It all started with a torn ACL and a lot of down time. To fill my boring bed written days, I ordered this airbrush with absolutely no idea it was going to drastically change the course of my life.
Playing around on what little canvas I had, I ran out very quickly. With the lack of transportation and mobility I hobbled over on my crutches to the back of my closet and grabbed an old dusty denim jacket. Before I knew it, almost all jackets in my house was sprayed with these giant faces, me and all my friends.
I posted a photo on Instagram for fun and someone wanted to buy it? I was confused, but who was I to say no to my first sale. Bing bang boom. One face after the other. I was high, it felt so good. Partially from the paint fumes and this little tickle in my heart.
A week later I told my mother,
"I'm going to do this thing." Mom: "Do what sweetie?" "This jacket thing, I'm going to paint them and sell them."
After a long pause and flashes of her recently graduated daughter covered in paint for the rest of her life, the fears of the struggling artist stigma and all that came with starting a business instead of getting a job. She said: "Ok...Go for it"
And so I did.
A photographer (who later became a very dear friend) connected with me on Facebook and told me I should submit my work for RAW Artist. An organization that showcases emerging designers and artist at no cost with high visibility. So I sent in my photos and an application; and I got accepted. Ha! I had a fashion show to plan within a month. Reminder; this all happened within two weeks.
I usually move fast in life. I'm an adrenaline junky- I do what feels right regardless of the consequences. (only later to suffer the consequences, but that's for another day)
To do list and planners, vision boards and a whole lot of thrifting; I was knee deep in this new dream of becoming a wearable art fashion designer. I spent most of my days and staying up late to makeup for lost magical sunlight. No sleep, Adderall and a quick 10 pounds lighter, one would say I had a very, very healthy work ethic.
At this point I had sold 5 jackets. Posting on Instagram and through friends. Fueling this flame that "I have something here." A feeling that never faded (insert imposter syndrome in the not so distant future)
Its show time. My entire booth hand crafted and poorly stitched together. Painted signs and safety pinned outfits; I had chosen the alias Camilla Ferox. Which appeared on the big screen during our spotlight.
I must've cried 100 times that day. Wildly prepared, running through rehearsals. My closest friends had become models for the day and they S.T.R.U.T.T.E.D to "Guillotine" by Jon Bellion. It was a hit. I was a hit, small town girl with two broken knees and a whole shit ton of denim jackets; a hit! The crowd went wild; I selectively could hear my dad and sister laughing and crying out of pure amazement. It was one of the best days of my life.
We properly celebrated afterwards, drinking, dancing and dreaming. Pure fucking bliss.
After watching the home video that Papa took, I realized the entire thing was a mess. I dont even remember watching the disaster go down, I blacked out, and selectively only saw the good in it. Which was my friends confidence busting down the house with my jackets on their back.
Woke up with a hangover that would last an eternity. I was so high on life I could've floated into the clouds if it wasnt for the DAD shiz holding me down to the toilet.
What happened next? Where did she go from here? I'll tell you.
I googled "how to start a business" read none of the articles but saved them in my library and got to work (never to be read or opened again). Registered my biz as an LLC, INDIGO RIOT at age 21. (Name change #1) Because Identity crisis' are my kryptonite.
I started off doing small street markets in and around NJ and NYC. I spent countless hours in my moms basement, trying to learn how to...paint? I had taken one art class in college and was always a creative human but never properly trained. I was grabbing inspo from pinterest and started comparing and (hating) my faces and wanting to do something unnatural to me.
Haha! I can hear my dad repeatedly telling me to "stick with my faces, make it a household symbol... dont get sidetracked." So I did the opposite of course and tried to match what I was seeing online, wasted tons of hours, just to come home to my "Faces."
HUGE LESSON RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW: Your parents are 60% right most of the time & stick with one thing. When you have something good; nurture the SHIT out of it and make it grow. It will grow, if you give it enough sunlight. I'm a cheese ball.
After the small town festivals, I wanted to travel and sell my denim goodies. So I did. I signed up for festivals that were WAY out of my league for this one woman shop. It was the best decision I ever made, not financially (yikes) because the overhead was truly OVER MY HEAD, but I never thought about money as a motive, it was always about the experience.
