Marley Soden a.k.a. Marley Makes Things creates custom hand lettering, modern calligraphy, and typography design out of Greensboro, North Carolina. On today’s podcast, she joins The Bunny Barbie to talk about her craft, how she’s gotten a lot of business from TikTok, and the artsy-fartsy story about one of her biggest videos that have blown up. If you’ve been following Marley Makes Things and her custom typographic designs, this is your chance to get to know her more intimately.
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Marley Makes Things With Marley Soden
How are you?
I’m doing good. I’m excited.
I’m excited to chat with you, especially because everyone thinks we sound so much alike.
I was mentally preparing for this and I was like, “I have to try to distinguish my voice a little bit,” especially because I’m a chameleon. If I hang out with somebody who has an accent, I started to pick it up a little bit.
She is an amazing artist. If you want to introduce yourself, where can people find you?
My name is Marley, aka Marley Makes Things. You can find me on Instagram and TikTok. I’m a full-time freelance artist. I specialize in hand lettering, but I also do all kinds of artsy-fartsy stuff. I do DIY renovations, logos and anything creative.
I’ve seen a lot of the whole brand makeovers and stuff and they are cool to watch. I love watching those.
Those are a lot of fun. Ever since I’ve been posting them on TikTok, I’ve gotten a lot more inquiries about them. Those used to be a small part of my business and now it’s transformed into 50% of my business.
Do you travel a lot doing that? Is it mostly local?
In the nature of my job, I don’t have to travel a lot. Everything can be done online. I do murals and that’s the only thing I can think of that I have to travel for. Mostly, within the States, it’s not extensive traveling yet.
Have you gotten a lot of business from TikTok?
Yes, I would say at least 80% of my business. It’s wild. I never would have expected it. Another thing too is because of TikTok, some of my work I picked up on BuzzFeed. TikTok has launched me in this way I never could have expected.
Were you on social media before TikTok?
I was on Instagram and I was doing okay. I remember at the start of 2020, I had under 1,000 on Instagram and I was like, “My goal this year is I’m going to try to get 10,000 followers.” It was a lofty goal. I never thought I would do it. Within a few months, I have 50,000 followers, which is wild.
The way TikTok has grown platforms is insane. You also get a lot that you sound like Kourtney Kardashian.
I do. When you do the impressions, you sound exactly like her. I’ve only done once and I don’t hear it, but that’s because we hear the voice inside of our head.
Everyone says that my best friend sounds like me too. Before this, I was recording an intro for the whole show and I sent it to her. She emailed me back and she’s like, “You sound exactly like Kourtney.” I was like, “This is weird.”
Do you get Kourtney, Kim or both?
I get a little bit of both, but it is because I roll my R’s when I say, “Crazy,” that’s when people associate me with Kourtney because she’s the only one that might do that.
What does that mean when you roll your R’s? I’ve heard you say that before and I don’t know what that means.
I say, “Girl,” or “Crazy.”
I don’t see anything wrong with it.
Tell me about your artsy-fartsy because that is cool, fun and a great story. I would love to put it on some merchandise for you.
It’s funny and weird how it all came about it. One of my biggest videos that have blown up so far was a painting DIY video. At the end of it, I’m awkward. I’m doing voiceovers and I never know how to wrap things up. I said, “Like and follow from our artsy-fartsy stuff.” In the comments, people took it and ran. Half the people were like, “Did you say artsy-fartsy?” They thought it was weird and one of the top comments got 40,000 likes was dissing it and being like, “That’s lame.” The other half was defending me. I mentioned it in another video and I was like, “I’m going to lean into it.”Everything can be done online. Click To Tweet
It is a phrase. I feel like I’ve heard it before.
I certainly did not invent the term artsy-fartsy. Another thing why people are upset about it is because traditionally, artsy-fartsy is making fun of artistic people. It’s like hoity-toity, but at least in college where I went, we all used it and it was a quirky little thing that we said.
I think it’s great branding.
I think so too. I ran with it and it’s my brand. It’s my identifying factor. Every now and again, I’ll get comments from people who are like, “You’re the artsy-fartsy girl.” I’m like, “That’s me. That’s my brand. That’s my legacy.”
