Maddie Miller Published

W.Va. Artist Captures Local Sayings That Stick

A pile of stickers are seen in a basket. One sticker reads, "Dangnabbit," and another reads, "Smack dab in the middle."
A basket of stickers for sale at The Joe in Fairmont, West Virginia. The “Dangnabbit!!” and “Smack Dab In The Middle” stickers are visible on top are from Hippie’s Daughter.
Maddie Miller/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

This conversation originally aired in the June 2, 2024 episode of Inside Appalachia.

Pop into just about any coffee shop in Appalachia and you’ll find locally inspired stickers for sale. Folkways Reporter Maddie Miller got curious about the stickers at her neighborhood coffee shop — ones with phrases like, “Worn plumb out” or “Fiddle Fart.”

They’re designed by Elizabeth Elswick, who’s built a merchandising business in St. Albans, West Virginia, called Hippie’s Daughter

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Miller: Hippie’s Daughter — where’s the name come from for the shop?

Elswick: It’s actually pretty funny. The name was born before the business was ever born. Probably a couple years before. My dad — both of my parents, actually — were hippies. My dad’s hair is probably almost down to his butt now, but my husband always called him a hippie. So one day, my husband’s like, “You’re the hippie’s daughter.” 

Like, “Okay, we’re gonna keep that. We’re gonna put it in our pocket.” Then when I started the business a few years later, that was the only option.

Miller: Do you remember seeing a lot of West Virginia merch (merchandise) and memorabilia when you were growing up? 

Elswick: Not really growing up. I mean, it would be at huge events like the old regatta before they brought it back. But most of the time, it would just be little buttons or T-shirts or the big bumper stickers.

A young woman leans against a table in a storage house or garage. She smiles for the camera.
Elizabeth Elswick, owner of Hippie’s Daughter, stands in her new store room in St. Alban’s, West Virginia. Her non-sticker merchandise is on full display around her.

Photo Credit: Maddie Miller/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Miller: Is that some of your inspiration for making West Virginia-related merchandising?

Elswick: Yeah, it’s kind of a niche — which, there’s a lot of people that do it now. So I focus more on Appalachia now. But there was kind of a void in stickers in general. And it’s — if you’re a millennial, or Gen Z — then you grew up with Lisa Frank, you probably had stickers all the time and put them on everything. And when we turned into adults, we didn’t really have any.

Miller: I totally agree. I was one of those kids. I didn’t stick my stickers on anything. I kept them all in a folder because I was too scared. And I do that with stickers I buy now. I hang them on my wall, but I’m very scared to commit to sticking them anywhere. What do you see people doing with your stickers when they buy them?

Elswick: I think the most common is putting them on your laptops or water bottles. I’ve seen them on cars here and there. And then there are also people like us who just kind of save them forever because you don’t know what to do with them.

Miller: What do you think, then, with people putting them in such public places? Do you think that’s part of the appeal for West Virginia stickers, that it’s a signifier like, “Hey, look, I’m from West Virginia, too?”

Elswick: Yeah, West Virginia, in general, the residents here, they’re very proud. So they always have West Virginia merch. So it’s like another way for everybody to express themselves.

Miller: You had said, inspiration-wise, you used sayings from different family members.

Elswick: Yeah, most everything that I use are things that my family always said like, “Come hell or high water.” A newer one that I did was one that my dad says a lot, which is, you’ll say, “Whatcha doing?” and he’ll say, “Ohh, just mildewin.” And my mom says “fiddle fart” all the time.

They’re all just things that we’ve all heard growing up here in West Virginia or in Appalachia.

Miller: I noticed a lot of them have skeletons and that kind of thing. The Gothic inspiration — is that just your personal interest? Or is that something that you think also aligns with some of the West Virginia vibes?

Elswick: It’s more so me. I’m an “elder Emo.” But there is that Appalachian Gothic-type — we’ve always had kind of weird customs where, you know, your family’s buried in the yard or the casket’s in the house when they die. Appalachia is kind of Gothic. 

The most popular is probably, “Well, s— fire.” Everybody stops when they see that one. Locally, it’s the coal miner ones. They’ll buy it because their dad or grandpa was in the mines.

A shelf is seen against a white brick wall. The shelf features colorful boxes of stickers.
Sticker stock at Hippie’s Daughter’s headquarters. The store offers more than 100 sticker designs featuring the imagery and sayings of Appalachia.

Photo Credit: Maddie Miller/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Miller: Will you describe your new shop? 

Elswick: I think it was built in 1950. It’s just a cinder block building literally split in half. So right now I’m working in the back half, which is like a warehouse. It has a big garage door on it where we remodeled the front half so that I can put retail in the front.

Miller: Why make West Virginia-related stickers versus just like any kind of art stickers?

Elswick: When I started, I did a lot of “West Virginia” plus nature-related things and dabbled in some other things. After a few years of that, I realized I just need to “niche” it down because it’s already out of control with how many stickers I have. 

So I just “niched” it down to West Virginia and Appalachia things with a few other random things, too, in there that I just love. Like aliens. Skeletons. 

Definitely a lot of black and white. It’s my favorite. 

Let’s see, we got a snake. We’ve got a devil hand. “Fixing” and “y’all” are really popular. “Bless your heart” is classic. “Lollygag.” Everybody should lollygag. 

“It is what it is.” I mean, because it is. 

“Lord willing and the creek don’t rise,” — another classic. 

My grandpa always says, “Watch for deer.”

Miller: The Appalachian “I love you,” — classic. You’re out the door, “Watch for deer. Drive safe.” 

Elswick: All of these sayings hit very close to home for me. And I know they do for other people as well. So I kind of just wanted to keep those nostalgic sayings going. My mom and my aunt — actually, their favorite is “Well, s— fire.” 

My aunt was actually buried in a “Well, s— fire” hat last year. She wore it all throughout chemo. It was her absolute favorite. She was my number one fan. Yeah, obviously, it hits very close to home for me. So I do like to use these nostalgic sayings to kind of hit close to home for others as well. 

And it’s really cool when I do events. People will come up and tell me a lot of those stories. Or I’ll even get an email or message online about why they bought this and this because of this person. So it’s really sweet.

Miller: We talked a lot about nostalgia. Why are we always missing something?

Elswick: I think it goes back to — West Virginia is unique in that we’re all very prideful to be from West Virginia. We literally would die for this state. A lot of us grew up with very close families, like some of my cousins are like my siblings — a lot of people grew up with that, like, going to my mamaw’s, getting the good country food and everything. So I think it’s very ingrained in us to want to reminisce on all of that, because we spend a lot of time with our families. 

Miller: Do you think not only are we constantly missing and being very close-knit families, but very close-knit to the land? Do you see that melding with missing the environment? 

Elswick: Absolutely. In 1957, my grandpa bought 35-ish acres in the Monongahela National Forest. So I got to go there multiple times a year and grow up there with no neighbors, no electricity, just the land. So that also inspired me a lot, but it’s really just part of growing up in West Virginia. But yeah, it is kind of like a badge of like, “Hey, I’m from West Virginia,” or “I’m from somewhere else in Appalachia, and I’m proud of it.”


This story is part of the Inside Appalachia Folkways Reporting Project, a partnership with West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Inside Appalachia.

The Folkways Reporting Project is made possible in part with support from Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies to the West Virginia Public Broadcasting Foundation. Subscribe to the podcast to hear more stories of Appalachian folklife, arts and culture.