1. Grief

    May 22, 2018 by NJPainter

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    It’s been a month.

    It feels fortunate to write but, I’ve never experienced heartbreak quite like this before.
    Grief is so big and intense and unfortunately, most of you totally get it.

    You learn to go on with your day, life keeps moving, you get back to work, laugh at things that are funny, fill up your summer with plans… But it exists, always, right below the surface of your skin.

    It’s messy. It comes unexpectedly and in waves. I say it out loud, maybe too often, but it feels like a part of my story that I must share.

    I saw something online about how we used to think that grief got smaller over time, but now the psychology community believes that it stays exactly the same size and that your life just gets bigger around it. Along the lines of ‘It doesn’t get better, it gets different’… sort of.

    Some days – like today, as I type – my brain logically reasons with itself; ‘It’s OK! She had a great life! We took her hiking! She got steak bones from fancy restaurants!’

    Other days I see a photo and think; ‘She had ten days left, why wasn’t I with her?’ or, ‘she would really love this sunny day,’ or, worst of all,  I’ll allow the scenes from the last hours of her life to play in my head. (I’m told this part dissipates… thank goodness).

    It’s a fight to train yourself. A fight to focus on what you’re grateful for. A fight to balance your emotions with this unfair truth.

    I was anxious to get her ashes back because I wanted to make sure that we’d have them. That she didn’t somehow get mixed up with the others or something. But getting her ashes back felt a bit like starting over.

    Barry keeps reminding me that these ashes are not her… but there is a visceral finality to it that I was perhaps hoping wouldn’t exist.

    We have a plan to scatter a little bit at each of her favorite spots; the Great Hill in Central Park, Carroll Gardens, the waterfront in Jersey City and the lake behind Barry’s parents old house. We’re also going to take her to a few places that we know she’d like; a hiking trail upstate (to be determined) and my dad’s cabin in Wisconsin. Lastly, we’ll keep a little of her with us.

    Those details are comforting and serve as a good reminder that there is only one way and it’s through.

    So, while we work on the harmony of our hearts and our brains, we grasp on tight to all the joy, giggles and comfort she brought (and still brings!) to us.

    (Thanks for all the love you sent our way this month).

     

     


  2. For Zoey (from Laurén)

    April 26, 2018 by NJPainter

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    Zoey’s story, is my story.

    All of our best moments, our firsts, our big life markers… they’re all shared.  We spent 12 impossibly fast, beautiful years giving and receiving from one another. We moved to New York City together, we fell in love with Barry together, we started a business together, we grew up together.

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    She was sensitive and empathic and sweet and smart and goofy and I am convinced she changed lives, either by winning people who were normally afraid of dogs over, or by reminding everyone around her that dogs are awesome and so, so fun to love.

    When I went to the pound looking for a dog, a black mutt was the last thing I wanted. I wanted a golden retriever or a boxer… a dog with a look. But there she was; pathetic, scared and carrying a belly full of worms. They didn’t even bother to name her. She was the dog they had found in a pizza box on the streets of post-Katrina New Orleans.

    I sat down on the concrete floor in a warehouse stacked with occupied crates full of dogs waiting to be claimed, she walked right into my lap and stared directly into my eyes with a look that said, ‘Get me the hell out of here. Now, please.’

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    She rode in my lap on the car ride home from the pound as I gleefully called my parents and said; ‘I got a dog!’

    Her first home was on Laurel Street in New Orleans, where she blossomed from a timid puppy with legs too long for her small body, into a dog who would stick her tongue straight into your mouth when she went in for a kiss and who, in a single afternoon, pulled every inch of upholstery and stuffing out of my only sofa, so all that was left was its wood frame and staples.

    When we moved to New York, everyone told me that I was crazy to take her with me. That it was inhumane to move a dog to a city. Knowing we were bound together for life, I ignored them and flew ahead of her while I found an apartment and started my job. She stayed with my mom for a few days while I was getting settled and mom swears that Zoey did nothing but sit in the arm chair that faced the front door and stared at it, waiting for me to walk back through.