Do you do a lot of food ads? The ones I’ve seen was this flower. Do you do those for companies?
I started off doing that years ago. It was for fun. At the time, I worked at an agency so I was able to do a little bit at work every now and again. Every time we had a pitch meeting, I would try to pitch to have it in a magazine cover or something like that. I got to do it a little bit there. Once I left that job and I was out on my own, I started doing more of it for fun. A lot of the ones that I show on TikTok are for fun because I want to be doing more of that. I would love to be getting hired for that more. Now, it’s finally starting to happen where I’m getting calls, emails and inquiries about doing it for actual companies. That’s exciting.
I’m surprised you don’t work for Hanes or outsource that stuff.
I don’t think I can work for a company again. I have to be freelance forever and it’s too much fun. I can’t come back. I did a partnership a little while ago and it was half. They wanted me to do some good lettering stuff, so it was half art but also half influencing, which is new to me. I’ve never done that kind of work before. It was a lot of fun, so I hope I get to see more of that.
Do you mainly use TikTok? Do you use your brand on Instagram too?
I use them both. I go back and forth where sometimes I feel almost burnt out on TikTok. Do you ever get like that?
Yes. You put a lot more effort into your videos than I do. I feel like I’m kind of ranting, so it takes me two seconds, and then I post it. Whereas you put a lot of time, work and effort into making and creating art.
I try to do some videos where I’m talking and I think I’m not a good storyteller. You have that gift of being an amazing storyteller and people know it. It never works out when I’m just talking to the camera. I have to show the visuals and it helps show who I am more when I’m showing what I’m doing rather than talking about it.
What’s your favorite project you’ve ever done?
First of all, every new project I have become my new baby and it’s my new favorite. I’ve been into murals. I did this one mural and it’s my favorite. It says, “All The Honeys Who Makin’ Money,” and it’s gorgeous, big pink and red retro type. It’s on a Millennial pink wall. It’s one of my favorite pieces I’ve done.
Is it inside of somewhere?
It’s inside a business called Lash and Blade. It’s in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. It’s the cutest little shop ever. I love doing projects like that. Anything with my food lettering, those are always my favorites too.
How long have you been doing art?
I never know how to answer this question because I feel like always, but the only conscious decision I remember making was when I went to college. My first major was I wanted to be a writer for TV writing comedies and stuff like that. I quickly changed my major because I am not a good writer and a storyteller. I want to do art, but I’m not an artist. I struggled with that for a long time of being like, “I’m not an artist.”
Why did you feel like you’re not an artist?
I don’t know, but I feel like I’m not the only one. I know a lot of people who are in their heads, they think of artists as fine artists, someone who has their art in a museum or something. I personally feel like I’m more crafty than artsy.
I felt the same way too. Right before Corona, I had an art show. There was this conference that came and they asked me and my girlfriend to do all this art for it. We had all these sculptures and we did all this cool stuff, but I still felt weird calling myself an artist because I do many other things that it was like a new thing for me. I also do see myself as much craftier because I do more functional things I feel or things for myself rather than making art for people.
I saw you had a video talking about how you can be more than one thing.
It took me long to realize that.
It resonated with me. You’re more than your occupation. You can do more than one thing. I’ve been trying to take that and run with it.
It’s hard to put yourself in all these different categories because people feel that if you’re not fully on one, then you’re not doing a good job at it. You are fully an artist, so I don’t think you have anything to worry about there.
I think you are too. People are always going to be how they are on TikTok. I’ve had some rude comments and they are questioning what I call myself and what I am. It’s not up to them. You can be whatever you want to be.
Have you always had amazing handwriting?
No, my handwriting is awful. I don’t think people realize that handwriting is not the same thing as lettering. If I sit there and think about it, I can make it look good, but at that point, it’s because I’m drawing the words rather than writing. When I’m writing in real life, I write quickly. I have a little bit of dyslexia going on where my brain gets a little bit ahead of my hands. I write my words in the wrong order.
I have the same thing too when I write things. Sometimes, I’ll miss a letter and then I have to go back and put the letter in.
