• Skyler Neal

I’m so excited to introduce the lovely Kimothy Joy to Series FEMME where I interview women who personally inspire me as a young college student. Joy is a mother, an artist, and the author of “That’s What She Said” a series of words and illustrations of women who inspire her. She’s a fierce advocate for feminism for all women, no exclusions and you can see that reflected in her art. Kimothy’s work has even been featured in The Huffington Post, Refinery29, Gucci, The Honest Co. and more. I’m so thankful she agreed to answer a few of my questions so without further or do, let us begin!

In any way you want, describe what you do.

I think my response to this question might change daily but here we go. If you asked who I am, I would reply, “I am.” I heard that from Oprah recently and it has stuck. So often, we try to explain ourselves to the world and end up limiting our thinking around who we are and what we do. And if we’re constantly growing and expanding which is my goal - this answer should keep changing. So I am carrying that with me, “I am.” It also reminds me of one of my favorite authors, Sylvia Plath, who said; “I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am. I am. I am.” Therefore, if I am describing what I do...it would be… I create, I make, I play, I am curious, I love and listen deeply, I think, I make space to be alone with my thoughts as often as I can, I am constantly seeking out the voice of my true inner being. I am a creative being and this is reflected in everything I do. I am so proud to be a woman, especially in this day and age and I feel called to use watercolor and other mediums to create messages of hope, solidarity, and empowerment for women. But I know that my daily task is to stay clear and open-hearted in order to hear these messages so that they can pour through me onto the paper.

What’s one thing you do, or try to do every single day for your mental health?

I wake up and drink hot lemon water in the morning before my coffee. It feels cleansing and purifying. I also just started meditating daily. I noticed that all the people I look up to and read about who have a really elevated way of thinking - have one thing in common. They meditate daily and are diligent about it. I get that this is the way to clear your mind and turn off your ego-brain and immediately connect with your heart and inner being. And when I’m in this clear state, that’s when I have all my best creative ideas and ah-ha moments! So the formula is simple...find 10-15 minutes daily to get quiet and breathe deep. I also visualize my dream life unfolding and how it would feel, smell, sound as if it’s already happened. I’ve done this again and again with my goals and oftentimes - it becomes reality! What’s not so simple is actually remembering to meditate or rather, remembering the importance of it when I feel like I don’t have any time.

What inspires or drives you to create?

It’s always been innately who I am. But I also believe that all human beings are creators - we just all create differently using a variety of methods. Even if you’re a scientist or mathematician or teacher - we’re all always creating, building, evolving.

The thing that I get most excited about when I get a surge of energy to paint or write or brainstorm on an idea is the limitless potential. I love the excitement and the unknown of an idea. You never know what that little doodle or sticky note will transform into one day. I love to create for the pure enjoyment and thrill of creating. I think that’s where the magic is. Forget the outcome or where you think it will take you - just focus on the idea unraveling and unfolding. Get lost in it. Give it room to expand and show up in a bigger way that you never could have planned for anyway.

What’s one thing you could say to your younger self?

Wash your face before you go to bed. Drink water. Wear sunscreen. Stay in when you don’t feel like going out. Find a daily practice that calms your mind and brings you peace. Painting, running, yoga, reading, cooking, whatever you want. Get used to knowing what makes you feel good and fulfilled. So many things can happen outside of your control in this crazy world...I wish I would have practiced staying grounded and centered earlier on. Then I might have had some handrails when my mom passed away from breast cancer, when I went through a divorce, when I changed jobs, etc. In general, date yourself. Make time to get to know yourself and fall in love. :) Then you won’t rely on everyone else to make you feel good. You’ll be able to do it all on your own.

Oh wait - I have to add one more major thing! Learn how to interrupt your thoughts and quickly pivot before you start feeling horrible! Notice your thinking patterns that make you feel bad or make you feel hateful towards others...this is so important. Then practice interrupting that thought and selecting a new one or new topic that makes you feel good! You can become a master of this and avoid feeling major jealousy, self-hatred, envy, worry, etc.

What’s a good perspective to have if you’re going into an environment where everything is handed to people around you?