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    Zoey and I spent the next five years living in Harlem, exploring every inch of Central Park, admiring the architecture of the Upper West Side, hiking trails in the Hudson Valley and watching the sun set over the park reservoir. We mostly did these things because we didn’t have money to do anything else, but, watching her swim in the river or throw herself into a pile of fresh woodchips or follow the sun spots around our apartment throughout the course of a day or lean in for a cuddle on the couch are memories that I will grasp onto as some of the best of my life.

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    She was easy to have around, amiable, popular. In the cab ride over to my apartment the first time Barry came over, he said “I can’t wait to meet Zoey.” The dog he had heard about for five years and got to love for the next seven.

    I joke that Zoey switched sides when Barry and I started dating. She loved him instantly and with her whole self. She loved me too, but Barry’s attention was special and coveted.

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    When we go through the photos, we know she had a really, really great life. We took her with us everywhere we could; we indulged her and reminded her every day that she was gorgeous, deserving and that the rules didn’t apply to her.

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    In the end, it was a 48 hour period that was hard to read. She was an easy dog who simply stopped acting like herself. What we thought might be some stomach issues or maybe even a lodged piece of food was a ruptured tumor inside her sweet, pink belly.

    We knew the end would come someday, but we didn’t think it would be so fast.

    There are a few moments in the last hours that I wish I could take out of the script but we’re thankful that whatever pain or discomfort she experienced was short-lived and that I was there to rub her face, kiss her feet and tell her how proud, grateful and lucky we were. We thanked her for her love, told her about all the friends she was about to meet and let her go.

    Zoey was pure. Pure love, purely herself.
    I swear there were times I caught her enjoying the scenery on a hike or staring up at us from her bed while Barry and I enjoyed an evening on the couch. She would purr when you itched the right spot. She would smile when the breeze was right and the sticks were good. She would clamp up when it rained. Dogs do talk. It’s just our job to listen.

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    I hate every moment I was mad at her for chewing on my things, every time I tugged back on her leash because I didn’t want to go where she wanted to go or was annoyed when she preferred Barry’s company to mine (which was often). But I guess impatience and irritation are the kind of things that naturally go along with true love. They don’t always do what you want them to do, but they are yours to walk through life with; from the euphoric and fun to the drab and routine. And you choose to love them deeply anyways, just like she did with us.

    Barry and I tried hard to be present with her. We knew what we had in her, we loved her fiercely and I find a lot of comfort knowing that her and I shared one glorious last year together while I got to work from home, give her long morning walks in Jersey City and tending to whatever she needed, whenever she needed it.

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    I find this to be one of life’s most unfair truths.
    I have spent more hours with her than any one person and while I can accept that this is the way their short lives are built to work, the reality that this portion of our lives is over, is heartbreaking.

    Having her as my girl has been the joy and honor of my life.

    Anyone lucky enough to experience the unexpected and intense love of a good dog knows, as I do, that we’ll see each other again. In my version, she’ll be the first to greet me.

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    Week one.

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    A glass of scotch & my best girl.

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    Best friends Gibson Pickles (left) and Layla Pancakes (right)
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    Road trippin’ with Gibson
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    Zoey with her idols, Obi & Roxie.
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    Soul Sistas: Zoey & Rebel
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    Cheek to cheek with best buddy Rex

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    Boyfriends: Buck, Ned & Barry
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    Moving day.
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    Snow day in Brooklyn.

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    Young & fit! (2011)
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    Central Park, 2011 (thanks Lisa!)
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    Bacon on 115th Street
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    Ugh, Mondays.
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    Rosenbergs!
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    Engagement Party (May 2014)
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    Zoey & Mum
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    Zoey’s cabana boys.
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    Life guard on duty.
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    Zoey & the headless horseman

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    Zoey gets tucked in.
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    Zoey, the “therapy dog” who could ride trains.

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    Zoey & Grandpa.
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    Zoey burrito

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    Yogurt, cause we can.

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  3. For Zoey (from Barry)

    by NJPainter

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    God this is hard to write.

    Our Zoey had to go on Monday. It all happened so fast.

