "I like that they suggest taking our toughness a little tenderly."
Jay Gabler / Duluth News Tribune

After receiving an iPad as a gift from her husband, Nelson drew on her experience as an artist to digitally design the kind of stickers customers were looking for. Now, she's left the retail trade to run a company called Art Factory with her husband, Claude Nelson, producing stickers and other souvenirs to sell via Etsy and in shops like the ones where she used to work.

"I'm just doing the designs, and my husband's putting them all together. We have printers (and) a heat press, just making (our products) at home," said Nelson. "We also have some magnets made in Ukraine, supporting Ukrainian small business. I'm from Ukraine, so we're just trying to help out."

Two stickers resting on windowsill: one with drawing of Sasquatch and caption I SAW BIGFOOT IN DULUTH, another with stylized woodland sunset image and caption I FRICK'N LOVE IT HERE IN DULUTH
These two stickers by Nice Enough are available for sale at Trailfitters in the Fitger's mall. The Bigfoot picture was drawn with marker, and the sunset woodland image was made with gouache paint. Artist Biff Ulm said he also has an "uncensored version" of the sticker at right, but the version seen here is more popular.
Jay Gabler / Duluth News Tribune

Local retailers visited by the News Tribune last week confirmed that vinyl stickers are popular items, especially with their younger customers. "The tag line for our company is 'tattoos for your stuff,' and we think of it like that," said Ulm. "Kids are using Chromebooks in school instead of textbooks, so they want to decorate those things."

Duluth artist Barb Collette works primarily in stained glass, in partnership with her husband, Jim. "The stained glass images, the windows, are a little pricey," she said. In sticker form, the Collettes' designs become more accessible.

"You can purchase them, put them on your car, put them on your water bottle. It's just affordable art for everybody," she said.

