Kashmir Thompson has developed a style that feels instantly recognizable, while remaining distinctly her own.
Originally from Ohio, where she graduated from the Cleveland School of the Arts, she now lives in Atlanta, Georgia and runs Kashmir.VIII. She agreed to be a part of a photoshoot with Death to the Stock Photo and we thought it was the perfect time to get a look into how she got here.
Photography by Death to the Stock Photo
In your bio, you mention you've been drawing forever - can you remember what sparked some of your earliest interests in drawing and art?
This is gonna sound strange, but as a kid I was absolutely fascinated by The Smashing Pumpkins "Tonight, Tonight" music video. It mesmerized me. It was super scary but at the same time so cool and creative. I would try to draw mermaids and celestial things I saw in the video. I had always loved drawing before that as much as any other kid loves drawing and coloring, but something about that video and how visually demanding it was stuck with me.
When did you realize you could make a business from your art?
I realized it as a teen. I went to an art school and was always commissioned to draw portraits for people, starting at about 15. I knew I could make money from my art, but never really thought about it as an actual business until just a couple years ago.
Was there a specific moment or something that happened to help you realize that? What did you do once you made that decision?
I realized it, but still didn't do anything to really act and build. The first time I realized it is when I drew a family portrait for my mom's boss. I wanna say I was about 17. It was a huge charcoal drawing and I knocked it out in about 8 hours. I got about $300 dollars for it and started thinking, "Well 8 hours is a regular shift. If I did this every day full time I could be making like $70k+ a year!" But of course it didn't really go like that. (laughs)
Your art has a really distinct style - how did you develop it? Was it intentional or did it evolve over time?
It was definitely intentional. I remember seeing some "faceless" type pieces from a few other artist and really kind of just adapted it and made it my own. I figured it would go well with the theme I wanted to do (90s black pop culture icons) because you would be able to tell who they were without features, and if you couldn't then it was just a sign that the particular piece wasn't for you.
How'd you build an audience for your work?
My audience was built mostly through my social media accounts. I'm no stranger to the internet. It was somewhat easy for me to get a decent online following for my art, because I already had a decent following for just being me. But when I really started producing works that people who followed me could relate to, it started spreading like wildfire through word of mouth!
How did you go about figuring out how to manufacture and sell your products?
I just did a lot of Googling! You can literally learn everything and anything on the internet! I'm actually still in the process of finding more manufacturers and getting new and better products. Big Cartel was the first place I heard of where I could start selling. I had a few friends who had cool Big Cartel shops back in 2009, so I tried it and loved it. I never even looked for another site or hosted a shop anywhere else!
What's your favorite part of using Big Cartel for your shop?
My favorite part of using Big Cartel is how easy it is to show my personality in the design of my store. A lot of online marketplaces don't allow you to fully customize your store, and I think it's important that my shop looks like ME. I also love how easy Big Cartel makes it to stay organized. I need all the order I can get. (laughs)
How do you decide to add a new product to your shop? Do you have a process for that, or is it just whatever you like?
It's actually pretty random! I don't have a certain process or routine I follow, I just kinda go with the flow. I do, however, try to make sure I drop new items consistently. And sometimes my releases may be a result of something happening in entertainment. Beyoncé just dropped a new song and I love it? Well, Beyoncé inspired merchandise it is!
Do you still experiment with personal projects or is your shop the primary focus of your art?
Right now my shop is my main focus. I rarely get to paint things specifically "for me," but I'm hoping some space will clear up soon so I can. I'm a one woman team, so running my shop is more than a full-time job for me right now.
What's the future look like for your brand?
There's so much going on with my brand right now. I'm so excited. As stated earlier, I'm looking into new manufacturers, so that means new items! I don't really wanna say what yet, but just know I'll be taking my handbags to a whole new level! Other than that, I'm still just promoting and building and trying to run my business as diligently as possible!