Welcome to the mixed bag that is the world! Everyone comes from different backgrounds, families, financial situations, vantage points. I remember getting pretty frustrated while in college noticing that others didn’t have to work while going to school like me. Or their parents were there to write them a check whenever they needed it. Comparing myself to them often robbed me of my joy. Comparison, to anyone besides your former self, will rob you of joy. So don’t do it! Easier said than done. But ultimately, I am accepting and actually very grateful for the chance to learn how to hustle when I was young and build the confidence to know I could find a way to make money regardless of the circumstances.

How do you approach criticism?

Ahh great question. It isn’t always easy. It really depends on what kind. Earlier when I started painting and sharing my work online, I received a lot of criticism for all kinds of things. Especially as my audience on Instagram suddenly grew from 1k to 14k+ overnight. I really wasn’t ready for all the attention - both good and bad! I received comments about my messaging being off, questions about why there wasn’t a specific type of looking woman portrayed, or that my artwork looked too similar to other artists. And not to mention, the other bevy of online trolling that comes with anything feminist or politically-related. At first, it was really heartbreaking. I took every comment SO personal. So I went to therapy to work through it. Turns out, this was part of an ongoing people-pleasing habit for me and for a lot of women. We are taught to be polite and not be too vocal or ruffle feathers. And when we do - we get attacked from every angle. Instead of shrinking during this criticism, I have learned to first perceive if the person actually wants to have a dialogue about it or just be hateful. If there’s something in their critique that can help me be better, help me evolve - I’m open to it. Otherwise, I have stronger boundaries now and don’t spend much time thinking about it. It’s certainly a muscle you develop.

What’s the one thing people should know before people start their own business?

It’s not for everyone! Keep that in mind. Totally go for it if you feel called to do so. But also be open to changing your mind! When you own your own business, it’s exhilarating and also overwhelming. You call the shots. But also, you’re sometimes working over the weekend while everyone is seemingly playing. You’ve got to be okay with that. I love working and am a pretty hyper-productive busy body. I hardly ever watch tv, etc. I love what I do so I (usually) don’t mind having an irregular non-stop schedule. I just make sure to carve out days to go get a massage, take breaks during the day to exercise or walk my dog or play with my daughter - whatever I need to stay energized and calm.

How do you push yourself to take risks, or does it come naturally?

I am naturally a risk-taker. But I actively work on taking bigger risks and conjuring up bigger dreams just to see how far I can take it. I tell myself mantras like, “You can’t get this wrong. Go big or go home. Have no fear.” Of course, having a family and being the main financial support is always to be considered but when I come up with a risky-sounding idea...I take some time to see how I can approach it pragmatically. The greater the risk, the greater the reward! I study women who’ve come before me and are currently rising to the top of their fields for inspiration and motivation. They’re doing it, why can’t I? Why can’t you?

Do you have an anthem? As in, what song makes you feel like the best version of yourself at that moment?

Ahh such a good question. I love Cardi B - “I like It”. In fact, I’m going to play it right now. It’s the ultimate “remember, you are a bad bitch” song. I can’t help but dance and praise myself for how far I’ve come and how much I’ve grown. I think she’s saying, “you didn’t think I could but here I am...look at me now!”.

Who’s one person you greatly admire or look up to?

There are so many! All the women and girls in my book! Okay, but I’ll just pick one for the purpose of answering this question. OPRAH! I think she’s been low-key trying to balance out the toxic stream of media we’re spoon fed on all the major networks. I don’t really watch TV or movies or the news because intuitively, I can tell when they’ve impacted me negatively or are making me feel more fearful. I pay attention to how movies or shows leave me feeling. And Oprah does the same. That’s why she counteracts all of it with carefully considered guests and shows that only convey messages rooted in love and connectedness. I love what she’s done with her media empire and hope that she continues to spread higher conscious messages to the masses. We so need it. Less violence, pettiness, otherness in media. We need to focus on solutions and how we can all personally evolve and build a better future together.

#femme #seriesfemme #kimothyjoy #feminist #wokeart #feministart #positivity #oprah #artist #imagination #selfcare #career #collegeadvice #college #workingwomen

  • Skyler Neal

Updated: Aug 7, 2018

It’s my pleasure to introduce Meredith Brockington, the entrepreneurial mastermind behind AMIE (ah-mee), a shop that highlights some of the best women artists in the U.S. Amie’s tagline is “Female, not factory.” Meredith took the leap to run her own business after working as Photo Art Director for L.L.Bean. She graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology where she studied Advertising Photography. Obviously, it paid off and I’m so happy she agreed to have a chat with me!