    It was an unknown tumor in her belly that ruptured, and she was too old and in no condition to go through the torture of surgeries and chemo. She lived a long, happy and healthy life and we wouldn’t put her through that hell. And the thought of losing her on an operating table was unacceptable. The end came quick and she didn’t suffer. She had Laurén by her side the final 24 hours of her life. They talked, they hugged and they kissed, and Zoey was never alone. Feeling unconditional love and support until the very end.

    I was out of town for work when this happened. A morning vet visit had Zoey in good spirits. Tail was wagging and treats were consumed. We thought she was just getting through a stomach bug. But she took a turn for the worse in the afternoon and Laurén rushed her to an emergency vet with a friend (thank you Michelle xo). I changed my trip and rushed home when I heard the news. I begged for Zoey to make it until I could be there by her side. Begged and pleaded through choked tears to any deity that would listen. I couldn’t imagine her leaving without me holding her and kissing her beautiful face. Without telling her how much I loved her and what she meant to me. How she couldn’t be replaced, how she taught me to be more empathetic, more caring, and more present in my life. I knew this day would come, but never envisioned not being there with her when it did.

    But I didn’t make it in time. I had to say goodbye on FaceTime. She looked right at the phone, wrapped in her favorite blanket on that gurney, and heard my blubbering words. I will wrestle with not being there for her and Laurén in person for a very long time. I can’t blame myself as I couldn’t have known, but I was and remain absolutely gutted about it.

    I realize this is heavy, but I want you all to know more about Zoey. I promise, her origin story is adorable.

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    She was found living inside a discarded pizza box in New Orleans during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. This story proved to be gold for her through the years. It netted her countless extra treats and being fed human food directly from plates at holiday parties. When either of us would tell that story, Zoey would look up, put her ears forward and gave you her puppy look that seemed to say “Helps me. Pwease?” It worked all the time, every time.

    Laurén rescued her. She went to a shelter in New Orleans and saw this black mutt with almond eyes and a big belly full of worms crawl right up to her and sit in her lap. They both hit the jackpot.

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    Laurén soon after moved to NYC. She wanted to live the fantasies TV had promised in shows like “Friends” and movies like “Big.” She came here with little money, a bag of clothes and a puppy. Not being able to afford much, Laurén and Z spent all their time together. I recently realized this is why Zoey was so well behaved and so well trained.

    To tell my whole story of Zoey would be to tell the whole story of how me and Laurén fell in love. They’re tightly connected.

    On our first date, I told Laurén I was so excited to meet Z, whom I had heard about countless times during the years we were mere co-workers (co-workers who just happened to spend all day everyday talking to each other). I remember it vividly. I came up to Laurén’s tiny Harlem apartment, and Zoey was leaping with joy at the site of her mom. Laurén hugged her and kissed her and talked to her in this loving way that actually made me jealous.

    I never wanted to be a dog so badly.

    I was already head over heals in love with Laurén, and I wanted her to talk to me like she talked to her. I think I even wrote this moment down in a notebook at the time. I never write about my life, but when me and Laurén first fell in love, I didn’t want to forget a second of it.

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    I didn’t come into Zoey’s life until she was about 4 ½.  And as I was falling deeply in love with Laurén, Zoey quickly filled a humongous space in my heart. And I know I filled one in hers.

    Z is woven into our lives. She’s woven into the very BEST MOMENTS of our lives. The days we spent, the walks we had, the trips we took together. These two are my family and always will be. Our years with her are the best of our lives and the love we shared among us is too tremendous, precious and rare to try and describe. It only makes sense as a feeling. An intense feeling that we’ll carry with us forever.

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    The best part of my day is coming home to have Zoey waiting for me by the door. No matter what happened during the day, those minutes spent hugging, kissing and rubbing were always bliss and gave me perspective on what’s important. She helped me stay grounded.

    This past year was a great one for Zoey. Laurén left her corporate job and channeled a creative energy I always knew she had, and I’m blown away with what she’s accomplished. Seeing her soar on her own makes me proud, and her getting to work from home made Zoey very happy. For the last year of her life, Zoey had Laurén all day long to herself. It warmed my heart and brought me so much joy that the two could spend their days together.

