Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Why I'm So Passionate About Creativity: A Story of High School Craziness

My 7th Grade Science Club yearbook photo, 1999. Jefferson Davis Middle School.

We resell, make art, collect curios, and hunt for vintage for its history and singularity. Vintage has soul, a story to excavate. Story is a pivotal part of Thrift Core, and it's about time I've revealed another layer on why I'm excessively passionate about art and creativity. This may be your story, too.

My parents were raised growing food and creating, my dad in the tiny tropical town of Ponce, Puerto Rico and my mom in a latino barrio on the mean, sunny streets of South Cali.  Growing up my dad made computers, my brothers and I read comics and drew, and my mom thrifted, dumpster dived, and crafted.  Making clay pots, memorizing the color wheel, and assembling tissue paper collages in my Naples, Italy elementary school transported me to a zen zone of perfect contentment. Being a thrifty maker is who I am down to my DNA, it's inescapable.

I've made dozens of websites since 6th grade. Wish I could find them!

Traveling back to the USA I ended up in the Duval County school system, one of the worst in Florida's already tarnished educational reputation. My passion for research and creativity continued. I was in science club and convinced Scotty's Hardware to sponsor a butterfly garden on school grounds. I started working on websites between 6th and 7th grade and was instantly hooked, I'd work into the early morning hours on my Pok√©mon and anime websites.

All I could find of the embarrassing, inevitably hundreds of drawings that helped me survive school.

But each year chipped away at my happy-go-lucky nerd girl exterior. I attended Nathan Bedford Forrest High School, an F-Rated school named after a KKK leader despite over 60% of the students being minorities. Lexile reading tests concluded the overall student body had a fourth grade reading level and my freshman class bought the largest influx of students the school had ever encountered. The jaded school Principal let us degrade into a primitive society, Lord of the Flies style. Desks were first-come-first-serve until the chaos settled down and more teachers were hired. The tableau etched in my mind of high school is like a battleground, there were constant fights and projectiles to dodge. Food. Shoes. Books. Hair weave. Luckily no condoms in the hallways though, those were scattered outside in the courtyard.
I have a dark sense of humor, but it's not as gallows as it was in High School! 

Despite the fun I had with friends, I look back on my years at Forrest High as creatively stiffing. I stopped being an activist and was generally apathetic. I did improve on drawing when I couldn't focus in class, at least! I haven't had that kind of spare time to draw since. I'd like to think high school didn't traumatize me, but I still have nightmares of being forced to return to it to this day because I missed a credit somewhere! Had it again last night!

Polaroids of the pinatas we used to make in Naples, Italy. I can still make one from scratch. 

My time at Forrest hindered creativity, but once I was liberated I found my tribe. The damn was unplugged and creativity flowed with abundance. It was blocked up for so long, now I can't stop it. And selling vintage allows me to express my love of writing, story telling, art, and history.

I've experienced extreme ignorance from my school system, and sincerely believe art classes and constructive activities would have saved so many kids. When I was trying to determine a bigger mission for my brand it comes right back to high school and the creative programs they lacked. I want to help others realize their potential. I don't want people to waste time on bullshit they don't care about. Life's too short to do anything else but what really matters.

What drives you to create? Tell me your creative origin stories or embarrassing school day stories!
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27 comments:

  1. This is your best blog ever. I went to Detroit inner city public schools and I get where you are coming from. My parents were both artists (I come from a very successful art family for generations) but my parents both had a hippie mentality and we didn't have a lot of money. It was not unusual to have our electricity turned off etc. That kind of childhood forces one to be creative, inventive and resourceful. All the craziness from my past has made me who I am today. I wouldn't have it any other way.

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    1. Thank you for sharing this! You've worded it perfectly. I had an unconventional childhood and dealt with racism (another post) and bizarre scenarios in school but they shaped me and I'm grateful for it. I enjoyed sharing an honest piece of what made Thrift Core and my mission what it is today, even though it's not typical handmade/DIY blog world Martha Stewart squeaky clean.

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  2. I lucked out and went through a pretty good school district. It is a shame not all kids have the same opportunities, but then again, I guess every individual is here for a certain purpose and our experiences are a big part of that. And that being said, a decent school system hasn't really got me anywhere in life so there! BTW, that's a cute 7th grade picture!

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    1. I agree that it's an indivdual's ambition and not their school system or high education that contributes to success in life. Thanks for the kind words!

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  3. You went to a school named after a Klansman? With a 60% make-up of minority groups? That sounds crazy to my ears. Coming from Australia the thought of KKK seems so remote.
    Glad you made it through.
    PS: I looooooove the pics you send people with your deliveries. Wish I could draw like you.