I have a question I want to ask you. It is an open-ended question, but I’ve been slowly realizing that other than our voice, you and I have a lot in common. A lot of weird little things. I noticed in your Instagram bio, you said you are 98% vegan and then 2% you do cheese and stuff sometimes. I’m the same way. I’m mostly vegan, but I try not to call myself a vegan because the vegans get angry.
People get mad. I tried not to eat cheese and everything. I’ll only eat it if it’s the only vegetarian dish on a menu, but I eat at home 90%, especially it’s Corona. That has changed our lifestyle a lot too, but people get sensitive and it’s like, “Don’t you want people to be vegan rather than turning them away from veganism?”
Without getting into it, veganism has a problem with elitism where if you’re not doing it 100%, then you’re not part of the club. I’m like, “That’s stupid.” Honestly, if you’re doing one meatless Monday a week, that’s awesome. I also saw you said you’re a Scorpio. I’m a Scorpio. When’s your birthday?
It is on November 15th.
Mine is November 1st.
How old are you turning?
I am turning 26.
I’m turning 30 in 2020. I was planning on having a huge 100-person party. It was going to be a dirty 30 with a big mud wrestling pit, but it is not happening because of Corona so I have ten close girlfriends coming over and I got a wrestling pit, like a blow-up one and we’re going to do a Christina Aguilera Dirrty theme. We’re all going to dress sexy. As part of my merch, I’m going to launch these face masks that have my lips on them. I’m going to give them to everyone at the party. It’s going to be cute.
That sounds amazing. I like to do the same thing, although it’s not my 30th birthday. I make every birthday the whole thing. I do themes every year. A few years ago, we did Harry Potter. Everybody came dressed up as Harry Potter and we did a whole thing. The year 2019 was fun. We did a murder mystery. Everybody came up dressed in ‘20s attire. We did a whole murder mystery element and I made these potions. If you accuse somebody of being the murderer and you were wrong, you had to drink this potion. It was a mixed drink or something like that. In 2020, we’re going to do villains. Everybody dresses up as their favorite villain. It could be any fandom, any show or movie, whatever you want to do. I’m trying to figure out who I’m going to be.
You don’t even know. You should have had an idea before you plan it. What if there are two of the same villains?
That would be okay. That happened at the Harry Potter party and it was fine. I’m excited.
The murder mystery sounds like so much fun.
I wanted to do a different version of it than what you’re used to seeing on TV. At least, from what I’ve seen before people do scripts and stuff. I was like, “I don’t want to make people read from a script.” What we did was we made a scavenger hunt. It was little things like, “Take a selfie with the dog.” If you were the murderer, check all of these things on those lists without other people realizing what you were doing. The trick was that the list was public. Everybody could see the list. You could try to fake people out and make people think that you’re the murderer so they would try to accuse you and have to drink a thing.
How do you pick out who the murderer was?
At the beginning of the party, we drew names out of a hat. I love a good party.
Hopefully, my party will be nice. It’s sad that we can’t have a big party, but we’re still trying to be. I live in Florida and it’s been insane here with the cases. I never see my friends and I’m alone. Where do you live?
I live in North Carolina.
How’s the COVID been there?You're more than just your occupation. You can do more than one thing. Click To Tweet
It is not great. There was a time in the beginning when my county was on the top. It was number four in the worst cases in America. I could not believe it. We have a lot of anti-maskers, the country people. It’s wild to me that those people still exist. My parents were all Canadian and went up. There’s a loophole in crossing the border where you can only cross the border if you’re a citizen. My dad and I are both citizens. They were able to go in. They were quarantined for two weeks and then they stayed there for another two weeks. My dad said that they are not fond of Americans now because of how Americans are treating all of this. My dad, once I got up there, they switched their cars. They drove their Canadian car with Canadian plates around so that people wouldn’t give them dirty looks.
Where are you from in Canada?
Ontario, we have this tiny little cottage. The closest town is Elgin. It’s rural.
Did you grow up there?
I grew up here. I’m only a citizen because I have dual citizenship. My dad’s from there so I’m from here. I’m grateful to have dual citizenship. We have a little cottage and it’s two hours past New York.