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    We gave her love, understanding and appreciation, and she gave it back to us tenfold. She’d leap around and danced with joy when we’d take her with us places. Trips Upstate, swimming in lakes, rivers and friend’s pools…and her absolute favorite, going to my parents’ house, where she’d get spoiled rotten and swim in the lake I grew up on in NJ.

    No matter where we were, she was happiest when we were all together. You could see it in her face and her actions. Being with us is all that mattered to her.

    She was sweet, smart and had the highest emotional intelligence I’ve ever come across in a person or animal. The guy who’s all “I’m not a dog person,” would be on his knees petting her stomach within minutes. Children who were scared of dogs shyly would ask if they could pet her back. People who didn’t plan on getting a dog decided to rescue one after spending time with her gentle old soul energy and her cute little face. She was a human whisperer.

    And even though I’m heartbroken, Laurén and a close friend help me realize the final gift Zoey gave me. Me and Z went for a walk that Sunday morning I left for LA. I had no clue it would be our last. It was a beautiful day and we went to the park where she rolled in the dirt, ate grass and sniffed flowers. I swear she was smiling, as she often did when she was appreciating a good walk or outdoor adventure.

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    We walked to one of her favorite shops and got some of her favorite treats. We took the scenic route home and stopped by a French bakery to bring back iced coffee for Laurén. A young family approached her while she was waiting for me outside. “It’s ok, she’s friendly,” I said. As I left the coffee counter and walked outside, knelt down next to Zoey and showed the little girl how to pet her gently.

    About an hour later it was time for me to go to the airport. Zoey was sitting outside on our deck in the sun. I took the opportunity to sneak out without saying goodbye. She always got sad when she’d see either of us leave with a suitcase and I didn’t want to upset her. And that’s my last memory of her. Zoey, with her tongue wagging in the sunshine after a gorgeous walk together.

    I like to think she knew. That she wanted me to remember her like this, and not to see her sick at the end. She only wanted Laurén there for her final day. The person she began her life with, took care of her and taught her everything she knew. I love this thought. And it speaks to how smart Zoey is. She knows Laurén is the stronger one. She’s the brave one. We all know that…

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    We’ve never cried so hard and so long. But the reason it hurts so bad is because the love was so great, and the hole left behind is too gigantic to fill.

    I know she’d be pawing at us right now, curling herself between us and nuzzling her head underneath our arms to make us feel better. She never wanted to see us sad or upset. She undoubtedly would be giving us warm licks.

    She gave love to us every single day. What an incredible gift to give for an entire lifetime…

    Zoey, I can’t tell you how much you are love and missed.  But believe me, we’re going to keep telling you, out loud, and we know you’ll hear it.

    You’re our baby. Our ZoZo, our ZZ, our Zoey Maria, our Mamma. Our hearts.

    Now go find all the dogs in your life and our collective families – Roxie, Obi, Sampson, JD, Toby, Leo, Layla, Sadie & Sam – who will all be happy to show you the ropes on the other side. Just try not to be so bossy with them and share your sticks. And go to Grandma, Poppy Max, Poppy Bill, Zaddie, Bubby, Grandpa Welcome & Uncle Ben who will shower you with love and treats and take care of you until we can be together again.

    It’s hard to stop writing. I want to write, “I love you so much” a million times so it reaches the sky but I don’t think it would be enough.

    Zoey, you’re our special girl. Nothing could ever change that.

    With all our hearts.
    Mom & Dad

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  4. Hello world!

    April 6, 2018 by admin

    Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start writing!


  5. TIS THE SEASON: Let’s jump in

    December 7, 2017 by NJPainter

    Well nothing will get you in the holiday spirit like 48 straight hours of a holiday market, with holiday music and hot chocolate and a free tree at the end.

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    I love the holidays and all… but I really love a holiday wish list.
    I love making them. I love reading other people’s. I love them. All of them.
    Maybe you do too?
    Cool.
    Here’s mine!