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    1. The school name is a controversy but bids to rename it are always outvoted: http://voices.yahoo.com/the-nathan-bedford-forrest-high-school-controversy-2154657.html

      The stories I could tell about this school, I've held back A LOT in this post. Thanks for the compliment on the delivery drawings, I LOVE doing them and really should get back into drawing comics. I used to fill notebook after notebook with them.

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  4. Weren't there art classes for you to attend? I know I took art classes every year of High School. Pencil drawing, watercolor painting and Oil painting. I definitely think after school clubs and organizations are not diversified enough. Sports has become our number one activity to keep kids out of trouble and keep them healthy. I would have loved a sewing or craft club for an after school activity with people that shared the same hobby! It makes me think maybe we should get involved in the school districts in our area to help the "creatively starved" students.

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    1. The art classes are the first to go when budgets get cut. I volunteer at my kids elementary school and have started an art club in my daughter kindergarten. And I helped the art teacher in my sons 4th grade class. I cannot stand the thought of the arts getting cut. My children (okay, really just my son) has to have art to function in life. He even draws on his math homework and other test papers. He draws on everything and if he doesn't continue in schools that help foster his art and creativity, he will surely lose purpose. (I wont let that happen)

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    2. No art classes in this school, should have clarified that in the post but that was one of the things I cut from it. Oops. I wish I would have instigated an after-school club for creatives. I did join student council junior and senior year and we got to do a couple of skits and fun raisers but nothing we tried to change for the school got approved. We did have a photography class which I took junior year but the chemicals were old (1980s old or older?) and our photos came out murky.

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    3. For Anonymous: Glad the issue of art classes was bought up, this was what I was going for with the post. I was the same kid who drew on every test, math homework...I'd turn numbers into characters and answered some questions with comics, even. You're doing a great thing for your son and others in the school by helping instigate art classes. I really want to help get more creativity into our local school system and help others find their purpose through art. I've gotten with my middle school art teacher and I may get to talk with kids at my former middle school about the possibilities in not-often discussed creative careers.

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    4. Anonymous: Oh, to add to your bonus points for doing something so awesome to your school: Like I said in this post some of my happiest childhood memories were of elementary school art class. I very vividly remember painting a detailed chameleon, using "warm" and "cool" colored tissue paper to assemble mosaic style collages then "critiquing" the work, and making flower pots with realistic anole lizards on them. Nothing made me happier than making and you're helping that happen for more children, which is damn wonderful!

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    5. Thanks, I love doing the art with the kids. They are so creative. My name is Tara and for whatever reason I can only reply on your blog as Anon (?) Partly because I am a computer ding dong! I think it is important to have the arts in school. Budget cuts wont stop me. Next year I want to volunteer to start an after school art club in the elementary school (I can always spare an hour or two a week, cant most of us for what we think is important?) Love your blog!

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    6. Thanks Tara! I should do the same at my neice's/nephew's schools. That'd be so fun...hmm..!

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  5. I know how you feel when it comes to Florida schools. I came from great schools in PA. When I came to Florida there were only 2 semester long art classes. The classes I took in 9th grade up north were 12th grade classes in North Florida. I was in orchestra prior to the move. No such thing as an orchestra here. Thank goodness you didn't let the rough years keep you from being the creative person you are!

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    1. I hear the schools up north are so much better, my buddy was a Philly transplant and would go on about the better educational system even in her inner-city, impoverished area. I did have fun in high school, it's exhilarating as a teen to be let loose and somewhat un-policed. Though I now realize now that it was a horrible environment for creativity and a negative, demoralizing environment for any of the students that were already super behind with no way to catch-up due to social promotion. I'd have been ALL over some traditional art classes and/or clubs if we had 'em!

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  6. I see so much of myself in this post! Especially the 7th grade Pokemon websites -- I had Dragon Ball and Sailor Moon ones too. My education was also less than ideal, with no incentive to art and creativity whatsoever (but I live in Brazil, that's the country standard really).
    I too dropped out of college (managed to survive a different course tough) and currently work long hours in a corporate job. I'm 22. If I keep (unintentionally) following your timeline, soon I'll become Batman!
    Seriously though, I believe all our experiences, both good and bad, shape up our personality. If it weren't for your years at lousy schools, maybe you wouldn't be so freakin' awesome :) Lovely post, thank you for sharing something that personal.

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    1. Hilarious that we're literally living a parallel life, I'm confident you'll transform into The Batman, the timeline's working out thus far! Thanks for sharing your story with me, Bele!

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  7. I went to school on the Indian reservation so I think I would be able to relate in many ways. I was super upset when my Calculus class was cut halfway during the semester because our teacher had to teach some remedial math classes instead. Too many students were coming out of junior high not knowing how to read or do basic math.

    I never took art in high school but wish I did. As others have said though, it's really not the school but what the student makes of it. This pretty much sums up everything in life though.

