Norma Jeanne Maloney’s work is seen everywhere in town and you probably don’t even know it. Once you do start noticing, you’ll be overwhelmed with the abundance of local Austin businesses that take advantage of her skills in sign artistry. Her long list of clients include the likes of Stubb’s BBQ, Hotel San Jose, Caffe Medici and many others.
Maloney hails from Lexington, Ky. and found herself falling in love with typography when she started painting race tracks in 1984. With the influences of her grandmother and mother, she decided to pursue her passion and move to San Francisco to attend the California College of Arts and Crafts in 1990.
There, she spent years honing her craft and opened her original storefront, Red Rider Studio, in the Castro neighborhood. The story of how she decided on the name of her business includes a funny coincidence. She owned a 1942 red Chevy pickup truck and loved it so much that she named the business after it. The monicker was even more cemented after a visit to see her grandmother, who told her some old cartoon characters, Red Rider and Little Beaver, were her mother’s favorites growing up. Coincidences have always seemed to work out in Maloney’s favor.
After several years on the West Coast and a quick stint in Nashville from 2001 to 2004, she decided to take a break from sign painting and move in with her mother in Lexington. From there, she gained her commercial driver’s license and became a truck driver. Her realized dream of exploring the world brought her major adventures, including her discovery of Austin along the way. She moved to the city in 2006.
Maloney revived Red Rider Studios when she relocated to Austin, with a way south studio. Times were rough back then and she struggled for clients. After the 2008 elections, she gained momentum. Combined with the books and film, “Sign Painters,” which she was included in, business began to boom. One of her first clients was Liz Lambert of Bunkhouse Hotel fame, with Hotel San Jose and Hotel St. Cecilia under her belt. Lambert was one of the pioneers of the South Congress strip–integral in making it what we know today.
Maloney has since moved her studio to nearby Taylor, Texas while traveling to Austin for local clients. Her days start around six in the morning, as she greets her wife and hangs out with their puppies before heading into the studio. Her work space offers an abundance of natural light as she works on client projects. “I like to work with businesses because I know it is starting a business from scratch. You get to be part of the journey,” Maloney explains.
At this point in her career, thirty-two years in, she’s proven herself a leader in sign artistry and design. Her work is reminiscent of the fifties and sixties, the decades when she was growing up. She credits that era as her biggest influence and it shows in her work. You know that awesome feeling when you buy a new car and start seeing it everywhere around town? That’s the feeling you’ll get when spotting Norma Jeanne Maloney’s classic work in Austin.
Red Rider Studios is located at 111 N. Main St. in Taylor, Texas.
@theAustinot wants to know:
Which of Norma Jeanne Maloney’s Austin signs is your favorite?
Irvianne Torremoro is a service industry professional and founder of Flavor & Bounty, where she enjoys sharing stories about food, drinks and getting to know the people of the craft. She’s willing to hug all the animals, talk Beyoncé and be your BFF.