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Our Philosophy

The Jon Wye company started in 2004 after a first date and has grown to be internationally-recognized for our designs with a permanent location in Washington, DC and traveling events throughout the year. We're the first company to use belts as canvases for artists creating one-of-a-kind designs on the finest quality leather, and now the best cotton shirts we can find. We take pop culture and add our own influences. We make almost everything by hand in our workshop in Washington, DC, and we try our hardest to get all of our materials and supplies from the USA. We make awesome!

Our Story

I floundered after college. I worked in day care, taught rock climbing at the local gym (and handed out towels), and spent four years answering phones at a PR firm. I had no idea what direction to take, but wanted so desperately to do something creative with my life. I was the guy in school that would ramble on about living up to your potential... and I wasn't.

To set the scene: Imagine me on my couch with my dog Fred, eating tuna melts and watching Star Trek marathons. Imagine me wearing a gym uniform t-shirt almost everyday (most likely with food stains), with the daily contemplation of a shower, and consequent failure. My best friend, and then roommate, Jacob, was working hard on his first video game which would eventually launch for the XBox. In a moment of desperation, Jacob, a very passive person, yelled at me, "You have all this potential and all you do is sit on the couch and watch TV!"

I was a deer in headlights.

It was the kick I needed. I had no idea where to start, but I was being left behind by all my friends, and I just needed to do something. I tried sculpting, chocolate truffle making, writing. None of it was clicking with me, but then I met a girl. I had this idea for making belt buckles out of wax carvings — the kind of wax grandmas use for canning jams and fruits — and then casting them in plaster to eventually make pewter belt buckles. So our first date was making belt buckles (top points for best creative date ever!) and she was hooked after that. To tell you the truth, so was I.

She moved to Barcelona, a move scheduled before we met, and I was left with lots of time on my hands: I had spent nearly everyday with this girl. So I started a company. First I made belt buckles, then belts, and all of them very horribly crafted in my bedroom. I feel grateful that all my fans who have these "unique" first-run belts and buckles treat them like collectors items because otherwise they might be better served as door stops. Since January 2nd, 2004 I've been hard at work making this company grow, often waking up and not knowing what in the heck I was going to do that day. I set up shop at every local craft show I could find and became a regular vendor at the Eastern Market Farmers' Market in DC.

All in all, I found my mission and my passion. It's both addictive and inspiring to others, and now the company is so much more than me. It is comprised of artists from around the world and a team of amazing people that are more and more like a family.

The Collective

  • Jon Wye
    Owner & CEO

    I started the company because of a first date with a girl named Piper. I learned responsibility from a girl named Nikki. I became more outgoing, more of a salesman, because of my friend, and now photographer, Keith Lane. The company started taking off because of a stranger, and customer, and now confidant, Jeff Ball, taking a chance on me. I learned to surround myself with such good people because of my family and two childhood friends, Jacob and Brian.

    I'm a little lucky. I work extremely hard. I try to hold myself to the Platinum Rule. I seek more from life than would have been allotted me in a normal course of events.

    If a poetic rendition of my life were made into a movie I would be the son of the factory worker who wants to take in more of the world. In reality I am the son of two very smart and hard working parents, so to push myself to be more than that can hurt my little brain at times. I push myself to be more as a sign of gratitude. I take the support they have given me and have chosen to create a life that can potentially have a bigger, more positive, impact on the world.

    I have no clue where I'm going with this. I open my mind to the universe and vomit what I am told...that my friends is called creativity. I'm hoping it all means something. And I think it does. For me it's all about the journey, not the destination.

  • Jeff Ball

    Let it never be said that it?s a bad idea to send drunken emails.

    That's how Jeff Ball began his employment at Jon Wye Industries. In late 2008, Jeff had two other jobs for large corporations, and was feeling used and unimportant there. After a little soul searching, he decided that he should do something that he was really and actually interested in. Jeff owned a couple of Jon's products, and loved the brand. After a night of cocktails, inebriated and contemplating volunteering in the Jon Wye workshop, Jeff sent an email inquiring if Jon needed an apprentice. After several days of no response, Jeff assumed he wasn't interested.

    Finally, Jon contacted Jeff and set up a meeting, and Jeff began working in an icy workshop when he had time. It became increasingly obvious that the work required two employees as the company began to grow. Exhausted of his full time job, Jeff explained that he could work for him full time, and if he were able to pay his bills, his time belonged to the growth of the company. Jeff quit his job, and lived off of his savings. He and Jon hit the road on a whirlwind tour of these beautiful United States.

    As their friendship grew, so did the company. They decided to open up a holiday shop in New York City, and it worked. Jeff worked over twelve hours a day for sixty-five days straight, sleeping on an air mattress in New York every night. Based on the success of the winter show, Jon and Jeff were approached to open their first permanent store in the Limelight Marketplace. The store was received well, and was really embraced by the community.