In the most creative way you can think of, describe what you do?

First, thank you for promoting Amie and our mission to empower women artists. The maker movement is invaluable and we are working on shifting the consumer mindset to support Female, not factory-made product and artists alike.

My job as Founder & CEO of Amie is an abstract painting with many, many layers! The best part of it is connecting with the women all over the country, hearing their stories, and being able to share that with our audience through photos of the artists in their studios, videos of the artists making designs by hand, details of their lives. We’re showing a window into what it means to be an artist, women business owner, and creative entrepreneur. I love buying and receiving products and feeling an emotional connection to a design that was made by a person. There’s a strong sense of self in every piece we carry and we want to make sure we put a face to the product so our customers can have a similar experience.

The day to day of an entrepreneur is somewhat glorified. It has a lot of ups and downs and can be isolating. I am very extroverted and thrive in team-working environments. I like collaborating, delegating, and being provided with feedback. These are all aspects that need to be created by me, so it’s a tough balance to create. My mantra is it’s a work in progress.

What is one ritual every day that keeps you stable and grounded?

I need to be outside and feel the sun on my skin even if it’s walking or biking to a coffee shop. I love working out and sweating out toxins. I attend spin classes almost every day and on my off days, I head to the White Mountains to hike or a lake to swim. Coffee, music, prayer, community, travel, time in the outdoors, and wine is my recipe for happiness. If one of those things is off, I feel out of balance and find ways to recreate that middle ground.

What is one thing you would say to your college self if you could go back in time?

Work harder, seek out every opportunity and study abroad! At RIT we had every type of camera equipment at our fingertips. That’s a once in a lifetime opportunity- truly. I wish I had spent more time experimenting and playing with gear to find what I liked and challenged me as a creative. I never partied and took my studies seriously, but I was distracted by relationships and could have poured more into my art. I transferred colleges my junior year and due to the rigor of the program was unable to study abroad in order to graduate “on time.” That was a mistake. I wish more than anything I had lived in another country and immersed myself in another culture. It’s way more difficult to do that as an adult than a student. No regrets, but I would do some things slightly different.

If you have any secret college life hacks, please share?

Hmm, that’s tough. I stacked all of my classes so they were 3 days a week allowing more time and dedication to projects and studying. This is good advice if time management is a strength, otherwise, there’s a lot of time to procrastinate. Lol!

What do you think is the most important trait or decision that has positively influenced where you are now?

It’s cheesy but simple. Follow your heart and go with your gut. Some folks will support you and some won’t understand why you would choose this path and leave a full-time, highly respected job with GOOD benefits to create a startup, but if that’s what you want then go do it. You have to be true to yourself and never give up. Even in moments of adversity I know I made the right decision. Amie is 10 months old and has been the most rewarding and fulfilling creative project. It takes time to grow a business. Be persistent and patient.

If you could describe your personal style in three words, what would they be?

Vintage, sustainable, neutrals.

What led you to decide that you wanted to start your own company?

A sense of complacency. I would drive to work and cry. I struggled to work outside the city I was living in. My creativity felt watered down and redundant. I am the type of person who needs to be constantly challenged and to create new work. I wanted to start a platform that supported artists. After researching artists, I realized that 90% of the list I created were women and couldn’t ignore that. I decided to adjust my business plan to focus on women and never looked back. I changed the name to Amie (ah-mee) French for a female friend. I thought it was important to name the business “friend” to be an inclusive community of friends. If we love one another, we can support and encourage one another.

If one book could be your professional bible, which would you pick?

In the Company of Women by Grace Bonney is my inspiration. My twin sister gave me a copy for Christmas two years ago. I read it front to back three times. The following month I handed in my resignation. ITCOW was the bridge I needed to take steps to start Amie. It gave me confidence and motivation. It helped that it was women-focused, well written and photographed. I have two copies and would suggest any entrepreneur reads it!

What keeps you going through all the hard work it takes to be your own boss?

