Archive for Art

Blair Files

http://blairfls.wixsite.com/illustrations/about

When we were little – 4 or 5 years old – my cousin Blair and I liked sitting on the rocky coast of Maine with paper and crayons, drawing what we imagined to be grand scenes of the mighty ocean; to anyone else, those pictures looked like a bunch of scribbles. As the years past, my pictures were still just scribbles – I have roughly the same degree of artistic talent as an elephant holding a paint brush in its trunk; Blair was a different story: it quickly became apparent that she had real talent as an illustrator. She loved to draw and she was good at it. Over the years she also picked up talent with paint and sculpture.

Jump forward to when we were a pair of 18-year-olds trying to make one of the biggest choices of our lives: COLLEGE. I was bound for the liberal arts, Blair for the fines arts; we both got our first choice: for me, Grove City College, for Blair, the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design. We were all so proud of her: despite the fact that no one in the recorded history of our family had ever done anything as impractical as going to art school, we were blown away by her talent and thrilled that she had been accepted to what is arguably one of the greatest art schools in the world.

So, we both packed our bags and shipped off for school. But while I immediately felt that I had made the right choice, Blair was plagued by doubts: not doubts about her choice to be an artist, but with questions about whether she was ready for this. She decided she wasn’t. After two weeks on campus she realized that she had a lot of personal growing to do and that RISD was not the place to do it – not yet, anyway. Of course, it was all a bit more complicated than that, but for the sake of brevity I won’t go into more detail.

Thus, Blair found herself taking a spontaneous gap year. In all honesty, she had always wanted to take a year off before college, but now that she was doing so, she didn’t have a plan. But these things always seem to work out in the end: she was offered the chance to go to Scotland to work for six months – something else she had always wanted to do. The only problem: travel is expensive!!!

But, undaunted as ever, Blair came up with a solution: she was an artist, and she was going to support herself as such! She had already created a large and impressive portfolio of original pieces, so she launched a website to sell prints of her work to support her trip abroad. She also started working for commission. 

Anyway, skipping ahead a little bit: Blair made it to Scotland where she had the incredible opportunity to work for YoungLife Ministries. In her work, she saw the incredible darkness that comes with a life without Jesus Christ: she saw kids who desperately needed Christ, and new that she was called to share Him with them. But it was very well to do so for six months in a youth camp, but what about back in America? She was going to be an artist, not a minister.

Well, like I said, Blair knew that she had a lot of growing to do: and grow she did. While she was in Scotland she had the chance to explore what it meant to use one’s talents for God; she learned that our gifts are not our own, but are to be used in service to the Lord. What did that mean for a 19-year-old who wanted to draw, but who also wanted to do more than illustrate children’s Bibles?

Eventually she found the answer: she decided not to go back to RISD but instead to enroll in the University of Delaware which had a program in Visual Communication – there, she would not only get a degree in fine art, but also in communications and visual media, learning the skills she would need to communicate truth through her art. She recognized that art isn’t just about creating beauty: it’s about creating the kind of beauty that points the viewer to the author of all things beautiful.

Today, Blair is a Junior at University of Delaware, still working to complete her degree. She is also still selling work through her website to help support her studies. Her story as an entrepreneur is still in it’s early chapters: much of it is still unwritten. Thus far, she has had enough success to allow her to fund the studies that we are confident will one day allow her to share the message that we are all called to spread. We don’t know what she will draw, who she will draw for, or what she will say through her art. But we know that she as chosen a profession that is, above all, about communication, and that she has the greatest story of all to communicate. Through her website and commissioned work she has already been able to start reaching people – now all that’s left is to watch her grow!

I like Blair’s story because it serves an in important reminder of the fact that entrepreneurship doesn’t have to mean something huge: sometimes its something as small as selling art to fund travel. Its also important to remember that as Christians we have a higher calling in whatever we do: to serve the Lord. Blair became an entrepreneur because she was a broke almost-college-student who needed to get to Scotland. Once there, she discovered that her true calling really was art, not business. Now, she’s learning what she wants to say with her art and how she wants to say it. Will she one day go into business for herself as an artist/entrepreneur? Who can say: I personally think that art is a form of entrepreneurship…. The important thing is that we serve the Lord in all we do – be it painting scenes of the cross or painting scenes of nature; running a “Christian Business” or running a “Secular business” that operates on Christian principles. I believe that finding ways to serve the Lord in all that we do is the highest calling of any entrepreneur and that turning our work into a way of serving God is in itself an entrepreneurial act.

