[I had] into [selling] knit scarves on Etsy is not at all what I wanted – not that knitting isn’t a respectable craft, which is a totally different conversation.)
“I took Skandoughless and decided it was a way I had existed to survive.”
I guess if I had to say a philosophy, it would be something along the lines of taking your passion, handle it exactly how you want to without reservations, and use that passion to help people do the same in their lives. The whole point of the brand is to help me and other people step out of their comfort zone while still maintaining self-respect and inner power.
How has your work evolved since its conception?
The work is so much attached to my life. It includes people that I respect and love and it takes so much time to produce the pieces that are physically close to my body during that creation period. That said, every instance that I’ve had in my life – relationships, interaction, jobs, college, having a brain aneurism – have been integral to each and every part of my art existence. I relied a lot on what other people thought about my work in the beginning, was concerned with how people would receive what I had to offer while I was still figuring it out. I want to say at the beginning the work was a little less constrained and tailored. I was younger and naive and had yet to be taken advantaged of by people with huge egos. Recently, I have stopped showing for a while to figure out exactly what Skandoughless is so that I can be pensive on the work that I have created and what it will all add up to.
You work heavily with handmade chainmaille. What inspired this medium and can you touch on what chainmaille expresses in regard to your vision?
Metal weaving for me started as a way to heal and meditate. As someone with a background in costume and fibers, the medium spoke to me. When I moved to Detroit in 2013 I had no friends and was riding a pink scooter around at night and started thinking about ways to defend myself in case someone attacked me. Chainmaille seemed like a good option. The first piece that I ever made was modeled after a tall tee, something in street wear that inspired me. Growing up in Cleveland, it was a garment with a lot of implications of class and status. So I got some pliers and made a dress, because I read online it would take months and I wanted to do it in a week.
After that I got addicted to making these pieces, and started thinking about them more as theatrical and costuming rather then ready-to-wear. So I started playing more in my studio, using patterns from already existing objects that have implications of femininity in Western culture – like oven mitts, sleep masks, aprons etc. And the result was becoming more and more interesting. I had mainly worked in drawing and embroidery in the past, so I felt this medium was finally getting at what I wanted to say.
I was having a conversation with a woman who is new to my life and very inspiring, and she said after the election “You know, chainnmaille is a going to be a very powerful medium now.” And I was like oh shit, I make chainmaille!” That for me was a moment of realization about what being a visual artists means in a society that doesn’t value art.
Tell us a bit about your new knuckle ring line.
After collaborating with a friend we came up with a fictional line called “Protect Your Neck” – chainmaile chokers, knuckles, and other wearable garments that I could possibly make a profit off of while still making a statement. I contacted a friend of mine who had shown me some sketch-ups of knuckle rings her boyfriend had made for her band Odd Hours. “Protect Your Neck” are the self-branded knuckle rings Hell Money Warriors and I created.
They embrace the classic style of the brass knuckle, but also take high-fashion and wearable sculpture into consideration. They are currently made from silver and gold steel. When Kevin (of Hell Money Warriors) and I were conceptualizing them, we talked a lot about defense mechanisms that women wear, such as kitty knuckles, but landed on this unisex design and style. I am super grateful to all of these people coming into my life who share my vision to fight for a cause.
What role has Detroit played in the creation of your art? Has it inspired you? Stifled you?
Detroit, Detroit, Detroit. Okay, let me start here. Detroit has given me the blessing to create art everyday, meet some of the most amazing creative partners I’ve ever met, to explore music, to freely display my work and to define my voice. I have learned how to DJ, model, design, and perform. I have had opportunities to make relationships with people I may never have known in a bigger city. I have also learned how to say “no,” “naw,” and “fuck you.”
Detroit has also put me in life-threatening situations. You can’t escape being a “Detroit” artist here, and there is an extreme lack of professionalism in the small creative pond we often swim in. I feel like I have done so much creative work here for free and been taken advantage of financially with no means to an end that I have to laugh. I’ve had conversations with other artists who feel they have to take their work out of the city to be paid for it. Honestly, I’m so grateful that these things have happened here because everything else seems like a cakewalk. I do feel stifled in the market and scene here in the city because I think a lot of people don’t understand what I’m trying to do and there are definitely times when I feel like I have no room for growth. I have learned to not expect anything in Detroit, and am happier that way.