Coffee. Friendships. Family support. Amie artists. FaceTiming women entrepreneurs and hearing their joys and struggles that are similar to mine and knowing I’m not alone.

When you’re stuck in a rut, what gets you out of it?

TRAVEL. It’s a catch 22. Travel always invigorates me, but it’s so hard to come back to reality.

In your opinion, what is the best way to handle a failure?

I remind myself that everything happens for a reason and it wasn’t meant to be. Something better is usually around the corner. Then I go eat FRENCH FRIES!!

Finally, if you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would you go?

Bali. After watching Chef’s Table featuring Will Goldfarb, I moved it to the top of my list. I want to go everywhere.

Check out AMIE!

Photo credit to Erin Little + Greta Tucker

#femme #girlboss #wilderskies #boss #bossinterview #amie

Updated: Jan 3, 2019

Skyler: What is your biggest source of inspiration for your work?

Nina: Right now it's the sheep, you know it changes as you go but right at this moment it's the sheep, also my dogs.

Skyler: Where did you grow up?

Nina: I grew up in the Bronx and lived on Long Island until I was eight years old. My dad worked in the city and the city was the closest big town.

Skyler: Did you start photographing the city when you were young?

Nina: I went to art school in New Canaan, Connecticut for a while.We would go on field trips to New York to photograph. Right after college I moved to Maine.

Skyler: What is or has been your biggest creative obstacle?

Nina: Oh boy, the first word that came to my mind was creativity. I wouldn't trade it for anything but it's a challenge to live your life with that drive and passion because it's never done, never good enough. I mean that's just the way it is with artists and you have to understand that or else you'll be crazy. As you know a lot of artists are crazy. My friends have told me that I'm a little crazy (laughs).

Skyler: Well it's like a different mindset

Nina: Right, it's a different mindset and you know, to be on that edge is exciting and also crazy making. I mean that's the obstacle, keeping focused, and knowing that when you go through a period where you don't do anything creative at all, that's a really healthy break.

Skyler: I think one obstacle that my generation faces as a creative obstacle is the amount of content out on social media, everything is out there which makes it hard to be truly original. There's a guy on YouTube name Casey Niestat who does whatever he wants on YouTube and makes a career out of it. But his content is amazing.

Nina: That kind of stuff just blows my mind. Like how did that happen? I mean I use facebook to share my photos and before that you were way more isolated and have actual photography shows. You have people actually come to your studio or gallery. So in that way I think it's really good.

Skyler: Do you have any other creative hobbies other than photography?

Nina: I draw, but I didn't draw for a really long time. I used to draw in the seventies, I don't know why I just stopped drawing. I was looking at some of my old drawing journals and I decided to start drawing again.

Skyler: Biggest adventure?

Nina: A friend called me up, it was a friend from high school, I was getting divorced, had lost a really big account, they were tearing down my studio, I had these two little kids, and she said do you want to go horseback riding in France? I hadn't been on a horse in eighteen years. So I went and it was so fun because we were riding from end to end to end.

Skyler: That sounds amazing.

Nina: It really was. So the next year, my friends called asking if I wanted to go to Wyoming. After it was over, I was like 'I'm not stopping that, that was the best time'. It came up again the next year, I was still paying for last year's trip, so I re-created myself as a journalist. I told the owner, 'look I'm a photographer, I used to write for some newspapers, but I'll guarantee you an article.' I went, and that was really awesome. It ended up being the cover of the Boston Globe travel section. So after that I traveled the world and did the same thing, all equestrian vacations.

Skyler: That's crazy, and amazing.

Skyler: So what is the best career advice you ever got?

Nina: That would be just to keep doing it. Not for money, you just have to keep doing it all the time. You don't want to be doing something for the money, you have to enjoy it.

Skyler: Great advice

Skyler: How did you come about photographing Hillary and Obama?

Nina: Well that's the thing about doing it, and saying yes to everything, when I worked for the Press Herald I photographed presidents getting off the plane because that was my job. The democratic party called me, vetted me, and they did a security check on me. I've photographed Obama a couple of times and every time my heart is beating out of my chest, I'm thinking what if my camera doesn't work?

#travelphotographer #ninafuller #farm #obama #photography

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