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    1. Thanks for sharing, that's crazy to actually have a class cut to help the other students play catch-up!

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  8. Where to begin? I was fortunate to have gone to school in the calm, 1950's and tumultuous 1960's in an area surrounded by colleges, so my educational experience was first rate. I went into teaching because I love learning but if I had it to do over again, I would never, ever choose this profession. I work with struggling readers and I know how poverty impacts education. The gap between those that have and those who don't is getting larger and since state and national politicians make decisions about education and funding, I am deeply troubled for our nations' future. The students are the best part of the day and there is NOTHING that compare with influencing someone's life, especially teaching them to read, but teachers are expected to do too much with too little. The system is so broken and I personally know there are too many chiefs and the Indians don't have much say, even though we're doing the heavy lifting.
    I too could write reams of copy but don't have the heart. I can tell that you are a survivor, or what I call a little cork. You float and rise above your circumstances. Being creative is such a help, your natural, upbeat temperament, but family is the most critical aspect of a child's success. It boggles my mind how well some children do despite the hardships they live through daily; I have often wondered if I could cope as well.
    Reams, I could write reams...

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    1. I feeeel your pain, thanks for sharing your history and frustration. Education is one of my biggest motivators, you experience a lot of ignorance and kids lost in the system first hand here and it's disheartening. I could go on and on, had to cut a lot from the this post, it threatened to swallow my blog ;p

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    2. Thanks so much for sharing your story, Suzie. I know teaching can be really thankless, unfortunately. Kudos to you for braving it out in a broken system. You may end up being one of the few positive influences on a young person's life. Some of my favorite adults were my teachers.

      As I've grown older, I realize that what you say is true - that family is the most critical aspect to a child's success. All too often we take our families for granted, but I realize more and more how much my parents really laid a solid foundation for me in life which helped me to succeed as a person.

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    3. Likewise, my favorite adults were always teachers. They were the ones that treated us like adults, let us be creative. In a creative writing class a girl asked if it's okay if she wrote sexual situations or cursed. The teacher said, "Absolutely, believe it or not, I'm an adult." I loved her for that. Too many teachers try to punish students for expressing themselves.

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  9. I had a similar experience, not quite so bad, moving to Florida at 12. Terrible 6th and 7th grade centers. They don't have them anymore. I used to have reoccurring nightmares that I hadn't graduated high school, too!! They stopped after I decided to get my college degree as an adult. Whew!
    Off subject, but, my sister in law is from Ponce. We stayed at a way cool beach house near there once when I visited. Gorgeous!!!
    Becky

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  10. Ponce beaches are gorgeous. Playa Santa is the white sand clear blue waters Caribbean archetype! If I'd have finished college my didn't-graduate-high-school dreams would be replaced with didn't-graduate-college ones ;)

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  11. Oh, Van, thanks for sharing so much of your soul with us in this post. Wow, I can't even imagine how tough it was to navigate and survive all that you did in high school! Amazing that there are still institutions and schools named after KKK members. How ironic that your school's makeup was mostly people of color.

    When I look back on my life, even into adulthood, I realize the one thing that has help me keep my sanity intact and that has helped me find joy was my imagination. Granted, I didn't have an especially rough childhood, but I have always been super sensitive as a person, so I've always found solace in my own imaginary world. I still do :0)

    Although I've always had a lot of imagination, I never really made anything with my hands (except for baking) until I was an adult. I had been itching to do something with my hands for quite awhile before I decided to one day sign up for a cardmaking class. After that I was definitely hooked. I started reading and learning and taking more classes to build up my crafting skills. Being creative has a calming effect on me, as it does for many other people.

    Like you, I too love to tell stories, but I did it so naturally ever since I was a child, that I never thought of it as being anything special until just a few years ago. It was then that I decided to enroll and complete a one year plus children's writing course. I don't know if I will pursue it as a career, but I'm glad to have done it for the challenge.

    You are so blessed to have the gift of drawing. That is one creative gift I wish I had, the ability to just put pen to paper and draw what's in my head. I love creating stories with my stuffed animals, each of whom have a unique personality. I only wish I could draw comic strips starring them for my own entertainment :0)

    I'm glad as bad as high school was for you, that it did not kill your creative spirit. You just had to wake it from its dormant state :0) Thanks again for sharing such a touching, heartfelt story of your life. Like others have said, you are the unique person you are today for having survived such a rough patch in your life :0)

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    1. It was actually fun in a way while we were experiencing the school battleground, I had more of a problem with the screwed up authority figures in the school than the students. To me it seems like we -really- start to bloom once we leave high school and get to pursue our passions full force. Thanks for reading and sharing some of your story for me, so supportive of creative classes as an outlet. Very relaxing.

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