    2017 christmas list

    1. Mulatu Astatke on vinyl (because it’s heavenly) // 2. Overthinking skull sweatshirt (because, me.) // 3. Hand-dyed, hand-quilted vintage denim shirt from Salt & Still (because this is wearable art.) // 4. Things Are What You Make of Them: Life Advice for Creatives by Adam J. Kurtz (because I audibly say “YES!” to his instagram feed at least once a day // 5. Kimono robe (because I wore my summer robe to actual threads)// 6. Beaded tassel clip-on earrings (because us non-pierced girls still like to be on trend!) // 7. New Balance 247 Luxe in rose (but they don’t exist anywhere in my size) // 8. Handmade leather flats (because WOW are these beautiful) // 9. Handmade red linen jumpsuit (Is this girl me? I think she is me) // 10. Moroccan babouche slippers (because my slippers make me feel ugly. Is that possible?) // 11. Ban.do ‘Bonjour’ top (because, so cute.) // 12. Barack Obama mug (because, coffee with BO!)

    There’s too many shoes (always!) and a few things that can’t get paint on them (because everything else I own does) and a few items that I already know will be waiting for me (because I was standing next to mom/Barry, nudging them and saying “I wouldn’t be mad at that for Christmas!”)

    Here’s hoping you get everything on your list… and remember, when you can, even when it’s a little bit more expensive, shop local! It changes someone’s life! (Or at least makes them do a happy dance).

     

     

     

     

     

     


  6. ‘Bring photos of people who inspire/support you…’

    November 23, 2017 by NJPainter

    Hey guys,
    I have a sentence that I am thrilled to share with you:
    I’ve been busy. 

    The start to December means it’s been SEVEN months since I left my corporate job. (Woot!!) The fall-back phrase I frequently used on my way out the door was “This totally might not work, and that’s ok!”
    Which is why you hear me say often now, in a tone that one usually reserves for getting away with murder, “this is totally working.”

    I made my hundredth jacket sale this month. That means I have painted and sold 100 original and custom jackets. WHAT.

    Also, I won an $18,000 artist grant from WeWork.
    DOUBLE WHAT!

    Which leads me to the title of this post, which was an instruction emailed to the WeWork grant finalists before coming in for a video interview, which they pulled footage from and used at the awards ceremony a few days later. “Bring photos of people who inspire/support you…”

    My first thought was: Do I actually have physical photos of all those people?

    And the astoundingly embarrassing answer is: I have two tangible photos of Barry taken since we started dating. Two. We’ve been together since 2011.

    But of course I gathered what I could and prepared full descriptions on all things inspirational and supportive.

    However, because that footage was cut down to mere seconds and the rest will never see the light of day, (and because I am publishing this post on Thanksgiving, which seems too appropo to miss) I’d like to use this opportunity to say what I said on video.

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    Who inspires and supports me?

    My husband, Barry.
    What Barry made me realize is that everybody needs a mirror to see their true selves with. Barry is the stoic voice that says simple yet earth-shattering things like “you’re very good at that,” “you should quit your job,” “you can grow this” and “you’re stepping into who you are.” He is masterful at convincing you that none of these things are as insane as they might sound in your own head. And he doesn’t gloat when he’s right about these things, because he accepted them as simple truths long ago. I don’t gush about Barry very much on social media (because everybody already loves him, goddammit), but he’s a true ace.

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    My mom.
    Every mom wants their kid to be happy. But the excellent quality that my mom has, is that she never qualified that statement. She didn’t care what made me happy, or where in the world it was, how much money it made me or how stable it seemed. She never doubts me or assumes I am making destructive, naive leaps. I want to quit my corporate job and become an artist? How exciting! I need her to buy a plane ticket two weeks from now so she can help me drag four tons of leather jackets, garment racks, dress forms and signs through Jersey City’s biggest summer festival? She’ll be there! Is there a single, solitary thing she wouldn’t do for me? Nope!

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    My dad.
    I tell people that I came to entrepreneurship through the back door. It wasn’t that I had a secret passion for painting that I could no longer hide or was willing to turn into a full-time career no matter what. It’s that I found an interesting way to apply a skill I already had and thought I could make a living doing it. I was searching for freedom and ownership and glory in my career before I was practicing how to paint on leather. Painting on leather was just the thing that I found that allowed me to be creative AND walk my dog in the middle of the day.

