Last time T’afari helped us to learn more about Arielle Rock. Now as we continue to meet women in fashion on the rise let’s have a sit down with Shanika Grimes:
I traveled all the way to Welches to meet up with Shanika Grimes at Coffee Bean. She had been there for awhile and informed me that it is often her go-to spot when making important business calls and notes. With sweat dripping from my forehead I heaved a sigh of relief before asking her to introduce herself for the readers.
“Hi my name is Shanika Grimes, I am twenty-eight years old, I design and make bags, murals and paintings; any kind of décor. I just have a love for art I just wanted to format my art in a way that is commercial, sustainable viable so I started my brand Artist Made, where I make and design things that people want for their homes, nice hand-painted bags people would like to wear hand-painted to their style and mine as well.”
What kind of materials do you work with?
“I like linens and cottons I like vinyl-based leather as well. I don’t have a particular taste, I just have my taste which is more bohemian cloths which are huggable and soft. However I have made things that more people would have a different interest for and I guess that is what makes me flexible and able to adjust to suit customer needs.”
“When did you first start sketching?”
“I always used to sketch and doodle and paint. I got really serious about it when I was thirteen and then I started to paint seriously. It became obsessive almost and I think that is when most artists realize you either have to stick with it or find something else if you intend to be successful. Most of us are artists when we are really young but it is to remain an artist that is the real challenge.”
And are you an artist full-time?
“I also teach at Alexandra school and I do art parties as a means of supplementing my creativity. There is a season for people purchasing gifts and so it kind of balances my business. I don’t get to do a lot of my work now because there is such a high demand for commissions which kind of keeps me out of my head-space a bit but I appreciate the demand for my work.”
“I was going to ask you if there was a season where the demand is higher?”
“I think in the summer there is a higher demand for like paintings. In terms of like gift sales in December there is definitely a peak area where you have your family coming in and you want to give them something nice and you can treat yourself and your friend also; people budget to spend more around Christmas time. So most businesses thrive during Christmas.”
“Would you say your journey as an artist in the Caribbean has been particularly hard?”
“With any business there is an incubation period where you have to work really, really hard and that period lasts for about five to ten years; and then there is a growth period. People need to be realistic when they start out an endeavor and they don’t see a healthy turn-out in the first year or so… you have to hold on to the small milestones. If you can’t, you are not meant to do it.”
“Yeah people tend to give up after the first few years or so”
“Yeah because grit isn’t something you’re born with it is an intrinsic personal quality. So if you don’t have grit you are not going to be successful in anything you do. Your mobility will be stifled if you do not have that personal drive. People that work for themselves kind of need more of it because you don’t have anyone behind you pushing you towards certain milestones, you kind of have to do that for yourself. It takes a really strong personal resolve.”
Do you aim to reach everyone or do you have a particular target audience?
“My target audience is usually people with a mindset similar to mine, you know like, people who have a strong sense of self, who don’t need to follow the mainstream and feel like if the only way they can make a statement about who they are is by being somebody else; like wearing the top of the line, most popular branded bags. I never felt like a person who needed to fit in. I just wanna wear what I like and my customers buy my bags because they know they can get what they like from me.”
“Where would you like to see your brand in the next five years?”
“I really really love designing anything. I just want to scale my business to the point where I don’t necessarily have to supplement it with teaching anymore. I like teaching but it can become a distraction in a way because dealing with children and everything that goes with it. It takes a lot and it is very demanding. It is not that I don’t love it but I have more love for being in my own creative space. I want my business to have enough design commissions.”
Shanika says she would rather not be paid to force children to do something which they are not particularly interested in.
“It is a pain to my existence.” She says with a half-hearted grin.
“The thing is most kids are artists when they are young, as you said but as they get older, adults tell them to pursue something else as it is not very sustainable.”
Shanika frowns at this.
“You can’t really say something is not sustainable if you don’t ever try it- it may not be sustainable to be a lawyer anymore in Barbados because we have so many of them. People just accredit sustainability to this old-age idea of what worked-cause what was working ten years ago compared to what is working now-a lot of young artists are making leeway because it is not as competitive as it should be; because so many fall off and say well this isn’t gonna be too easy.”
“Do you think Barbadian media does enough to help promote local artists?”
“I think that the media gives people what it thinks they want. It still uses the same formats. I just think it needs to have a new approach to giving people information; and a more open approach. Everything is such a popularity contest in Barbados sometimes you, as a media person you have to get out there and look for quality. A lot of people are like ‘this is just what is happening now’ because this is the person that you see the most, but I don’t find that a lot of people that are necessarily super popular are the ones who are offering the best product. People are lazy about looking for good things.” She laughs and sips her coffee.
“Are there any designers and creatives you would like to work with or collaborate with in the future?
“Well I would say that I do have very selfish tendencies when it comes to designing and making things. I like working alone. I find that working with other artists can be very stressful to me. I am kind of like friendly but not very friendly. I am kind of introverted in my own way. When it comes to my creative space I prefer to be working with someone who would do what I wanna do. It is not really a sharing space for me unless it is a client relationship. In terms of design, I like to do it alone.”
“Who/what have your influences been?”
“Well I do not think anybody is really self-taught. Not going to an institution doesn’t mean you weren’t impacted by somebody else’s journey or learnjng from somebody else. Nothing is really original; you see them, they impact you and you interpret them in a different way. Even if you study on your own it is still someone else’s work.”
Are you ever stuck creatively?
“No I find I just work things through. I am not afraid to mess up or spend money on something creative. It is never a loss. If you are stuck you just have to work with it and fight your way through. Sometimes it just comes to me.”
“I love the act of painting. People like the things they are surrounded by kind of on their walls so like the ocean and sea-turtles. Definitely the environment. Personally I love portraits but there isn’t really a market for those.”
Is it difficult sustaining your business?
“At first it was so I had to supplement it with my teaching. However it has gotten to a place where it can pay for itself which is nice. I just hope that it continues to grow. You can find me on Instagram @artistmade and my phone is always going so just message me and we can go from there.”
The bubbly artist grins as the interview comes to a close. Sipping her coffee she informs me that she has to go to Sheraton after to continue some business. Business that makes it clear that Bajan women in fashion and design are determined and are on a rise in the industry. Time we take notice.
- written by T’afari Steede.