Welp, our 10 year anniversary as Naughty Blonde entrepreneurs was back in June, and we completely forgot to celebrate. It's understandable, given that 2020 has been the shitshow that no one could have possibly imagined. Are you sick of hearing "unprecedented" yet? Yep, same here. Still, 10 years is a pretty important milestone, and I think it deserves a little better-late-than-never recognition. Hey, 10 Year Anniversary! I see you!!! This also seems like a great time to reflect on how it all started, how far we've come, and where we see NBR going from here.
Once upon a time, way back in 2009, Anna Stump and I had studios in the same building in North Park/San Diego. We had met a few times before, but we weren't really friend friends yet, you know? One afternoon, she knocked on my door and invited me to go to the wine bar downstairs for happy hour. (I sometimes can't believe how perfect it was to have a wine bar just steps below my studio back then!) We talked about our kids, our failed/failing marriages, the work we were making, and the local art scene. The friendship grew from there, and we would often meet up to chat, look at each other's work, and go to art openings together. Towards the end of that year, my then-husband and I separated, and I was no longer able to afford my studio. As I was packing up, I asked Anna if she would consider a studio mate. She was willing to give it a try and cautiously took me in on a provisional basis. Well, I made it through the trial period, and we ended up sharing 4 different studios over the next 7+ years! We would surely be sharing one now if I hadn't moved to Tennessee, but more on that later.
Anna and I were both teaching at local colleges at the time, and when the summer of 2010 rolled around, that meant no school and no paycheck. We started Naughty Blonde Redux as a way to generate some income in those lean weeks between semesters but quickly saw that there was interest in the product year-round. Anna's boyfriend, Ted, had a studio in The Brewery in Los Angeles, and we were able to set up an NBR display just outside his kitchen for the 2 big open studio events held each year in the spring and fall. We started to get a little following, and people would come back year after year to see what was new with NBR. The Artwalk was always so much fun (though exhausting!) and I was planning to fly back to participate this past April, but...well, you know the rest.
NBR eventually lead to larger-scale projects, and our collaborative painting venture, Hill&Stump, was born in late 2011. While we were putting more of our time and energy into the painting business, we still kept making Naughty Blonde product for the Artwalk and special orders. Anna and I work really well together, respecting each other's aesthetic while working towards a common goal. As anyone who has ever tried collaborating (especially on something as personal as a work of art) can tell you, it is not always easy to work with others. Egos get bruised, tempers flare, and it can be difficult to keep the collaboration going. This was never a problem for us, as we considered every piece a conversation where each artist had their say. As 2017 was winding down, painting together was going really well, and I for one saw us building our two businesses for years to come.
That December, my husband, Gustaf, and I were vacationing in Tennessee to celebrate Christmas with family. We had gotten married in a tiny ceremony in Las Vegas only 2 months prior, and we took advantage of the visit to have a little reception for family that had not been able to make the trip west. My brother and sister-in-law hosted a lovely party in their home, it was an exceptionally happy event, and we even took a group photo before my parents and the rest of the guests started heading home. I am so grateful for that evening, as my father died suddenly and unexpectedly in his sleep the next morning. This was a tremendous loss for my family, and Gustaf and I immediately made the decision to move here to help and support my mother. While it was painful to leave friends and family behind on the West Coast, neither of us has ever regretted this choice. As a matter of fact, my father always wanted me to move back to Tennessee, and I know he would be happy that Gustaf and I are now here to stay. ❤
Moving 2,000+ miles away has thrown a bit of a wrench in the Hill&Stump collaboration, and the pandemic has added another level of difficulty, but we are figuring it out. The Naughty Blonde Redux collab, however, is quite a bit easier to keep going - even during the pandemic. No, make that ESPECIALLY during the pandemic. I recently quit my non-art-related day job (COVID concerns) and have more time to dedicate to NBR than ever before. I believe this is what is referred to as a "pandemic pivot." COVID has brought me back full circle to the thing I love doing more than anything else - creating. Honestly, I wonder why I didn't do this sooner. I finally feel like myself again.
So, there you have it. A not-so-brief 10 year history of NBR, with a little Hill&Stump history thrown in for good measure. Anna and I are excited to see how far we can actually take our little business. I have some pretty outrageous dreams and hope to introduce people all over the world to Naughty Blonde buckles, bits, and cock rings. What's that? You don't know about the cock rings? Oh, those are fun! Maybe we'll cover those next time.
Here's to 10 more years!