    My dad has owned his own business and worked from home for over 20 years and has absolutely loved it. When I quit my corporate job,  I started to get random phone calls from him wanting to impart advice about time management, maintaining physical fitness (“You need a healthy body to have a healthy mind.”), and even one where he checked in just to see if I was wearing sweatpants at noon. (I was).

    In short, inspiration stems from one simple truth: design your own life.

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    Jersey City’s amazing group of small business owners.
    I say all the time that I don’t think this business would be working as well as it is, if I weren’t in Jersey City. This town has been unbelievably generous. With their ideas, their word of mouth connections, with floor space in their shops, with their excitement and support.

    When I was having a particularly bad week and spreading my self-inflicted disappointment all over social media, I received a message from one of my favorite small business owners that read; “Small biz is extreme highs and the lowest lows. You can just hope to live somewhere in that middle zone. BUT – remember it’s your lows. And your highs. And your meh moments. There’s power and strength in the ownership of these emotions.”

    Commiserating with someone whose business you admire is priceless. Nobody gets it like your fellow hustlers.

    Physical trainers.
    I focus on two types of physical fitness; yoga & hip hop. A yin and a yang.

    It was Angela, who ran the yoga program at A&E (she still does!) who really got me into a regular yoga routine. Now I do a lot of Yoga with Adriene from home, but it was Angela who taught me about the art of pausing and meditation, surrendering on your mat, focusing on gratitude, finding the power within yourself and manifesting your dreams. That might sound trite altogether…  but for me those things were incredibly powerful when it came to being open enough to think of the idea (putting paint to leather) and confident enough to leap (quit).

    I was introduced to a local hip hop class in Jersey City about a year ago by a friend and it was like discovering the workout I’ve been looking for my whole life. I love to dance. But Zumba was always so cheesy. I once went to a class where the instructor had Zumba branded shoes, pants, shirt and ZUMBA MUSIC. It was awful. I need to feel like I’m in a club… where no one is looking at me.

    Anyways, the long of the short of this is; hip hop class makes me feel like a badass. It’s sweaty and really, really hard and it makes you strong and awesome and when the Beyonce songs come on I definitely close my eyes and pretend like I am her back-up dancer and we are on tour together and that fills me with joy.

    I believe that all of those feelings attach themselves to you and you get to carry them with you during the week. They wear off, of course, so you have to keep going. But it is so, so worth it.

    Friends, dear friends.
    I think this is actually a separate post, actually. But what I’ve realized lately, is that your good friends just want to share in your happiness. This is literally all they want from you. They are eager for you to be happy so they can greet you at the next friend event and say, “I am so happy for you!”

    I have so many friends who asked how they could help when I was stuck at my desk job. So many friends who rushed to buy a jacket before I was even on Etsy. So many friends who told their friends about my budding business or offered to apply their corporate expertise or just reminded me how worthy I was of doing something else with my life. Good friends are invaluable, but they really show themselves in situations like these.

     

    …Did this turn into a gratitude post?
    Maybe. But it’s Thanksgiving so I’m allowed.
    Happy day, to you and yours.

     

     

     


  7. I could use your help with something!

    October 25, 2017 by NJPainter

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    Hey there, I need a favor from you.

    I know that the biggest hurdle with online shopping is taking a gamble on the fit. It’s hard to invest in something as specific as a leather jacket that you can’t see, touch or try on in person. So how do I make it easier for people visiting my Etsy shop?

    Here’s the link, in case you lost it.

    • Would it help if the jackets were on models and not dress forms?
    • Am I including all the helpful measurements that you would normally refer to, to buy clothing online?
    • Would it help if I assigned a size (S / M / L / XL) to each jacket, even when there are no tags? (I’ve started to do this, but I still get questions about fit).
    • How do you feel about the quality of my photos? Are they comprehensive, detailed and attractive?
    • Do you see any glaring keywords or search terms that aren’t included in my listings that would help people find my shop?
    • I will be making a limited edition of hand-painted leather envelope wallets for the holiday season but is there another leather product that you’d like to see? (Keep in mind that it has to be easily reproducible, available to a wide range of people and I have to be able to store it in my apartment. So, for instance, I can paint on leather boots/shoes but stocking them is a crazy idea).
    • Is there anything you would like to improve about the overall Etsy shopping experience?