Sticker in the shape of Minnesota, outline filled with a green-tinted image of misty woods on a hill.
This sticker, available at Goat Hill Marketplace in Lincoln Park's Enger Lofts, is produced by Montana-based Wildflower Paper Co. "I grew up in Minnesota and always loved spending time in the forest, so that was the inspiration for the sticker," Wildflower founder Katie Eney wrote in an email to the News Tribune. "It is made from a watercolor painting I did."
Jay Gabler / Duluth News Tribune
A round sticker features a white lighthouse against a shimmering northern lights background with the words "Duluth, Minnesota" in script at the sticker's edges.
The extensive sticker selection at Minnesota Gifts in the DeWitt-Seitz Marketplace includes this silvery image of Duluth's nearby North Pier Light: one of Kateryna Nelson's Art Factory designs.
Jay Gabler / Duluth News Tribune
A white rectangular sticker features eight Duluth landmarks configured in the shapes of letters spelling FLAGSHIP.
This sticker, available at Canal Park apparel and design shop Flagship, was designed by Luke Pelant.
Jay Gabler / Duluth News Tribune
Stickers reading I TOUCHED A STURGEON, GREAT LAKES AQUARIUM and I TOUCHED A JELLYFISH, GREAT LAKES AQUARIUM
Great Lakes Aquarium visitors can purchase stickers, designed by Duluth's JS Print Group, bragging about their underwater encounters.
Jay Gabler / Duluth News Tribune
A sticker featuring the Superior Hiking Trail logo, with birds flying over three stylized green hills.
Duluth Pack sells stickers for outdoors enthusiasts who want to show off the trademarked logo of the Superior Hiking Trail Association, a nonprofit organization that maintains the trail. Revenues from sticker sales help support trail maintenance.
Jay Gabler / Duluth News Tribune
Two stickers resting on countertop: an orange book image with the words "Read Banned Books" in script on its cover; and a sticker in the shape of Minnesota with a woodcut-style image of a solo canoer on a moonlit lake inset
Stickers for sale at the Bookstore at Fitger's encourage adventure, literary and otherwise. The left sticker is from Gibbs Smith, a Utah publisher. The right sticker was designed by Sarah Angst, an artist who grew up in Canada, went to college at the University of Minnesota Duluth, and is currently based in Montana. "Moving to Duluth changed the trajectory of my life and I am so grateful for it," Angst wrote in a 2020 blog post. About the image on this sticker, she wrote in the same post: "Living in northern Minnesota has inspired so many of my images. 'Solitude' ... is a personal (and customer!) favorite."
Jay Gabler / Duluth News Tribune
A "Duluth Minnesota" sticker in the shape of a diamond, with futuristic-looking vertical lines spreading from the base of the diamond to the city's name at the top.
Great Lakes Fleet, or Starfleet? This sticker, a Monroe Mae design, is for sale at the Canal Park souvenir shop I Love Duluth.
Jay Gabler / Duluth News Tribune
Two stickers lying on weathered stone surface: a ship going under the Aerial Lift Bridge, depicted as being in a glass bottle; and a Minnesota license plate reading DULUTH.
Two of Kateryna Nelson's designs available for sale at On Point, a souvenir shop in Canal Park. Nelson admitted she isn't the only person to have created an image of a Minnesota license plate with the city's name on it. "A lot of people have the same idea," she said with a laugh.
Jay Gabler / Duluth News Tribune
Round sticker with green-and-yellow image of waterside campsite with smoking fire, on a sheet branded FUN FOLKS: "Art stickers make everything more fun!'
The cozy view on this sticker, for sale at J. Skylark Co. in the DeWitt-Seitz Marketplace, was created by Minneapolis artist Adam Turman. "Tent and Campfire is a part of my outdoor series; Canoe, Moose and Moon, Lighthouse and Tent and Campfire," Turman said in a statement via email to the News Tribune. "The image riffs off of my original BWCA and S'mores screen prints, celebrating all Minnesota's love of the great outdoors."
Jay Gabler / Duluth News Tribune
Two stickers showing stained glass windows: one with two brown fish swimming amid seaweed, the other showing a window-within-a-window design of tall pine trees.
These stickers, featuring stained-glass windows designed by Barb and Jim Collette, of Duluth, are available at Trailfitters — where Barb also works as a sales associate — in the Fitger's mall. The image on the left features brown trout. "We've talked to fishermen in the past, and they helped us color code those," said Barb Collette. The window at right was inspired by telescope images of the northern lights.
Jay Gabler / Duluth News Tribune
Sticker on stained wooden surface features coffee cup and biscotti on saucer, with "190°" drawn into foam on coffee drink
This sticker at 190° Coffee and Tea, in Lincoln Park's Enger Lofts, was designed by Antonia Starzl, of Duluth. "I love to create art based on the things around me," wrote Starzl in an email to the News Tribune, "and I was so excited to design a sticker for a place I was already a consistent customer of."
Jay Gabler / Duluth News Tribune
Sticker featuring hand-drawn Aerial Lift Bridge among trees and the words DULUTH, MN