I’m from Albany, New York. Maybe that’s where this voice connection is from.
Where are your parents from?
My parents both grew up in Albany, New York. I lived there my whole life until I was eighteen. My dad moved down here, which is nice, so he can spend time and babysit with my son a lot. My mom is also down here for a while. Maybe it’s like a Northern accent.
When did you move to Florida?
I have been here since I was eighteen.
What I’ve been theorizing is maybe it’s having those Northern roots, but living in the South, having that mix.
What’s funny is now that my friends are starting to get on TikTok too, they’re like, “You guys all sound the same.” I feel like I have a strong voice. I feel like the more people hang out with me, the more that they sound like me. It’s always been that way. They’ll say phrases that I say and stuff like that. I don’t even notice it until I see someone else doing it, especially like my son. I talk with hands a lot. When he was a baby, he would talk with his hands. I see a lot of the mannerisms that I don’t notice that I have until I see them in someone else.
That’s funny you say that because I feel like I don’t have a strong voice, especially every time I do a TikTok voiceover. I’m like, “Why am I like this?” I have to make sure that I’m projecting my voice, then I had to teeter-totter between over-correcting my voice because sometimes I’ll hear it and I’m like, “I sound like a Valley girl,” then I’ll over-correct. Sometimes I sound monotone. It’s a hard balance to strike.
Do you try to sound not like a Valley girl?
Only on TikTok because many people have pointed it out.
I never know that I sounded like this either until TikTok. I never took videos on Instagram. I never would be like, “This is my day. This is what I’m eating.” I was shocked when my first video went viral because I was talking. Everyone’s obsessed with my voice. I’ve always talked like this and no one’s ever told me that I sound like them. My husband’s like, “This is weird. You sound normal.”
What was your first viral video?
I made a face mask of my face printed out. I was saying, “This is the website I got it from and stuff.” Everyone’s like, “She sounds like a Kardashian.” I had a million views in one day. I feel like my page hasn’t been getting as many viewers and stuff, and then I stopped posting and now I’m getting a ton of views again. I don’t know what is up with TikTok.
I’ve been having the same problem. I think it’s because of the Creator Fund. I’ve been hearing that more people are creating content because of the Creator Funds. It makes the app more saturated so you get fewer views which is annoying. Once you’re on, you can’t get off. I cannot figure out how to get off. For me, I’m not making enough money where it makes a huge difference.
I would rather have views than money. They keep saying that it’s not associated.
It is, i has to be. I know at first, people thought that TikTok was suppressing our views, which I still believe they might be. I’m not sure.
Mine where I’m down for a while, but I feel like I’ve gotten some traction again. I don’t know why, because I haven’t been posting.
Even when I get some traction, it’s still nothing like how it used to be.
Before the Creator Fund, they pushed videos out there. They don’t care as much that people already have many followers. There are many more people joining TikTok. When did you join?
I remember last Thanksgiving, I was talking to my sixteen-year-old cousin. I was like, “What’s TikTok?” I remember she got it out for me and she was walking me through what it is and everything. She was showing me on her account. She was showing me all her little friends dancing and stuff like that. I was like, “That’s cool.” I didn’t think about it because I was like, “It is not for me.” I guess it was probably in December that I made my account. At first, I was posting baking videos. It is easy. I just set up my little overhead camera and I would do a little time-lapse of me baking stuff. It was cool but not as cool as the stuff I do now. I then started experimenting with it.
I was doing shoe videos so it’s the same if you go on my page all the way down. I watched this one girl who would step in with a pair of shoes and then change them as the beat goes. I then started talking and I got a following. You had a following way before me because I remember following you. I was like, “She’s not like me,” but you had a big platform.
I remember with every step of the way, I thought I was doing well because you grow much quicker on TikTok than on Instagram. I remember within the first few weeks, I got 1,000 followers or something and I was like, “I’m doing well.” I think over time, it was going fast, but gradual. It started building up and then I got to 30,000 followers and I was like, “Am I famous now?” I didn’t understand that TikTok does not work the same as Instagram. It was around that time when I did the viral video that got six million views or something like that. It went from 30,000 to 200,000 in 24 hours. From there, it was back to going gradually, but that’s relative because you’re climbing up by thousands of views at a time instead of hundreds.