In addition to wearable art, you are also a visual artist in terms of video production and editing. How do these mediums support each other? What is the overarching story between what you physically create and your video work?
A lot of it is auto-biographical and a lot of it is hustle. Whatever medium I have an opportunity to express myself in I will figure out how to use it. For example, if a club wants me to do visuals in a week, my creative partner and I will shoot video and make a film. If someone is offering me a DJ gig, I will create a spectacle that goes with the algorithms of my pattern-making, but is danceable to that specific audience. My visual work used to be a very private and self-contained practice, but letting it explode into the world has given me a lot of really amazing opportunities.
My physical creations are a lot about the poetic idea of femininity: protection, maternal instinct, sexuality, prowess combined with satirical social commentary that negates these really beautiful things. My video work mirrors this and is best illustrated by my piece Rich Girls Doing Cheap Things. Pieces like this help me make sense of all these opportunities and privileges that people were born with yet they try to act like they have had hardship, or gain a sense of authenticity through looking impoverished. A lot of it goes back to political and class structures, and all of these products are my negotiations of them so I don’t fucking freak out.
Let’s talk about the word “Pussy.” Though the word has been dragged through the mud this past election season, you’ve never shied away from the power of its root meaning. Why embrace the word and what does it mean to you to have one?
So “Pussy” as a phrase to me growing up always had a negative connotation. It was a thing boys – and girls – called each other to insinuate weakness and disrespect. Hearing the word never made me proud to have a vagina – in fact I was always embarrassed of my body. I always believed that women were such beautiful, mystical beings and I was angry that people didn’t see what I saw, and retaliated with obnoxious fashion.
However, in the female-centric rap music that I grew up with (Crime Mob, Ester Dean, Lady, Missy Elliot), PUSSY is a power term. It is embraced and shed of sexual embarrassment. Flash forward to now, I try to use the word pussy as much as I can in my art in a positive sense.
“I think it’s reclaiming the word [pussy] for me… I have embroidered the word over and over in my head to tell myself it is okay to be a woman, it is amazing to be a woman, and I would rather die than give up being a woman. “
How is your art impacted by censorship in social media? Have you found ways to confront it?
I absolutely love censorship. The fact that it still exists is hilarious to me. It is a spoke on the capitalist wheel. You’re telling me if women’s bodies aren’t selling something (i.e. themselves or a man’s power over them) they have no place on the internet? Like, are you fucking kidding me?! It’s crazy too, with the structure of our society and people’s brainwashed ambivalence for free thought that they think it is their right to take down or flag images.
As a personal mode of expression for me, it’s ridiculous. But there are some super radical women whose platforms to discuss these ideas are shut down, patronized and ridiculed. Sexual freedom and comfortability is so lacking in this country. It’s sad.
How has being a woman artist changed in the Trump era? In your eyes what is at stake and how do you intend to use your voice and vision to combat hatred and intolerance?
I was afraid of the word “feminism” at some point in my life and I have never claimed myself to be politically motivated until now. I know there is a chance that my physical and mental liberties are going to be taken away. I need to have a voice for the people who are scared and don’t see a way out. It is no longer a question of “Do I put this online today? Do I share my images freely to the public without recognition?” It has become “PUT THAT SHIT ON EVERY FUCKING MEDIA POSSIBLE UNTIL THEY SHUT THIS BITCH DOWN!”
What is your hope for the future of Skandoughless? What do you see yourself accomplishing in the coming year?
OMG. I hope to accomplish so much. There are not enough hours in the day for me! I want to really strongly differentiate the characters I have created with the brand aspect of Skandoughless. I want to be fully supported by my practice this year. I want to model and DJ more and start painting again. I want to get published, and start gaining recognition for what I’m doing. I want to inspire people, I want to shoot images of people who inspire me wearing my work. Ultimately, I want to eliminate all the negativity in my life and keep pushing other creatives around me.
Shop Skandoughless here and check the site for upcoming shows, performances and new work.