This sticker, available at North and Shore in Enger Lofts, was designed by Duluth's Samantha Nielsen, who works professionally as SJ Nielsen. "This was actually one of the first stickers I created several years ago," she wrote in an email to the News Tribune. "Initially I knew I wanted a design that captured my love of Duluth, and the Lift Bridge with some pines seemed like the obvious choice. A few years later though, I was sorting through some old artwork from college and found a print I had made in my printmaking class. It was almost the exact same design ... just in print form. Funny how you can think you’re creating something brand new, but little moments from past pieces still stick with you!"
Jay Gabler / Duluth News Tribune
A sticker in the shape of Lake Superior, with the Aerial Lift Bridge visible inset, rests on a wooden surface.
This small sticker, combining imagery of the Aerial Lift Bridge with Lake Superior, is available at the Visit Duluth visitor center in Canal Park.
Jay Gabler / Duluth News Tribune
Two stickers depict heads of dogs wearing floral wreaths
These two stickers available at A Place for Fido at the Fitger's mall may not specifically reference Duluth, but dog lovers may take their floral theme as a nod to the city's Scandinavian heritage as it relates to midsummer celebrations.
Jay Gabler / Duluth News Tribune
Sticker with three evergreen trees, rendered in yellow-green against deeper green background, their roots visible with tallest tree in center.
This sticker, available at Naturalight Candles in the DeWitt-Seitz Marketplace, was created by the Golden Valley company Soul Flower. "The love of the outdoors and being kind to the earth is a huge influence to Soul Flower as a company and to me personally," wrote the company's Ryan Seitz in an email to the News Tribune. "We call this design 'Sacred Pine' and it is meant to remind people of the interconnectedness of all living things."
Jay Gabler / Duluth News Tribune
Two stickers, photographed against cloth background, show drawings of the Aerial Lift Bridge and Enger Tower garnished with wildflowers.
The Aerial Lift Bridge and Enger Tower are garnished with wildflowers in these stickers, available at Northwoods Confections and Gifts in Canal Park. Duluth watercolor artist Eva Hoven, doing business as Minnesota Nice Design, created the images. "I knew I wanted to paint the Aerial Lift Bridge but I had seen a lot of Aerial Lift Bridge art," wrote Hoven in an email to the News Tribune. "I wanted to try and do something different. So I went with a whimsical, floral theme and loved it! Then I started thinking about other Duluth landmarks I could paint and Enger Tower came to mind. I decided to start a 'collection' of sorts and continue with the floral theme. I am already dreaming of what other landmarks I’ll paint in the future!"
Two stickers resting on a window sill. The left sticker has a stylized orange-tinted treatment of a tree, with the words "Duluth Minnesota" in Cooper Black font. The right sticker has a stylized treatment of a sunset with the words GREAT LAKES: ERIE, HURON, MICHIGAN, ONTARIO, SUPERIOR
These two stylish Monroe Mae stickers are among those for sale at Up North the Good Life, a souvenir shop in Canal Park.
Jay Gabler / Duluth News Tribune
Three stickers representing different varieties of Fitger's products: Driftwood Draft Root Beer (turtle image), Superior Trail IPA (image of moose carrying canoe on his antlers), Starfire Pale Ale (rocket image)
Stickers representing different beverages produced by Fitger's Brewhouse are available at the Duluth establishment's adjoining Beer Store.
Jay Gabler / Duluth News Tribune
Photo of mirrored store display densely packed with dozens of different Duluth-related sticker designs.
Dozens of different sticker designs are available at the I Love Duluth souvenir shop in Canal Park.
Jay Gabler / Duluth News Tribune

Artists on Instagram

The stickers featured here are just a small selection of the designs available for sale at retail stores and other establishments across Duluth. Many of the designers whose work is featured here are active on Instagram; here's a selection of their accounts.

Sarah Angst: @sarahangstart
Art Factory: @art_factory_twinports
Lilleknappen: @lilleknappen
Minnesota Nice Design: @minnesotanicedesign
Nice Enough: @nice.enough.stickers
SJ Nielsen: @sj_nielsen
Soul Flower: @soulflowerbuds
Antonia Starzl: @everydayantoniamae
Adam Turman: @adamturman
Wildflower Paper Co.: @wildflowerpapermt

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This story was updated at 3:50 p.m. May 31 to add information about the designers of three stickers. It was originally posted at 8 a.m. May 31. 

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Arts and entertainment reporter Jay Gabler joined the Duluth News Tribune in February 2022. His previous experience includes eight years as a digital producer at The Current (Minnesota Public Radio), four years as theater critic at Minneapolis alt-weekly City Pages, and six years as arts editor at the Twin Cities Daily Planet. He's a co-founder of pop culture and creative writing blog The Tangential; and a member of the National Book Critics Circle. You can reach him at jgabler@duluthnews.com or 218-279-5536.
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