I’ll be like, “I only got 2,000 followers today.” He’s like, “That’s a lot.” That doesn’t seem a lot when you have such a big platform.
I’ve got to do the same thing and it’s annoying. That’s when I realized, “I need to take a step back and recalibrate.” I need to learn to stop taking it personally when a video doesn’t perform.
Especially the ones that you work hard on. It’s annoying that you put so much effort into a video and then they don’t do well.
That’s always how it goes. It’s always the ones that you put together in two seconds that blow up.
I remember there was this one video and someone asked me how many kids I have. I said, “I’ve only given birth to my son and I have two step kids.” That was the entire video. It had four million views in 24 hours. I’m like, “Why do people care? It was weird to me.” It’s the most random one.
Do you think that the ones that blow up, is there some controversy going on in the comment section?
I don’t think there was on that one, but I think comments do a lot, but then sometimes I get videos that have a ton of comments. Every person that sees it comments and I feel like those don’t get a lot of views.
I have that sometimes too.
I think people react to comments that might boost it more. I have this one video where I was wearing a shirt. I was like, “Is this blue or green? You guys keep saying that this is blue.” It has thousands of comments and it still has 200,000 views or something like that. It has a lot more comments than my regular videos.
I think it has to be the perfect storm. It has to be a rewatch time, shares, comments and all of the above.
I’ve heard from doing these interviews and stuff that there are ways to talk to people at TikTok. I guess you don’t get verified either. I’ve heard that you have to talk to TikTok, they give you an application, and then you get verified. I have not made it that far yet to figure it out.
When you do, let me know because you are much farther ahead than I am. When I was looking you up, I saw that you have things like Wikipedia about you. Did you know that?
Those kids that post on famous birthdays or something. These little girls make fan pages and stuff and then post things about me on Google. One of my best friends came over and everyone loves me and her together. We look similar. People think that but she’s black and I’m white. People are like, “You have the same face, but you guys have different skin tones.” People like me and her videos together, but she’s never had a TikTok. I made her make one and I posted it. Within two minutes, someone made a fan page for me and her.
You’re going to be the Kim Kardashian of all of your friends. You’re going to be the one who gets everybody else famous.
Are you in a relationship?
I am. I just eloped. It was a quick decision. We decided in September or August that we wanted to get married and because of COVID, we were like, “Let’s go to the courthouse, the two of us and two witnesses.” We had our two friends come with us and then in 2021, hopefully, if the world is not on fire, we’re going to Canada and go to our little family cottage up there and have a small, intimate wedding.
Congratulations. Babies in your future?
I don’t think so, at least not now. Both of us are not kids people.
I never wanted kids either and now he’s my whole world. It’s one of those things that happen.
Never say never, and I’m sure we’ll probably come around because I also never wanted to get married either and here I am.
Does he have a flexible schedule too?Learn to stop taking it personally when a video doesn't perform. Click To Tweet
Yes, especially with COVID. He works from home and they’re supposed to be working from home at least until June 2021.
How was that? Was that good for your relationship or not?
It is good. Both of us are homebodies. We like to stay at home as much as possible. We like being around each other. We’re not those people who get annoyed with each other and we have our own spaces. Thankfully, we have our own offices and we’re a little bit separate in that way, but we enjoy each other’s company.
It’s good to have your own things and still be able to be together a lot.
What about you and your husband?
We’re good. He doesn’t have to go to the office, but he does every once in a while. He goes every other week. Other than that, we’re with each other a lot. We’re always home. We’ve always been this way. There was no change with COVID other than I spent a lot more quality time with my son. Knowing that I wanted to homeschool him, I always wanted to tell people, “We do so much stuff and we’re still active.” We’re not homeschoolers that sit at home. He would do nine classes a week as a two-year-old. It was a lot. We went and did all this stuff all the time. I also don’t drive. He has a nanny who’s been with him since he was three weeks old. She drives us around and stuff. We’re a big old family going to random toddler things all the time. We’re at a place like a Play Place, a Gymboree or whatever. There’s a whole team here for a little baby.
