The Value of Creative
18 years ago I graduated with honors as one of 5 artists completing the highly critical BFA program at Iowa. My focus was paint and my purpose was to capture the feeling of being feminine in our culture. I balanced out my perspective with minors in color theory, photography, ceramics, and french. My "work" was big, bold and abstract with my thesis show a collection of Bowl Paintings. Ten of which were 4'x4' oil on canvas where the bowls became personified in stacks, while another 10 or so played with texture in multiple formats and mediums. All wildly feminine with intentional imperfections. I don't think I slept over 4 hours a night once through college as there was too much to accomplish... now!
But upon completion of the dedicated program, I vowed to not just "be an artist". I would not sell out. I would not let the influence of money change my work to match the furniture. I would not narrow my process to produce art to sustain me. Yet I vowed to never stop being an artist. In my naivety, I imagined myself working a "real job" where I used my creative skills to pay the bills, and then I would retreat to my studio to be diligent in my "work" by night.
So 2 weeks after graduation, with a broken arm from mountain biking, my cat and I trekked to Cali to start that life. It wasn't long before making money felt like prostitution as I thrived using my voice to persuade the rich that a bottle of wine was well worth the absurd price tag. Yet this "work" did not inspire my "work" as an artist. It left me empty and craving independence and fueled my entrepreneurial passion to change the world. Being inside 8 hours a day, pushed me to ride my bike harder, longer, faster until in exhaustion there was no time for late night painting. So my creative expression took on a new rhythm. Periods of taking in the world, followed by dense sessions of shutting out the world to project it onto the canvas. I never stopped painting, yet selling and showing were petty self-marketing tasks that drained the love of it out of me, so I knew that entrepreneurial fulfillment was not going to be as an artist.
It had to be creative though. It had to be something bigger then me that could spill from heart to inspire change in others. When I first put my finger on it, it made sense that I would become an innovator because I had a longing to solve problems. Hour after hour pedaling my bike, I knew that the change I wanted to see in the world was more women on bikes but the limiters were enormous. At the time, I was riding my bike 15-20 hours a week and couldn't stand to look in the mirror once I was "suited up". Even worse was seeing a picture of me in that hideous attire. I wasn't fat or ugly, but cycling "outfits" made me feel fat and ugly. It didn't matter how cute the pattern was, nothing ever flattered my body. Frumpy and lump, like a stuffed sausage in the shrink it and pink it.
When I first developed the Bloomers I knew I was on to something big as they were the solution to wearing normal clothing comfortably on a bike. I wasn't going to change the field of women overnight, but if I could inspire more women to try, they would discover the joy and the field would grow the way I came into it: "once it is no longer about IF you can then it becomes a matter of HOW FAST you can then it's time to race".
Somehow I convinced myself that if I could sell wine, I could sell something that I believed in easier, but little did I know, that selling and marketing were two different animals, and while it took a lot of capital to create a superior product, marketing took twice as much. After 3 years of pouring my heart and soul into selling the best product I could make, it was clear that what I was selling was really a lifestyle change. I wanted women to discover the less is more of riding a bike. I wanted women everywhere to leave their car parked in the driveway and ride their bike. Feeling beautiful on a bike was the freedom that I promised by giving them permission to jump on any old bike, in whatever outfit they wanted to wear, and not be self-critical, self conscious, or hyper aware of what other people were thinking of them.
This is where I have succeeded with My Alibi, yet it is a ripple effect that gives it power. It's the 2000 women that each inspire 10 more women to inspire 100 more each, that brings social change. It is 10,000 women that say they don't need my Bloomers to ride to the grocery store that push us into a social norm. And most of all, it is the mothers that let go of her own insecurities to pedal with her kids, back and forth to school that are changing the world. It's not me. Hell, I'm not even profiting from it, the big brands do that with no conscious as they exploit children in China and dump toxins in the rivers and air, to boost their margins and keep the perceived cost low. I'll stick to sustainable manufacturing and grassroots marketing because the true cost is not worth the waste. So the next time you look at My Alibi Bloomer price tags and think differently, just know: my first entrepreneurial gig was "The Egg Girl" and I had more profit in my savings at age 9 then I do today. The true value of my creative expression, is in the action you take. Is riding a bike a part of your day? I hope so. Inspire the bike integrated lifestyle by being the change you want to see in the world. Pedal it forward!