    The first thing I do every morning is check my stats from the day before; how many people visited the shop? What did they click on? How did they get to it?

    My numbers are strong and I know people ‘like’ what I’m offering, but I also know that it’s tricky to purchase an expensive item that needs to fit exactly right based off of photos.

    So I am making an appeal for your genuine opinions!
    What would make you press “add to cart?”

    xo, L

     

     


  8. FAQ

    October 12, 2017 by NJPainter

    The Qs I get asked all the time and the As to each one of them:

    What kind of paint do you use?
    Angelus Leather Paint. It’s an acrylic based paint that won’t crack or smudge but will wear with your leather as it ages.

    Where do you sell these jackets?
    Via my Etsy store and at pop-up shops & festivals, which are always announced on my social media pages (Instagram & Facebook).

    How much are your jackets?
    Each jacket varies depending on intricacy of design and cost of original jacket, but generally everything is priced between $150-$400.

    How long does it take to paint each one?
    This also varies depending on design and color (some colors like white or yellow need many, many coats of paint so they’re not opaque), but my average paint time is about 6 hours per jacket.

    Where do you find your jackets?
    I scour the internet, source items from markets and prey on good leads from friends!

    Is everything real leather?
    Everything you see in my Etsy shop is 100% genuine leather. I do come across faux pieces that I can’t resist from time to time, but they will always be clearly labeled.

    Can I wear these jackets in the rain? 
    Well, I wouldn’t wear any leather jacket in the rain. But don’t worry, the paint won’t melt off or wear any more quickly if it gets a little wet.

    How do I clean it? 
    A damp cloth will clean the outside (don’t scrub too hard , use an abrasive sponge or pick at the paint though). A good trick I’ve come across for jackets whose lining needs to be refreshed is to turn the entire jacket inside out, spray it with some Febreeze and a little vodka (you read that right) and leave it in the sunshine for a bit. This does wonders for lingering odors.

    Do you paint men’s jackets? 
    I don’t keep men’s jackets in stock but I certainly would paint men’s jackets, it just has to be a custom order. Which leads me to….

    Do you do custom?
    YES! You have to provide the jacket but I can build off of anything you see in the Etsy shop or we can dream up something completely unique and custom to you.

    This is perfect for if you see a design that you like, but the jacket isn’t in your size. Or, if you’re looking for something uber customized with your name/ company logo / favorite song lyric / or anything else I wouldn’t normally be painting on it!

    I do jackets for weddings, birthday parties, bar & bat mitzvahs, sports teams, etc etc etc.

    Pricing depends on design but starts at $150.
    It currently takes about 10 business days to get a jacket painted and back out in the mail to you.

    Can you paint on faux leather?
    Yes! I believe the paint adheres better to genuine leather but I can absolutely do faux leather.

    Do you paint on anything besides jackets? 
    Sure! My focus is jackets because I believe my new, growing brand needs consistency. But! I do vintage clutches, am looking at expanding into wallets for the holiday season and have a new stack of vintage paint-by-numbers waiting to be painted on, just for fun. These extra items are not stocked in the Etsy shop. They can only be found on my social media pages and in person at pop-ups and festivals.

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    …Did I miss anything? Leave it in the comments section below!


  9. My first (BIG) screw up

    September 29, 2017 by NJPainter

    Well, I lived through my first big screw up.
    An inevitable mile-marker along the road of starting a business, I know.

    It was a custom wedding jacket. I was supposed to write the bride’s new last name on the back.

    I practiced.
    I measured.
    I chalked out the lines.
    I started painting and well, I screwed it up.
    It was denim. AKA, it was irreversible.

    I felt terrible.
    Genuinely, wholly, utterly, thoroughly terrible.
    I cried (really!)
    I said truly un-kind, self-destructive things to myself in my head.
    I felt the “WHAT AM I EVEN DOING”s and the “WHY DID I THINK I WAS GOOD AT THIS”s start to creep in.
    I frantically texted Barry (what he was going to do about it, I don’t know!)
    I found an identical jacket online and immediately ordered it so I could offer her a replacement.
    I paced the apartment.
    And then; I wrote an apology.