For anyone interested in becoming a vendor at festivals I will write another article about all the ones I have done, how to prep and navigate the whole scene.
Fast forward to year 2 of Indigo Riot, countless festivals and street markets up and down the east coast, selling on ASOS marketplace for a short time, selling to boutiques in France, endless connections etc. I got my acceptance letter to bring Indigo Riot to Atlanta, Georgia for Imagine Music Festival. 70,000 attendees, 4 days. Lets fuggin go baby.
So I shipped 200 pounds of hand painted denim and other dope thrifted pieces down to my booboo Monica's house and I boarded the flight dressed in festival attire with a blue wig in my carry on.
The festival was emotional. I was burnt out. 2/4 days I had 7 sales. I cried on day 3, could've been a mix of molly and exhaustion, but I was so disappointed in my self. The denim babies were not moving. Not selling. A lot of lookers and conversations but the price point was too high for this 18+ crowd.
After Monica & Natalie wiped tears off my face, I lowered the price point. There was no way in hell I was going to ship all this shit back. I was eager to sell what I had and be done with it. And... we started to move inventory. The perfect person was lining up for a jacket I had created just for them. That was pure bliss. I still talk to many of the customers I had from that festival. They still show me love, they still rock their pieces. All over the world. Very thankful for all of them.
After returning from Atlanta, happy with what I had just accomplished, I decided it was time to take a break. I was burnt OUT. And so I let things slip for a while. Every waking moment I thought about my business. And tortured myself for not showing up the way I had for past three years. Where was my sunshine?
I got the classic bartending gig, fell in love and let it take over my life as my denim love collected dust in moms basement. I moved into an apartment with the wrong person, fell out of love with art and just became a work & drink-a-holic. Everytime I'd pick up to paint, I felt defeated, like a fool and IMPOSTER! I couldn't find the light. Who was I without Indigo? We were soul mates and I had abandoned her.
Fast Forward 2 years of working as a bartender and opening a restaurant with my then boyfriend, I got the chance to be a creative human again, but this time in a different way. I touched every design aspect of that bar and restaurant and I felt alive again. It was good for my soul. I designed the aesthetic for the bar, logo, brand voice and got to engage with interesting people every day, but still Indigo Riot had been pulling on my sleeve. We had entered the grief point of our relationship.
Bring on Covid, shutdown, locked up, fear, restlessness, the unknown. It must've been my first collage I had done in 2 years and as I lay there cutting up magazines and turning the 600 sq foot apartment into a giant pile of cutouts, I started vigorously shaking. Thought it was the adderall, than I couldnt breathe, than I started feeling my heart out of my ass. I called my partner and told him he has to come home and take me to the hospital. It lasted for about 25 minutes. I thought I wasn't even gonna make it to the 27 club. Who wants to be in the 24 club? Lame, not this rock star.
It was all downhill from here. Back to back panic attacks, mood swings, insomnia, obsessing about death, taking it out on loved ones, no libido, afraid of living- but also afraid of dying, and also my own shadow. People would be talking to me and I had light sensitivity, noises scared me, I couldn't be alone. I was weak from head to toe.
I drank to relieve the anxiety and the dizzy spells. Because If I was dizzy while I was drunk I knew it was from the booze and not some made up disease I had self-diagnosed that day. Suicidal thoughts constantly, no one understanding me. "Was it cancer? Was I dying" "Is this my rib? or a tumor?" Why are my fingers numb?" Migraine. Exhaustion. Leave me alone. But stay close. Talking to friends didnt help, but you know what did help me? My ol' little dusty paint brushes and some old canvas.
I started painting again, and faces were pouring out me from scary hallucinations I'd see when I closed my eyes. I was manic for a long time. This had happened to me before ( but I will write about this in another post)
And then I fought really hard, with my mind, and my ego to use art as my outlet to spread positivity about mental health issues. And I made silly videos to work through panic attacks I was having. Using silly accents and a carefree approach to painting, it was my cure.
Thus was born, CFACES. #iseefaces. (Name change #2 bc Identity crisis) but this time with a new meaning.
I think this is a good place to stop. Lets talk anxiety and hallucinations in the next post.
See you on the other side.
All my love,
Camille, Indigo Riot, CFACES, Camilla Ferox & every version in between.