By Loose Lips Mag
We came across Kimothy Joy’s Instagram page late last year when the world rose in resistance and instantly fell in love. Her feminist-focused art carries a strong message that promotes kindness, change, and equality, and it feels as if the Internet cannot get enough of her illustrations.
Because we love supporting small businesses and artists like Kimothy, we partnered with her to offer 5 per cent off of the Kimothy Joy Etsy shop with the promo code LOOSELIPS so that you too, can support female activists making change.
To learn more about Denver-based artist Kimothy Joy, read our Q&A below.
How did you come up with the idea to take your photography and illustration background and turn it into a movement? What was your motivation?
I’ve had many chapters in my creative career that have led me to this point. Over the last five years or so, I’ve actively sought out ways to use my skillset to make an impact towards progressing social issues, and specifically with causes that empower girls and women. My background is in graphic design, photography, and communications. I got my start in photography, co-owned my own studio in Denver for a while, then segued into becoming a designer and communications consultant for non-profits. Most recently, I worked for a healthcare quality improvement company as a Sr. Communications Consultant before I left to pursue creative consulting work on my own and tap into my art and illustration passion. I started exploring and practicing watercolour art about two years ago and have formally branched out as an illustrator under my name, Kimothy Joy. I have an online shop and donate a portion of proceeds to different organizations like Southern Poverty Law Centre, ACLU, Emily’s List, and Planned Parenthood. My primary motivation was recognizing the power art has to support public movements and deciding to pour my time and attention into sharing my work online, and not just as commissioned work for clients. That was a huge turning point. I started sharing my voice and beliefs through my art and it was beautiful to see that it resonated with so many. When I start to feel that this world is taking a turn for the worst, I cling to words and imagery that remind me we can and will do better; we need to stay committed to truth telling, justice and equality. My art is fueled by that desire to find ways to express hopefulness, connectedness and solidarity, and the great transformative awakening that is occurring within all of us.
My mandate is one I’ve learned from my mother: “Find joy in life. Share joy with others.” There is always joy and beauty to be found if you’re looking for it even in the darkest of times. The way she lived her life was a bold testament to that, and I’ll never forget it. I would also probably add to always be kind, even when you are protesting, debating, frustrated, in the face of adversity–show respect, decency and kindness. It goes a long way. This is a hard one to follow in practice and one I struggle with daily but I full heartedly believe in it.
Is this a side hustle at the moment?
It’s a side hustle that is becoming my main thing! I balance my illustrations and managing my shop alongside other freelance creative and communications consulting and custom art work. My passion is continuing to use my art to support social change and I’m excited to see it grow.
What has the response been to building this online store?
The response has been amazing–it’s been an incredible experience! My illustrations have been shared around the world, especially during the Women’s March in January. It’s been a surreal experience. I had painted a few different designs that got a lot of traction online and a group of women asked if I’d let them include them as free poster downloads prior to the Women’s March on their website www.jointheuproar.com. I also made the designs available for download on my website. I had no idea they’d get so many downloads and that I’d end up seeing my artwork held on signs by women all over –LA, NYC, DC, Paris, Kosova, etc. I’ve never felt so connected to a wide array of people, especially women, over a common belief system like that before. This global sisterhood revealed itself in a new way for me and reaffirmed the power of art.
It was really unexpected and a fun surprise to also have actress/activist Emma Roberts sporting my tote this year! I have no idea how she got her hands on one, as I was only selling them through my website shop and Etsy at the time, but it’s been very cool to see a well-respected actress proudly “toting” my design and message around.
You have a social giveback initiative with your merchandise, can you delve into that for us?
With my online shop I donate a portion of proceeds to different organizations like Southern Poverty Law Centre, ACLU, Emily’s List, and Planned Parenthood. It’s important to me to support the important work that these organizations do –working to protect health care right and human rights, increasing female representation in public office, and working for a more just, inclusive world. I’m proud to support these organizations and proud of the productive conversations that stem from these give-backs.
Is this a one woman show?
I started with the support of my partner, Gregory, and he continues to be my co-pilot in this endeavour! I also have a part-time brand manager, Hannah, who is brilliant and helps manage my shop and brand. There is so much power in collaboration and partnership and I’m lucky that my community is ripe with other artists, authors, and business owners that I can turn to for insight as my work progresses.
We learned about you through Instagram. Has that been your driving force for exposure and community building?
Instagram is an amazing platform and it’s certainly been a driving force! It’s a privilege to have the eyes of many on my artwork and I’m really grateful to be connected with folks from all over. It’s also led to a lot of partnerships that are aimed to bring awareness to different social issues or programs, like my recent collaboration with the brilliant writer Cleo Wade. We partnered together to highlight the beautiful poetry of several incarcerated men who are currently enrolled in the Prison to College Program (P2CP) and to shed light on our mass incarceration epidemic affecting mostly men of colour.
I think my favourite part of being active online has been those special direct interactions that occur–like when someone shares their own personal story with me that was inspired by seeing my art or reaches out to say they get me or appreciate me sharing. That means the world to me. Creating art and sharing to the public is still very vulnerable and intimidating. But I keep doing it because I need to and it feels great to receive a note here and there letting me know it meant something to someone else, too. As Henri Matisse said, “Creativity takes courage.” And you know I’m a sucker for a good quote!
Kristi and Brittany are the co-founders and co-editors of Loose Lips Mag. Together, they’re building their feminist media empire and leaving the patriarchy, charcuterie boards, and empty bottles of wine in their wake.You can find them in Gastown sniffing out other women warriors or fuelling up at local coffee shops.