    It was honest and transparent and (hopefully) authentic.

    And thank goodness: the world sent me a really understanding customer.
    “Don’t worry, these things happen,” she said.

    (phhhewwwwwwww).

    So I fixed it and refunded her and she loved the re-do better than the original concept and now of course the whole thing is very silly.

    But the lessons are these:
    1. Tell the truth. People are more understanding than we might anticipate. (And then be explicit in your gratefulness).

    2. Find your community, because they will come to your rescue in these moments.
    “It’s not an adventure if you don’t fuck up majorly once in awhile,” an ex-coworker said. “Small business is extreme highs the lowest lows. You can just hope to live somewhere in that middle zone. BUT… there’s power and strength in the ownership of these emotions,” said the owner of one of my favorite local businesses. These are the people who will normalize something that feels completely devastating and lonely. It flipped my entire perspective.

    3. In the end, I realized I’d stepped right into the spot I had asked to be in all along.
    What I hated about publicity was that I was responsible for someone else’s beliefs and work. What I wanted out of my own business was that everything – the good, bad and ugly – would be mine. And boy was it handed to me. I’m not grateful for screwing up… but I am grateful that I get to do this and that screwing up led me deeper into being a person who owns a business and is familiar with its peaks and pitfalls. A person who, a year ago, sitting at a desk job that I hated, I would have killed to be. I’d rather be answering for my own mistakes than somebody else’s any day of the week. For that, I am so very, very grateful.

     

    For the record: the replacement jacket turned up in the wrong size. Jerks.


  10. A Simple List of Exciting Things:

    September 6, 2017 by NJPainter

    July + August were a little bit slow in terms of jacket sales, but that’s OK because I was secretly busy with some side projects and furiously building up my inventory. Here’s what’s going on:

    1. I was tapped by Master & Dynamic, a high-end headphone company that found me on Instagram (!) to hand-paint a few custom headphones… namely, a pair for Wiz Khalifa.
    My name isn’t associated with the headphones or the artwork, so I won’t be tagged or included in any credits. But if you see these pop up anywhere on the internet, holla’ at your girl!

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    2. All About Downtown is Jersey City’s biggest festival — they had 30,000+ attendees last year. It’s music, food, local vendors and businesses… just like all the other festivals you’ve been to this summer except that I’LL BE THERE WITH A BOOTH!

    I’ve got over 55 jackets, a ton of clutches and even some special hand-lettered wall art ready for this event. Mom is coming to help me and I’ll be updating my FB/Insta that day with my exact location. Come by (and if you can’t come by, cross your fingers that everyone else is in the mood for fall wardrobe staples!)

    Saturday, September 16, 12-8pm
    Downtown Jersey City

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    2016 All About Downtown Festival //HDSID

    3. When I was sitting at my corporate job racking my brain for a business idea I took a lot of inspiration from my favorite shop in Jersey City; Kanibal Home.
    I love this store. I go there for cards. I go there for house warming gifts. I go there to browse for myself. It’s the store that our 10 foot tall living room art came from, which is how I come to know the shop’s super cool owner; Kristen. She does such an awesome job of curating all the quirky, interesting, funny, adorable things (from bath salts to kitchen towels to t-shirts) that you want to both buy for yourself and your best friend. And her business motto is “Work Hard & Play Nice” for goodness’ sake!

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    (Things you find at Kanibal Home: a 10×6′ prop from HBO’s ‘Boardwalk Empire,’ now in our living room)

    So when I zeroed in on the painted leather jacket business, I imagined how cool it would be to have my jackets hanging in that store…
    And on October 14th, they’ll be displayed in a featured pop-up shop!
    Look look! I’m even on the events calendar!

    I am so excited and proud to be apart of this creative community and grateful for the supportive group of small business owners in Jersey City. I’m more jazzed about this opportunity than I have been about any other work I’ve accomplished in years. Again, come see me!

    Saturday, October 14, 12-4pm
    197 Montgomery Street, Jersey City (right across from City Hall!)