Blair also reminds us that we don’t necessarily have to “paint the cross” to serve the Lord. I look at the things she creates and see the Master’s hand: whether she is painting the portrait of a child of God or something silly that just popped into her head, I see the kind of true beauty that is precious not because of who created it or what they created, but because it came from the hand of a woman who loves God and who knows who her talent is from and what it is for.

Ollie Dee Design

What makes Ollie Dee Design special is not so much what they do (it’s a pretty run-of-the mill custom design company that largely works with other small businesses) but the story they tell: Ollie Dee Smith is the grandfather of a dear friend of mine: Leigh Anne. Growing up, Leigh Anne watched her grandfather struggle as an entrepreneur but also saw the triumph of hard work and success. What did she learn form all this? She learned that if something is worth doing, it is worth doing well.

And that’s how she markets herself: as a young designer who is passionate about what she does and about helping others grow their businesses. And since that is the work she has chosen for herself, she is dedicated to doing it well! She takes her “old school work ethic” and adds to it “modern branding and design”. Leigh Anne promises her customers open communication, honest criticism, and level-headed guidance as they work together to provide high quality product to a market infatuated by all things fast, cheap, or easy.

We’ve all heard it before: “they just don’t make things the way they used to;” “we weren’t afraid of hard work back in my day;” “if young people would only take a little pride in their work, things would be better”… We’ve all heard this type of thing a thousand times; most of us role our eyes and assume that our grandparents are just nostalgic for their youth. But not Leigh Anne! She had the wisdom and humility to recognize that her Grandfather’s success as an entrepreneur wasn’t a coincidence. She saw that he had valuable insight to offer, so she built her business around the values he taught her. After all: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

Alley Cat Designs

Jewelry for the Purrr-fect Touch

When Alyssa was a little girl, she always looked forward to the special times when her grandmother would visit, bringing with her a bag stuffed full of art and craft supplies. Alyssa was creative by nature, so it never mattered much to her what was in the bag – it was all about the joy and excitement of creating something new, something beautiful, something that hadn’t been there before.

It was during one of these afternoons with her Grandmother that Alyssa first discovered her love for jewelry making.  On that particular afternoon, the craft bag was full of beads, string and jewelry wire, and as the two sat making Christmas presents for her mother, a new passion was born.

From that day forward, Alyssa wanted to do more than just make beautiful new things. She wanted to make things that made other people feel beautiful. Alyssa had always found joy helping other people feel as beautiful as they always were in her eyes, and with her grandmother’s beads in her hands, she realized that she now had the tools to do just that: make things that could help women see just how beautiful they really were. And she was right – ever since clasping that first bracelet of plastic beads around her mother’s wrist, Alyssa has been designing the type of jewelry that makes the wearer feel beautiful and which reminds everyone that it is the bird that makes the feathers.

Today, Alyssa is fresh out of Cornell University with degrees in Business and Sociology and is working to launch her jewelry company, Ally Cat Designs . What began as the passion project of a little girl in love with all things beautiful has grown into a business which has inspired and empowered women all across the globe. Alyssa spends as much time traveling as she possibly can, drawing inspiration from women around the world. Along the way, she supports local artisans by collecting materials to incorporate into her jewelry, all of which is utterly unique and designed around the women who inspire her.

Alyssa prides herself on not being limited to one style or aesthetic; instead, she has something for everyone: from classic to edgy, minimalistic to romantic, each piece is handmade and one-of-a-kind, made to reflect the individual beauty of every customer. Her designs also reflect her commitment to sustainability and accessibility. Fast fashion this is not! Each of her piece features timeless style and is made to last.  But rather than using rare metals which are expensive and easily broken, Alyssa carefully selects materials which are more widely available and which stand the test of time. Great thought is put into each and every element of the design process so that each piece tells a story.

Alyssa likes to keep things personal; for her, it’s all about relationships. She is dedicated to her clients and designs with them in mind. Her favorite method of sales is house shows: by bringing clients together in an intimate environment, she gets to meet and be inspired by the women she serves. She mingles among her clients, getting to know them and helping them find that perfect piece. And if you come back to a second show, she is likely to pull you aside to show you something special she designed with you especially in mind!

As her business has grown, she has also adapted her model to meet the needs of a wider audience and has launched a website to make her work more widely available. But even with her expanding platform, Alyssa has sacrificed neither style nor substance. She still makes each piece by hand and each is one of a kind!

