Rachelle Haughn interviews Callie Soden of Callie Graphics (2024)

Written by Rachelle Haughn The Other Side of the Treeline Column As seen in the Fall 2017 issue of Park Pilot.

A World War I model airplane isn’t a true warbird without the fine details. Those details are Callie Soden’s passion and specialty. Roughly 10 years ago, she took what was once a small task that she did to help her parents and expanded it into a full-time career. Today, the New Mexico resident and owner of Callie Graphics (callie-graphics.com) aims to help modelers make their warbirds look as scalelike as possible.

Rachelle Haughn: Please share with our readers how your business got started.
Callie Soden: It was completely by accident! I actually grew up in a hobby shop. My parents opened their shop, Hobbies ’N Stuff, when I was 5. I started working in the backroom after school when I was 13. Once I learned how to fly, I slowly progressed to working [at] the counter in the RC airplane department.

One of the hobby shop’s customers asked my dad if he would like to purchase a used vinyl cutter. My dad asked me if I thought I could run the machine to do simple things like AMA numbers and logos. I told him yes, of course!

Shortly after running the machine, I realized what great potential it had. I started making designs for helicopter canopies and we posted them on the hobby shop’s website. Within a few weeks, we were selling across the country, and then soon thereafter, worldwide.

After a year or so, I purchased a vinyl printer that allowed me to do full-color graphics, like nose art and insignias. After a few years of doing graphics as a side business in the back of the hobby shop, I started to think that I just might be able to support myself with the graphics alone.

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Stan and Helen Johnson, Callie’s parents, operated a hobby shop in New Mexico for 20 years. They sold the business and retired in 2007.

Knowing that my parents were talking about retiring, I gave them my notice and moved my business into my home, with my fingers crossed that it would work out! That was over 10 years ago now, so I guess it worked! I eventually got busy enough that my husband decided to quit his job and work full time with me!

RH: What do you enjoy about designing graphics for model aircraft?
CS: My favorite type of graphics to create are for military aircraft, in particular World War I and World War II aircraft. I love the history behind the aircraft and the men who flew them. I think it’s really important to remember and honor those who served and sometimes died for their countries. The stories I’ve learned over the years have been very humbling and even heartwarming at times.

RH: When did you learn how to fly and what did you fly? Who taught you?
CS: I learned to fly fixed-wing planes when I was 17. My first plane was a Sig LT-40. After that, I built a Carl Goldberg Tiger II and Sig Somethin’ Extra (that was my favorite). A few years later, I started flying helicopters, my favorite being a Thunder Tiger Raptor .50.

My dad taught me how to fly fixed wing. An employee [who] worked for my parents taught me how to fly helis. It was great fun and I learned so much about the hobby doing it.

RH: Do you still fly?
CS: No, I’m afraid I quit flying. Work and my other hobbies took up too much of my free time. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous every time I took off and didn’t relax until I safely landed! However, I do still enjoy modeling.

I’m going to be doing a 1,600mm P-38 by FliteLine RC this winter. I wanted to do a complete write-up on repainting and detailing a foam model. I’ll be doing it up with the markings “Detour” in honor of my grandfather, who was the crew chief for [the full-scale] plane. I’ll let my dad fly it when it’s done!

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Callie Soden, pictured here in 1987 with her mother, grew up at her parents’ hobby shop, Hobbies ’N Stuff.

RH: What do you like about being able to work from home?
CS: Everything! I love the freedom of being my own boss. Working in retail was hectic. Nowadays, no more fast food—I get to make homemade meals for lunch.

Our dogs come to the office with me, and when I take a break from the computer, I can take [them] for a walk. Another huge benefit: no more traffic jams. Now I only have to walk about 100 feet from the house to our separate office building. You can’t beat that.

RH: Does being in a remote area in New Mexico sometimes make shipping out products difficult?
CS: Thankfully, we have a post office in our small town, so it’s not too bad. The only downside is that it’s an hour drive roundtrip, so it does take up a bit of time each day. Everything moves a bit slower out here, so it takes a few days to get vinyl supplies in.

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Callie and her husband, Matt, with her father’s Spitfire that he used Callie Graphics products on. The Spitfire was made from an old fiberglass kit.

RH: How many hours do you work per week?
CS: We’ve been pretty busy this year. Lately, I’ve been working about 11 hours a day. There have been some great new models released this year that have been keeping us busy with new schemes.

RH: What do your parents think about your business?
CS: They’re really happy about it and glad it’s been so successful. I think we’re all amazed that I get to make a living making stickers for planes. My dad, of course, loves it since I give him free graphics for all his models!

RH: What’s the strangest thing that you’ve designed graphics for?
CS: Believe it or not, a backdrop for a flea circus act. One of our customers is a magician and needed to give his flea circus a face lift. I didn’t know people still did flea circuses. I thought it was pretty cool!

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One of Callie’s hobbies is riding dirt bikes.

RH: What was the most difficult graphic design that you created?
CS: Some of the hardest have been recreating schemes from old WW II photos. Trying to figure out the colors and working from sometimes old, worn photos can be very tricky. One that comes to mind is the B-26 Sit ’N Git. I only had one old photo to work from, and the nose art was quite complex. The result was well worth it though. It was a special project for a customer whose dad was the pilot of that bomber.

RH: How did you learn how to create graphics for model aircraft?
CS: I’ve always loved art, so it came rather naturally. When I was little, I would draw cartoon characters and such on my school books, etc. What I do now really isn’t all that different—it’s just usually done on a computer instead of with a pencil and paper. I am self-taught on the graphics program I use.

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Callie in 2002 with her Sig Rascal. Her father taught her how to fly model airplanes.

RH: What do you find fulfilling about your career?
CS: Just about everything. I love getting photos back from our customers, knowing that I’ve helped them make their plane look just the way they wanted, or helped them do a tribute to a veteran. Ultimately, I feel very blessed to be able to work at home with my husband, and do something that we love for a living.

RH: What are your other hobbies?
CS: Just about anything that involves being outside. Motorcycles have always been a huge passion of mine. My husband and I are out on our dirt bikes every chance we get. When it’s too cold for that, we enjoy off-roading. I also recently started getting serious with photography, which I’m really enjoying. New Mexico is a beautiful state, with tons of open space to explore.

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Callie enjoys working from home with her husband and dogs.
Rachelle Haughn interviews Callie Soden of Callie Graphics (2024)
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