You keep your husband off of social media or at least yours.
He’s much older than me. I don’t think he’s that into posting on social media. I’m in a different generation than him. Everyone’s obsessed with him. My last ten viral videos have been talking about him. I don’t know why people are obsessed with finding out. I’m not sure. I don’t know what the thing is, but he’s fine being on it. He doesn’t care. Most of my videos were in my closet, so it’s weird. It’s my space. It would be weird if he’s in my closet with me.
He is such a mystery.
I don’t want to do vlogs. I feel like it takes away from my daily life and trying to record everything rather than being in it and doing stuff.
How is podcasting going? I know this is new to you.
I have never listened to a podcast in my life. I have no idea what I’m doing. I’ve listened to a few. My best friend listens to podcasts. She’s like, “Just do it.” This is what a lot of my followers wanted besides making YouTube videos, which I don’t want to do. I was like, “Let me give them more of me and get to know me more through podcasts and interviewing other cool people.” It’s such a great way to connect with other people, so it’s been okay.
In my first two episodes, I forgot to hit record, so I have to schedule those again. Luckily, one of them is my girlfriend and then the other guy is nice. He’s coming on again. I also have to get a new computer because my computer wasn’t working. It’s been a little bit of a struggle, mostly technical things that are my fault. Once I get the momentum going, this is my third. It’s hard scheduling people too because they’ve got their schedules all over the place.
What types of people are you heading on?
I have only two of my girlfriends’ plans to be on, but most of them are TikTokers, people that have newly gotten some fame from TikTok and people that are interesting. I want it to feel authentic, so I don’t want it to feel like I’m interviewing someone. I want it to be someone that I would want to hang out with in real life because I don’t want it to be awkward. That’s not going to be fun asking questions because a lot of people want to know a lot about me and other people. I want it to be more of someone I relate to. I have another one right after you with another girl, which I’m excited about. She’s cute. Her handle is @FifisDiary. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen her. Before we end, I’m going to ask you two questions that I ask everyone at the end. These are the two questions that I ask my son every night before he goes to bed. The first one is what was the best part of your day?
This was exciting, so this was a highlight of the day. Other than that, it sounds lame but during COVID, I don’t get to put a lot of effort into myself much anymore. It’s not often that I’m doing my whole hair and makeup and wearing a cute outfit. It was nice. I was like, “I’m going to put some effort and take an hour to do my makeup,” which I never do anymore, even though I only put my hair in a hat. It felt good to look at myself and be like, “Girl, you look cute.” That was the highlight.
The next one is what did you learn now?
I will tell you what I learned. I put pumpkin butter in my oatmeal.
What is pumpkin butter?
Have you ever had apple butter?
Yes. Is it like cinnamon?
It’s like apple butter, but instead of apples, it’s made of pumpkin. It’s the most autumn tasting thing you could imagine. It’s good. It’s sweet, but it’s not overbearingly sweet. It’s the essence of pumpkin.
Do you cook it inside the oatmeal?
Yes. It is with some almond butter, some pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and a little bit of cinnamon on top. I learned that is the best breakfast ever. It was good.
Have you had it with apple butter too? Is that where you get the idea from or no?
I don’t think I’ve ever mixed the two. I will normally do the apple butter in fine ice cream or toast or something like that, but I’ve never had the idea to do it in my oatmeal.
Thank you for joining me. If you want to tell people your handle again and where to find you?
Where do they send business things to?
You can go to my website, it’s MarleySoden.com or you can Google, Marley Makes Things, and you’ll be able to find me that way as well. Thank you for having me on.
Thank you. Hopefully, we’ll do it again. Bye.
About Marley Soden
Marley Soden is a lettering artist who unapologetically creates custom typographic designs. She’s semi-obsessive, an overthinker, and a self-proclaimed design nerd who enjoys exploring aesthetics and meaning through her lettering. Common themes in her work include food, introspection, and feminism. She operates out of Greensboro, North Carolina with her two puppers, Ema and Bear, by her side. When she’s not in design-mode you might find her testing out new recipes, hanging out with her dogs, or writing run-on sentences.