Down the road, Alyssa hopes to use her business as a platform from which to support other artists and to promote ethically sourced fashion. She is also passionate about social and economic development in impoverished nations. Having traveled extensively in both South Asia and Africa, Alyssa is committed to building supportive relationships with artists across the globe and using her work to empower and give back to women both at home and abroad.

It has been my great privilege to watch my dear friend Alyssa build and expand her business over the years, and I am so excited to share her story with you. Her’s is truly a project driven by a selfless passion to serve the women of the world, and the more her business grows, the more lives she touches. She doesn’t create jewelry for women to hide their insecurities behind; instead, she creates pieces that tell a story and celebrate the unique beauty of every woman.

Tumblr: Made by a Millennial, for Millennials.

David Karp, at age 27, created Tumblr. This site is famous among youth who use the blogging platform daily. The site is normally used for sharing art and images, but it also acts well for short form blogging and sharing ideas. Many artists have gotten their start from using Karp’s technology in graphic design, modeling, poetry, or even music. Tumblr appeals to many millennials who feel outside of the mainstream. Tumblr’s focus is on aesthetics, fan groups, and art collaboration. In 2007, when others his age were studying for midterms and living on dorm food, David Karp was busy launching Tumblr, an easy-to-use blogging platform that now hosts 17.5 million blogs and receives about 1.5 billion page views per week. The company has also attracted some $40 million in venture funding (inc.com). Tumblr has been used to change many people’s lives, and is a perfect illustration of right brain thinking that has made monumental success.

Bards Alley – Books, Wine, and Kindred Spirits

As a young girl, nothing inspired Jen Morrow more than the thought that her favorite book was still yet to be written. As an adult, she was frustrated in the lack of childlike wonder she experienced from those around her. And thus was her passion born: to create a space in her local community where kindred spirits could gather to be surrounded by books, wine, and people to share them with.

Bards Alley was the realization of this dream. It is one part bookstore, one part cafe, and all parts a community space for those who want share in the joy of reading. She keeps the shelves stocked with a limited selection of books: some classics, some new publications. The cafe serves coffee and food, and in the evening you can choose from a rotating selection of wine and craft beer to accompany locally made bread, cheese, soup, and charcuterie. The store has an open floor plan with book shelves around the edge and most of the middle of the room dedicated to “family style” dining tables and lounge areas – everything in the alley is designed to foster and host a community of people who love to read and share ideas.

In the North Virginia suburbs of Washington D.C., its easy to feel alone and disconnected: it is a transient area where people and families move away just as fast as they came. This makes it difficult to build the types of meaningful relationships which allow people to get to know other people, and through them get to know more about the world. Bards Alley has become a place to find the people who value fellowship and ideas and allow them to interact in a space that provides the inspiration needed to kick-start the types of meaningful conversations which blossom into friendships and a sense of community.

Set in Clay

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Like so most small startups its beginnings were modest. It began in a small garage in Fall of 2009…Here a hugely successful social enterprise was born.

“With nothing more than an old stamp set, a box of clay, and a plan to support clean water projects in Africa, handmade creations emerged and MudLOVE was born.”

The MudLOVE team is made up of artists, makers, doers, thinkers…entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs with a skill and a passion to make the world a better place: “With ‘mud’ in our hands and love in our hearts, the chance to make a difference is our inspiration to create.”

MudLOVE partners with Water for Good through providing a week of clean water to someone in need for ever ML product purchased. Like many other developing countries, lack of clean water is a huge issue. The Central African Republic is no exception. MudLOVE aims to transform communities and save lives through providing access to safe and clean water.

MudLOVE also has a “Fundraiser Marketplace.” The company chooses initiatives to support and creates a campaign and a customized product to raise funds for that specific initiative.

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 In addition to providing water, MudLOVE necklaces, bracelets and mugs were designed to be instruments of encouragement and inspiration among people. The goal is for the products to spark conversation. “On the right wrist, a simple word can take on powerful significance.”

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MudLOVE craetes products that are aesthetically pleasing…appealing to the millennial generation through the design and the story and meaning they represent. Millennials are bound to make an impact, as they already have. We are drawn to buy products that make an impact on the world, and spark connections with others. MudLOVE products aim to do just that.

The story and mission of MudLOVE carries all the way into how they produce their product.

