The very first bandana I designed was our ‘be brave’ in river blue (we’ve since dyed it black as well!) This month we are celebrating 5 years and the anniversary has us looking back at where it all started. We’re celebrating by opening a story in Winston-Salem, North Carolina! I also wanted to take time to share the story of how it all began.
Growing up in west virginia, I loved working in the garage with my grandpa, Earl. he always had a bandana tucked into his pocket that he'd use to wipe the sawdust off a piece of furniture he was building or clean his hands after coming out from under the hood of a car. he never said, "you're too young to help", or "you're a girl, so probably shouldn't run the drill press". When he wasn't looking, I would swipe that bandana and hold it, trying to channel all his strength and bravery into my being.
When I held that 22" square of cotton, I felt like I could conquer anything. The bandana became a talisman for me, a symbol of that bravery.
I want to tell y'all a bit my personal story. I think (hope) it will give you a deeper understanding of how I came to do the work of making these talismans and, more importantly, how I came to know that you are infinitely braver and stronger than you know, and so am I.
Before I found my way to the authentic, evolving woman that Iam now, I unfortunately went willingly down the path of "should". Oh, that lonely, weird road of "should" is so desirable when you are more focused on pleasing others than yourself. I switched off, as so many of us do, my own voice. I assumed my voice was wrong because it went against the "should"s. So, I went along, instead with the outer voices telling me how to be accepted, attractive and happy. At that time I believed that the steps of life went like this: you meet a boy, get married, have two kids and live happily ever after without even arguing.
At the age of 22, I met a boy. We dated while I was in graduate school, which I quickly gave up to be more available to him. We got married and began to move all over the country for his medical training; from Texas to Indiana, New Orleans, Tennessee and, finally, North Carolina. Somewhere in that blur of packing, unpacking, navigating new towns and giving birth twice, I lost myself. I was the wife, mother and daughter I was supposed to be, but internally I was falling apart. Exhausted and disappointed in myself, I let my self-respect and worth fade away.
I tried to reclaim myself by doing a little painting. I tried to explain how good it felt to be creating art again, to feel like an independant adult again, but I was misunderstood. it was clear this was an either/or, artist/mother+wife, situation, but I needed to be both.
I didn't understand why I couldn't be both. I sank into a depression so deep I couldn't see out.
A few months later, I was admitted to the hospital for being a risk to myself. After a week of intense openness and exploration, my climb out of that dark hole began. A friend said to me, "you gotta find a way to make your outside self match your inside self." I clung to that idea and started making very purposeful steps into the world.
I was finally making choices based on how something made me FEEL, not how others would perceive it. I started slow and gentle, asking myself with each choice, "does this make me feel stronger + more alive, or weaker?" if the answer was stronger, I would say yes. I was delicately strong. The concrete foundation that I was working so hard to stand on was still a little wet and unformed. but I was starting to hear my own voice again.
A lifelong friend called and we hatched a plan to start a business together. "choose your own trail" was our mantra and the products grew from there. I had never felt this kind of passion for a career path. it was allowing me to be this person that I'd kept buried under appropriate behavior.
This change made things very tense in our home. I wish I could have helped him see that this was a better version of me. Yes I was different; Yes I needed more room to explore and grow, but instead, our marriage ended. Within two years, the suburban outlaws had amassed quite a following of brave, spirited humans! But just when I thought we were about to crest the mountain... the bottom fell out... again.
A trip to the bank after a nasty fight with my business partner showed me that all the money we'd made was gone. She took the inventory and the money. My business and my identity were gone. Overnight I went from owning a company that meant the whole world to me, to being heartbroken and so truly alone. I had intertwined the success of the business so tightly with my self-worth and identity that both were shattered.
I shared my pain and the truth of this nightmare with my children because I now believe the best way to prepare them for their own trials in life is to let them see how to stand up after getting knocked on your ass.
I took odd jobs and kept food and hugs and warmth at the house. It was a big stumble back, but Iwas able to stand up more quickly because of the work I'd done unearthing my damn spine.
I promised myself that I would only do creative work going forward. I rented a studio space downtown for my painting and was hired to help start a flower shop. I also started doing wardrobe and prop styling work, with amazing photographer and friend, Liz Nemeth. My natural gifts were finding an outlet, finally, but I longed to put something into the world that was mine.
I still felt the ol' outlaw maker fire burning in me and started to listen.
As I doodled, I wondered what new form that fire will produce. I came across a photo of my grandfather, Earl, and his car. The most brave and confident I've been is when I spend time with my papaw. He is a ‘do it’ kinda guy: don't sit around talking about it, let's do it! "you wanna learn to weld? here's the machine, here's the rules, do it. I'll be right here. go on and try."
This spirit, this knowing that I could DO IT woke up in me and I thought of his bandanas.
Bandanas... I can make bandanas, I can dye them so the colors would be perfect. I could wash them several times so they could feel like the ones you find in a vintage store and in my grandfather's drawer. I could create that feeling for myself and others.
I'd found another way to bring my passion and purpose to the world.
In the spring of 2017, I designed a bandana that reads, "be brave" as a talisman for people to carry and KNOW their own courage.
That's it. be brave.
I took them to a local craft fair and they sold out! People really resonated with this product. But what was more exciting is that they came back to me with their stories. It was working! One woman came back for 4 more because the women she sat with during her chemotherapy treatment needed one too. I cried with a woman who was sending one to her aunt who was going through a personal trial. I had a mother get one for her son who was going to college, the first one in their family!
I'm not selling a secret elixir that makes people brave. I'm giving you something to hold onto to discover how brave and strong you already are.
Had I not gone through the deep darkness, climbed out, stood up, and healed my heart, I wouldn't have known this simple, undeniable fact:
you have as many possibilities for your life as you are willing to see.
it takes holding onto the belief that you can do the hard things and then carry out one action, then the next and the next.
It has been 10 years since I fell into the darkness, died at the bottom and chose to rise strong and brave. Big change doesn't happen overnight, but the choice we make to be brave happens as many times in a day as it takes.
This brand, this community we're building, is my dream come true. It is with so much, gratitude that I come to this work everyday. Never forget that I am right here rootin' you on!
be brave y'all, every damn chance you get,