This past Saturday marks a fairly monumental occasion in my life, and I thought I’d share it with you.
2009, which I normally just refer to as ‘that time I had that emotional breakdown’, was kind of a hard year, to say the least. So I thought, what better way to get through it than to start working, like, a lot. Which is funny in a way, because the tipping point of said breakdown was kind of me working, like, a lot. And I mean ‘a lot’ as in people not believing I wasn’t on hard drugs to keep going. It was simply this passion, drive, the ultimate ‘want’ to succeed in every way…. and a lot of coffee.
See, I moved to Los Angeles from the great state of Michigan in late 2006. And rather than get lost in the shuffle, I took it as seriously as possible, jumped on a movie set right away, and stepped out of my comfort zone in every way, and took every opportunity to work, paid/unpaid… all in an effort to ‘make it’. The last thing I ever wanted was to go home with my tail between my legs, a failure.
So I moved home in late 2007 to ‘re-evaluate’, to save up, and come back out.
Over this time, relationships disintegrated in front of me. Friends, girlfriends, jobs… I didn’t get it. I thought I was Mr. Cool though, and people liked me cause I’m awesome, and work hard, and I’m trustworthy! Maybe so, but I also had become a total dick. I became ‘LA’. Just like I said I never would. I came home. Like I said I never could.
And then came the psychologist and the crazy pills, and me admitting every wrong to nearly everyone I’d wronged. I wanted to start over, and really be the good person I was, without having to be so cut throat and ‘LA’.
So I started this thing called NEWPENNY. It was basically just me, with the help of some amazing friends, trying to muster up some artistic work, and find a way to move others through simply doing good to others, and paying it forward. My personal rehabilitation was making a fashion shirt, just to say I could. Also to kind of prove I still had it and wasn’t a total failure. So I did, and sold a few to some friends and relatives and gave a few out as gifts. And then the work started pouring in- Tshirt work. Freelance and custom opportunities that I couldn’t imagine. I repurposed items donated, created graphics for people that didn’t have them, and was essentially running a Tshirt business out of a bedroom in a house in Grand Rapids Michigan. And I didn’t know what the hell I was doing.
The greatest part of it all were the stories behind the shirts. People that were moved when I came back with a design for their bachelorette party shirts, or when these art school kids had Tshirts made with their favorite teacher’s picture on the front. It was amazing to see people coming to me over other companies because I built this stuff in my house. From scratch. I printed everything by hand, and would give deals simply to do gigs for people that didn’t have enough money.
NEWPENNY was based on being good to people, because everyone is struggling. We all are, in some way. And we all have the power to reach out compassionately, without too much effort, and help someone else do something really great. See, people donated time and effort at the beginning, and still do, because of the fact that I just want to see people happy. And that strengthens the world.
Ok, on to the point. 3 years later, I’m living in LA. I’ve slept on couches, lived in houses, and have been making custom prints and freelance fulfillments for many, many different people. I’ve gotten to work and create for people that moved me growing up, some of my heroes, and essentially start to become this artist I always wanted to. I thought the key was being a feature film director. And then I made a Tshirt that moved the people around me.
So I made 24 looks and dressed 19 models with a crew of 3. I stayed up tirelessly to create art for my brand as well as some of the others I’m currently working with, and it was amazing. Even for some of the models, who were just people that wanted to give it a shot. And when they walked off stage, so empowered, feeling a sense of accomplishment, after having told me that even walking in the show would be a personal triumph for them, and I saw tears in some of their eyes. Do you have any idea what that did to me?! It wasn’t about me anymore, or my want to give back. That fashion show wasn’t about me, or premiering NEWPENNY fashions to the world. It was about the people that walked in it, that saw it, whose tracks I used, the stories behind every shirt, design, and outfit. It was the collaboration I was waiting for, and gave validation to every ounce of energy any one of us has put into it in any way.
I will definitely keep going with it. I hope to have more fashion shows, create more outfits, make more art, and be a part of more and more events with some of the greatest people I’ve yet to meet.
If you read this far… Thank You. You are what this is about.