Taelor Pawnell’s boyfriend urged her to use her creativity to soothe quarantine stress. She was all for it.
A Quest For Legacy
“I’ve always loved to draw,” said Pawnell. “I do art direction as a career, but it’s, you know, less fine art,” she added. She was content executing someone else’s vision, until COVID-19 forced her world to be smaller. Drawing helped her see beyond the limits of the moment.
“It wasn’t really until recently hitting quarantine where I was like, I need some joy, I need to do something else. So my boyfriend was like, ‘why don’t you draw’” she said.
Sketching and drawing, didn’t just allow her to stave off anxiety. It helped her overcome insecurities. “I went to college actually for art and didn’t get accepted into the graphic design program at my college,” she said. “And from there, I just knew I wasn’t an artist.”
Murky processes around the way admissions decisions are made did not allow Pawnell to see that her talent wasn’t the only thing the selection committee considered. She got in later. Still, the imposter syndrome from the initial rejection didn’t fade away.
Making Visions Come To Life
“I think when you’re in it, you know, you just, see people kind of in places that you want to be and that thought is weighing in the background,” she said. “Seeing other people who I felt were better or who had more talent, especially during college and not getting into the first round of picks at my art school made me feel like it wasn’t cut out for me.”
She initiated and participated in creative projects frequently as a respected style and lifestyle blogger. But there was something about drawing that fed her in a different fashion. Her talent wasn’t about what she wore, what she looked like, or what party she went to. It was about her vision and how she could make that vision come to life.
Pawnell depicted women who looked like her as enchanted beings. In the work that she went on to offer for sale with her boyfriend and co-owner Big and Black was more than beautiful. It was powerful. “It was important for me to incorporate magic because so often our body, or plus bodies I should say, are seen as negative, or as a bad thing,” she said.
“And I want so badly for people, of all shapes and sizes to just kind of realize that they should love their bodies, throughout every moment. And so that’s really what I see as magic, is kind of this self love journey.”
Sprituality & Self-Love
The connection between spirituality and self-love is reflected in her work “God Is A Woman,” available in a variety of skin tones it allows the person purchasing it to see themselves reflected in the Michelangelo inspired work. “You should see and kind of admire yourself, your being,” said Pawnell.
She supported the body positivity movement with brush stokes and ideas instead of Instagram friendly photoshoots.
“I think there’s a lot of different things happening, especially in social media, these idealized journeys, perfection, where we’re kind of taught and molded even in art and school, that certain people, certain bodies, certain skin tones are better than others.”
She stated, “For me, God looks like a Black woman.”
“A Black woman has helped me find myself, be lifted to, a kind of higher spirituality place in life, um, by learnings and teachings and looking at other beautiful women, in their journeys.
And so, you know, really staring or looking at that Michelangelo painting and saying, how could this reflect me, how it started as a woman and then as a dark skin woman.”
A New Point Of View
Communing with herself by speaking to that concept in her artwork was not enough she decided not to exclude others from enjoying it. “I was like, let’s expand and do some more skin tones so that everyone is represented here.”
Offering a new point of view on her Etsy side hustle was part of her and her partner’s goal when they started the shop. “I don’t shop on Etsy because I don’t see myself on Etsy,” she admitted.
Pawnell’s commitment to representation has taken her work to unexpected places. An elementary school teacher recently purchased her Black Lives Matter wall banner to display in her virtual classroom. Like stickers, and graphic tee-shirts pendants have become a way for individuals in our increasingly visual society to make bold statements quickly.
“I think the resurgence came from the fact that a sticker can really give you a quick message,” she said. “We do appreciate a nice, graphic,” she said. “Something that’s bite sized,” she added.
“When Aaron and I saw that we both were like, this is why we do what we do,” said Pawnwell. The pair contributed monetarily as well, donating a portion of proceeds to Black Lives Matter, Free Them All, and the Marsha P. Johnson Institute.
“That was an amazing feeling to feel, to feel as if my art was a way of someone being able to take a stance and kind of stand with our community.” Aaron remains “crucial,” to the success of the enterprise, consistently pulling Pawnell outside of her comfort zone.
Her store is unveiling nail sticker options and new designs soon. “I am very much a perfectionist. And so there’s always, I always feel that there’s something I could have done or there’s somebody I could tweak” she said.
She started the store with no formal plans to expand it. But today the value of full-time entrepreneurship seems more appealing. At just 27 years old she is thinking about how she wants her work to be remembered.
“I feel like my art is my baby. It’s also Aaron and I as a couple and our legacy and our future,” she said.
“I’ve kind of shifted to understanding that my nine to five isn’t my legacy,” she added.
“This year has taught me so much, but one of the pillars this year has taught me is that, um, the time is now. And so if I could inspire someone to take the chance on themselves and to just do it, whatever that be, then I will have done it.”
Share your thoughts on Taelor’s journey and how she created her Etsy side hustle.