    As they prepare for the future, Jeff realizes his life has changed incredibly since moving to DC; he?s worked hard and feels rewarded. It still amazes him that one drunk email has awarded him the presidency at a clothing company that he loves, his engagement, new friendships that will last a lifetime, and the chance to travel and live in some of the greatest places in the country.

  • Misael Armendariz

    Misael lives in Auburn WA. He’s married and has four kids. Misael received a BA in Media Arts and Animation from the Art Institute of Phoenix. He has worked in concept art and architecture visualization in Phoenix, made commercials in Minnesota, and has been making games since 2005. Misael is currently working as an artist at PopCap Games and does freelance illustration and fine art. For fun, he juggles chainsaws lit on fire while base jumping.

  • D Billy

    D Billy (David William) was born in Hamilton NY, got hisself edjamacated in Studio Art at SUNY Fredonia and the University of Connecticut, rocked it for a while in Baltimore and then D.C., and is now based in Brooklyn. He makes things and does stuff, some evidence of which can be perused at DBILLY.COM. He takes turns writing words about art, storytelling, weirdness and nerdy things at ANDIAMNOTLYING.COM with a few other folks. He writes fewer words more frequently at TWITTER.COM/D_BILLY, if you're into that sort of thing. He believes with all of his heart and soul that the sandwich was the greatest invention of all time, and will fight anyone who says otherwise. Chances are, he wants to be your friend. Unless you hate sandwiches.

  • Nina Carelli

    Nina Carelli was spawned on the island of Martha's Vineyard. She flourished there in a swampy habitat while drawing and warding off predators. She relocated to New York City and completed her BFA at School of Visual Arts. You may find Nina in Brooklyn, NY, lurking through galleries and the realms of self-published artist books, zines. For more information, visit www.ninacarelli.com

    photo credit: Steph Leibowitz.

  • Cryssy Cheung

    Cryssy Cheung is a New York-based illustrator and designer. She is deeply influenced by such artists as Chiara “Milk” Bautista, Stina Persson, and the posters of Alphonse Mucha. Trained at an early age and refined at SVA to appreciate and experiment with the Adobe Creative Suite, Cryssy utilizes these programs to create vivid dreamscapes populated by evocative characters with a diverse array of motives. Online, Cryssy can be found at www.cryssycheung.com and she’d like you to know anything cute and small really does it for her.

  • Mercedes Crespo

    Mercedes Crespo was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador and started making art when she was 14 years old. She came to the US to pursue her dream of making art and graduated with an animation degree. Mercedes found that she liked animation but not creating it; and ultimately felt as if she’d wasted four years of her life. She even considered giving up on art and going back to school to get into the medical field. Little did she know that decision was going to lead her where she is today.

    After years of working many retail jobs, restaurants, electronic stores, and even small clinics, she finally found her real passion in life: character illustrations. Mercedes started out doing stickers for fun and when people liked the stickers and style, Yema was born. Mercedes is very happy with how much she’s grown as an artist and hopes to keep growing. She loves character illustration and t-shirt design is her passion. Regardless of how hard times may get, she will never leave it! Stay Yema!

  • Harry Diaz

    Harry was born in 1981 in Guatemala. His current body of work contains repeated visual elements, including basic geometric shapes, patterns, characters, color which appear throughout the body of work as a whole. He sees his imagery as a visual language, which can be interpreted differently by each person who views it. Though there is no literal translation to his imagery, the viewer can form a connection through the patterns and elements that they are familiar with. The familiarity of the patterns and shapes he uses in his work can be traced back to terracotta vases of the Archaic Period to Native American crafts. In addition to these visual elements, the processes in which these images are produced play a major role in his practice as he aims to achieve a balance between modern digital printing and traditional printing methods, like serigraphy. Latin America has a rich tradition in printmaking, and he sees his work adding to that tradition.

  • Nat Emmett

    Nat Emmett is a freelance illustrator currently living in Savannah, GA where he is working on a BFA for illustration. Nat acknowledges that he doesn’t know what he’d do if not creating: he’s always drawing in his sketchbook and filling it with a population of characters and environments that all hold specific places in his mind. Nat loves music and is always trying to keep up with the crazy emotions and imagery that it provides for him. His style has always had a direct influence from music and how it relates to personal experiences; most of Nat’s work is an attempt at a translation of music and how it makes him feel. Nat sees his art as a way to translate experiences from life and share them with the world, creating imagery with a sense of nostalgia and hidden depth with characters and worlds that transport your mind to another place. Nat loves watching documentaries to explore the way they provide a chance to catch a glimpse of different experiences and situations in which people find themselves. He could sit for days and people watch, always finding himself interested in the quirks that different people have, the special something to observe and actually see what makes us all individuals. Nat says he still has a lot to learn about his art and life in general, but is confident in his direction and invites you to be part of it.