“Rethink, reuse, recycle: We are solution solvers. In the neverending search for improvement, we invent new tools that still require the careful guidance of human hands. As we strive to streamline production, our emphasis on quality goods remains strong. Every product goes through a careful screening process. If clay gets scrapped, we simply mix it into a new batch. There is always potential for the broken to be made new.”

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Snap Caps – Maddie Bradshaw

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Maddie Bradshaw was worth her first million at only 13 years old.  At 16, she was selling over 60,000 of her unique necklaces a month and making over $1.6 million annually.

Her idea for these unique, interchangeable, bottle cap necklaces started out as simple school locker decorations.  At 10 years old her uncle had given her 50 old bottle caps.  She decorated them, attached magnets to them, and when her friends saw them they all wanted some.  This inspired Maddie to create different designs with bottle caps.

She created Snap Caps.  Snap Caps are necklaces with metal pendants on them to attract and magnetize bottle caps.  Every bottle cap has some kind of symbol, letter, or design so that a person can swap different caps out depending on the style they want to wear for the day.

Maddie found immediate success with her necklaces.  In nearly every store she launched them in they all sold out.  As her business continued to grow and she made her first million at 13, she attracted the attention of the national media and ended up being interviewed on ABC and was able to pitch her project on Shark Tank.  The Sharks loved her idea so much that THREE of them invested into her company!

Currently 19 years old, Maddie continues to grow and expand her business.  She has said, “The great thing about our company is that it’s growing with me.  As my tastes change, so will the products.”  Maddie has also published a book called You Can Start a Business, Too.  Her advise to other young entrepreneurs like her is to, “Follow your passion. If you come up with an idea and you love it, chances are other people will, too.”

Something Fishy

When Madison Robinson was 8 years old, she was an avid drawer of aquatic characters. She brought a picture to her father of the outline of a flip-flop with her sea animals inside of it, announcing “Look Dad, Fish-Flops!” Seeing potential in his daughter’s idea, Madison’s father went out and bought the fishflops.com domain that very day.

Madison 17 Magazine

Now 17 in high school, Madison maintains the delicate balance of a normal high school girl, and working as a fashion designer most famously known for Fish Flops. In 2012, she wrote a letter to a top Nordstrom buyer suggesting they sell her Fish Flops in-store, and they accepted with 64 stores offering Fish Flops by July 2012. The next year her product was featured in a front page article on Yahoo, and the flood of buyers began – starting with every Fish Flop in Nordstrom selling out.

Madison has been featured on shows such as The Willis Report, Fox and Friends, and Inside Edition, as well as multiple publications including Forbes. With her huge success, Image result for FISH FLOPSMadison has become a philanthropist as well as an entreprenur. A portion of every sale goes to the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s campaign, SAFE (Saving Animals From Extinction). She has also donated over 20,000 Fish Flops to several charities that help people around the world who have little access to footwear.

Madison has expanded her Fish Flops line to include shoes and slippers, as well as regular T-shirts advocating for the SAFE campaign. Despite already being a millionaire, instead of kicking back and relaxing Madison constantly seeks to improve herself and help others. She frequently speaks at Jr. Achievement events, and spreads the positive message of pursuing your dreams with a “never quit attitude.” Madison is making her mark on the fashion world, with a driven and determined attitude presented with a smile.

Life is Good

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The Life is Good Company was founded in 1994 by Bert and John Jacobs. They started by designing and selling t-shirts out of their van in the streets of Boston.

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Jake, the iconic stick figure, was created in the same year the company started. Jake was the beginning of Life is Good. The two brothers printed shirts of Jake and found that they were selling like a wildfire.

Their mission is to “spread the power of optimism”

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Their story: https://www.lifeisgood.com/our-story.html

Rifle Paper Co.

Anna Bond always loved stationary and pretty illustrations. After studying graphic design and creating a few posters for her husband’s band, she decided to create her own stationary brand. Most of her easily distinguishable pieces are floral designs or illustrations. She has expanded her brand over the past few years, and it now includes fabric, calendars, books covers, phone cases, planners, and more.

Rifle Paper Co.

Rifle Paper Co. goes beyond an ordinary stationary company. Anna Bond seeks to create an experience for her customers. The stationary industry is currently full of elaborate designs, but Anna Bond attracts people with her simple–yet beautiful–brand and style. She unifies her brand with her classic floral pattern and hand drawn illustrations. This helps her brand stand out and makes her company great.

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Anna Bond mixed her passion of design with her desire to innovate. She was not discouraged by the already saturated stationary market, but she found a way to create a successful and distinctive brand.

Check out her portfolio.