Montana Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen introduces the latest installment of the Montana Business Spotlight series recognizing and highlighting local businesses across the Treasure State. This feature introduces Montanans to Just My Type in Missoula. Click the play button on the featured image above to watch the Just My Type Montana Business Spotlight.
HELENA, Mont. — Donna Erickson has always been able to recognize something’s potential.
Erickson grew up on a ranch near Missoula and was routinely acquainted with equipment and materials that had been aged, tattered, and deteriorated. Despite the antiquated appearance, Erickson was of the belief these timeworn items still had their place.
Fast forward a number of years, and Erickson still holds that belief and has carried it into her retirement business, Just My Type.
“I learned to do bookbinding probably 20-some years ago, and then about eight or nine years ago, I started making these refillable journals,” said Erickson. “It kind of came from an idea of using up-cycled materials, and it’s faster and easier to make them refillable. All the hand stitching isn’t practical to sell those at reasonable prices, so this is what I came up with.”
“I’ve always been an artist and I just love books and I love paper,” she continued, “so, after I learned to do bookbinding, it just made sense to turn it into a product that people could use in a whole lot of different ways and keep a bunch of stuff out of the landfill.”
Erickson’s keen eye for vintage materials, coupled with her experience in mixed media, led to a niche that had success in its early origins.
“The response was good,” Erickson recalled. “I started selling at a small store in Missoula, where I live, and then it just kind of grew. Now I sell in probably 15 stores in Montana, and I do art shows and sell online.”
Erickson’s creativity has expanded over the years and her “list of recycled treasures is almost endless.”
“Most of them are kind of one of a kind of my own creations, but I do customize them or personalize them if someone wants,” she said. “(I have taken) orders for people that want a particular name or a fish or whatever dog breed on the front, and then I do it.”
“Oh gosh, probably the most unique one is one I made for a memorial for someone who passed away,” she continued. “The design was really awesome that they came up with, so that one was special. Her co-workers had it made for her family, so that was good.”
Erickson routinely participates in art shows and trade shows, including the annual Made in Montana Tradeshow. Customers are drawn to all of her one-of-a-kind creations, but there is one style that consistently catches their eye.
“My most popular are the ones made out of the 100-year-old leather law books that otherwise go to the dump. I’ve probably rescued 2,000 or so of those from the landfill,” she said.
Erickson considers herself retired after “nearly two decades working in academia,” but Just My Type certainly keeps her busy.
“It’s surprising how much it’s grown. It’s kind of a retirement side hustle for me, but yeah it’s grown and I have to kind of keep a lid on it that it doesn’t grow to be a full-time job, which I don’t want.”
For Erickson, part of the allure is exploring her artistry, but there’s as much or more appeal in hearing positive feedback from customers near and far.
“Former customers coming back to the shows and saying, ‘Oh, I took your journal to Iceland and filled it up on a trip,'” Erickson said. “I’ve heard about my journals being all over the world and being used in all kinds of unique ways from recording which breweries they go to, to you name it.”
From the cusp of the landfill to lands near and far, all thanks to Erickson’s appreciation for potential.