  • Jennifer Franko

    Over the past couple years, Jen has been designing for many different aspects of graphic design, including everything from brochures, annual reports, booklets, signage, presentations, stationary, invitations, direct mail, patterns and much more. When Jen is not designing or drawing she is usually playing team mom for Team TOMS shoes, laying around with Lawrence Number 10 and Tiny Triceratops, or doing a puzzle. You can check out more or her work and photography at www.jenfranko.com. Keep it awesome, kids!

  • Kaveh Haerian

    Kaveh Haerian is a graphic designer and illustrator living and working in Baltimore. In addition to his work for Jon Wye, he does all the graphics for Single Carrot Theatre. Other clients include the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance and Young Audiences of Maryland. Kaveh is a 2010 Baltimore's Choice Award winner as part of the Baker Artist Awards.

  • Laura Marta

    Laura Marta constantly looks for sweet collisions between color and pattern. She works out of a tiny studio filled with fashion mags, approximately 8,764 kinds of paper, and a tackle box full of permanent markers in any color you could ever want. Also on her dossier of media are printmaking, painting and collage. Laura is inspired by all things organic, makes a killer cupcake, and enjoys a secret love affair with glitter.

  • Matthew McKeown

    Matthew McKeown was born in Colorado Springs, CO and is currently living in Maine. Matthew has been creating art since he can remember, and strives to continue to improve. He has always been fascinated with the ability to translate any image from his mind into reality. Matthew's main focus is with digital art, including both 2D and 3D. One of his major aspirations is to create art for video games or movies, which much of his art is inspired by. Additionally, he hopes to be a source of inspiration to others. He also enjoys long walks on the beach.

  • Alex Solis

    Alex Solis is an artist living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Most of Alex’s artwork is from imagination and self-expression, and he creates most personal work with traditional mediums. Alex uses and incorporates new technology for web development and graphic design. He’s always seeking challenging projects to expand his artistic repertoire.

  • Mike Tanoory

    Mike Tanoory was born and raised in Central New York. He graduated from Syracuse University in 2007 with a BFA in Illustration. He moved to Washington DC in 2008, where he founded Tanoory Studios. T-shirt designer by day, greeting card designer by night, Mike spends his days drawing around the clock hoping a radioactive spider bites him so he can pursue his dream of being Spider-Man.

  • Jason Thomas

    Jason Thomas is an illustrator and animator living the good life in Decatur, Georgia with his dog (Wendy) and his cat (Coleslaw). His work focuses on emotional robots and monsters with social difficulties.

    At his booth during one of the many art festivals in Georgia, he performs a live draw where he will draw a complimentary robot or monster for you. Some of his favorites include a monster who is very protective of his beloved creamed corn, a robot who is insecure about one of his claws being too small, and a robot-monster who never gets invited to parties, but gets to celebrate both Robot Christmas and Monster Christmas.

    When he is not painting, he is probably working on his animated Sci-Fi epic, “Cradle Me, Sky”. www.cradlemesky.com

  • Datsun Tran

    Born in 1980 in Melbourne, Australia, Datsun studied in Advertising Creative at RMIT (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology) and has worked in graphic design, comics, theatre and radio.

    “My art is influenced by every facet of my life. Just as I have worked in many creative fields, my art is a product of what I see, the music I listen to, the books I read, and what I learn.”

    To see more of Datsun's work, visit www.datsuntran.com.

  • Justin White

    Justin White has two names. His other name is Jublin. Currently, Jublin/Justin lives in Los Angeles, California, working freelance as an illustrator and designer. He's contributed art to gallery shows local and otherwise and focuses a lot of his free time dabbling in animation. He also enjoys watching animation because it's easier and less work. Sometimes pizza is involved. Learn more exciting things at www.jublin.com.

  • Scott White

    Scott White is an illustrator, sequential artist, t-shirt designer, and all around mysterious guy. Other than his visual art, not much is known about him. Some say he wild monkeys raised him. Others say he was born into a family of traveling gypsies who were so poor they sold him for a handful of rice. While with his new family, Scott showed a talent for the visual arts, this greatly disappointed the matriarch of the family who decided to abandon him at the zoo, at which point he was then raised by monkeys. You can view more of his work at: http://theinkspill.blogspot.com/

  • Priscilla Wilson

    Priscilla currently resides on the beautiful central coast in California. She works full time for a graphic design firm and does freelance work, specializing in t-shirt design, on the side. She has done work for Threadless, Design By Humans, shirt.woot and multiple bands. Her work has been seen in Print Magazine and Computer Arts. In her spare time, she enjoys finding new music, going out with friends, or just relaxing.

Anatomy of a Jon Wye Design


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