All posts by Sock Robot

Hillary Chandanais

Name: Hillary Chandanais
Age: 27
Location: South Coast, Massachusetts USA
Occupation: Graphic Designer & Reptile Keeper

Hillary Chandanais was heated about cold-blooded animals and artistic expression from a very young age. As a child, she was set on exactly what sort of occupation she wanted.

“I knew I wanted to do anything relating to art or professional bullfrog catcher, which I didn’t know wasn’t a profession at the time,” she recalls.

After taking all of the elective art classes she could take in high-school, including pottery and classical painting, Hillary knew she wanted to further pursue art in college. She began her academic studies in Fashion Design, since she was a longtime lover of sewing and cross-stitching.

“However, I learned after a year in college that I was in love with the computer application of design rather than actually putting bits of fabric together in a professional setting,” Hillary says. “I was absolutely fascinated by the tricks and tips that come with Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign; that these programs can transform your world and what you see through simple adjustments. When I got my internship at a New England based record store’s home office, I finally realized that there was really a whole industry dedicated to what I enjoy doing.”

Ever since, Hillary has made her passion a career. She now works as a graphic designer for Sid Wainer & Son, a specialty food distributor, and spends her workdays making retail signs or toiling away on catalogs.

“We’ve been recently working on a label rebrand project for our retail line of our products,” she adds. “I work with a fantastic team of other graphic designers and marketing experts and we are all very supportive of one another.”

Beyond graphic design, Hillary has a pet project…literally. Considering she originally wanted to catch bullfrogs for a living, perhaps it shouldn’t come as such a surprise that she is an enthusiastic and vocal supporter of reptile preservation, education, and outreach.

“I had a turtle as a pet growing up, and I would be regularly found in my parent’s backyard catching bullfrogs and snakes from the wetlands behind our house,” she remembers. By her senior year of college, she was brought into the herpetological community via her roommate who was studying to become a veterinary technician. This roommate took Hillary to her first reptile expo.

“I was absolutely amazed by what I saw there and I immediately wanted to be more involved with what was around me and connect with this community that I never knew existed before,” she says.

Today, Hillary and her husband Nick work at a reptile specialty shop called Cold Blooded Pets. After she wraps up her day job, they head to the shop to clean enclosures and feed a ton of hungry reptiles. She also makes it a point to educate customers about the critters they have for sale.

“The issue with reptiles is that they are misunderstood and in return are seen as scary,” she says. “I never knew how much people were afraid of animals that I adore until I started working in a reptile shop. I wanted to work towards making this is a thing of the past; making reptiles more widely accepted and less feared by humans in their native ecosystem as well as in captivity.”

Beyond the store, Hillary is on the board of the New England Herpetological Society, working as secretary. NEHS is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to education, conservation and the advancement of herpetology, which allows her to work against the misconceptions that plague reptiles and their owners.

“There are many bills that are being pushed by animal rights groups around the country to end animal education and even reptiles being in captivity. Working with the public and allowing them to safety interact with “exotic” animals while educating them about various species encourages the respect of native wildlife,” she says.

Further combining her two causes, Hillary is currently working on t-shirts, hoodies, and bumper stickers for the New England Herpetological Society, where the proceeds go back into reptile conservation and teaching the public about them. “Every day, I want to better myself, inspire more people through design, and destroy fears surrounding reptiles,” Hillary concludes.

By adding beauty to the world through design and rebranding the perception of cold blooded creatures, we think Hillary Chandanais is a very Cool Girl!

You can check out more of Hillary’s art and reptile adventures here: New England Herpetological Society website & FacebookCold Blooded PetsHillary’s Instagram, and Hillary’s portfolio.

Chelsey Furedi

Name: Chelsey Furedi
Age: 21
Location: New Zealand
Occupation: Animator

When she was only 12, animator Chelsey Furedi was already beginning to create her own illustrations for her own stories. Now, at 21, the New Zealander is making art her career.

Chelsey began storytelling in her preteen years, and by 13 she was writing novels about romance and ghosts. Along with her equally artistic friends, she would spend lunch in the library crafting projects.

“I loved this experience because we got to share our stories with each other and help improve our works. I loved coming up with new worlds, and expressing myself through my characters…no matter how cliche they were,” Chelsey says.

After becoming involved in online art communities and fandom, Chelsey decided she wanted to study animation in college. As a result of those online fan-made animations, parodies, and music videos, she began to study character design, concept art, and storyboarding while in university. Now she is a professional animator, and the creator of the comic Rock and Riot!

“Rock and Riot is my passion project that soon turned into my side job!” she explains. “It’s a queer themed webcomic about 1950’s rivaling gangs. I made it because I wanted a story that everyone could see themselves in, and could finish reading it with a smile.”

When she’s not at her animation job, drawing comics, livestreaming herself drawing comics, she’s spending her spare time playing video games like Sims (“living my dream life with a wife and an art career”) or Life Is Strange. But drawing is more than a job. “I draw for my job, I draw for my hobby, and to wind down, it’s just more drawing,” Chelsey says.

Both her newest and oldest endeavor is Project Nought, a science fiction tale revolving around a time travel exchange program. She’s been dreaming of it since she was 15, and has finally paired the perfect plot with her now-six-year-old characters. “I’m excited to launch it and finally share it with the world!”

Beyond the challenges of creating 24/7, Chelsey says her largest hurdle at the moment is growing her presence online.

“I am aiming to make a full time living off my comics, so it’s all about networking and making the right decisions about where/how often I am present online,” she says. “I’m constantly working to grow my brand and put out great stories that people enjoy, and would like to pay me for. My dream is to own a city apartment with big windows, lots of plants, and have all  the time to work on my own things.”

A goal that this moving image maven is bound to achieve! And what advice does Chelsey have for budding artists and storytellers alike?

“If you have a passion, go for it! If you like to tell stories or draw, do it! Grab your old school book or some scrap paper, and make your stories happen!”

For her passion and her pictorial purpose, with think Chelsey Furedi is a very Cool Girl!

You can see more of Chelsey’s work on her website, http://rockandriotcomic.com/, and on her YouTube channel.

Lindsay Amer

Cool Girl Lindsay AmerName: Lindsay (Lindz) Amer
Age: 25
Location: New York, NY
Occupation: Artist/Activist

Artist and activist Lindsay Amer has turned the world into a stage for all audiences and actors through her Queer Kid Stuff edutainment YouTube channel. Lindsay has dedicated her young career to bridging the gap in theater and education for LGBTQ+ kids.

As a theater student in Northwestern University, Lindsay learned the ropes in producing for younger audiences, a skill that she honed during her Masters program in performance studies overseas. It was during her graduate studies in London that she stumbled upon an area that she was passionate enough to turn into a profession.

“I was learning new techniques and I started growing frustrated with the limitations theater presents, particularly for the kind of work I’m trying to do that gets censored by schools,” Lindsay explains. “I was watching a lot of YouTube at the time and thought that would be a good platform for what I wanted to do. I googled “what does gay mean?” out of curiosity and found that the only things that came up were a dictionary definition and a few resources for parents and teachers, but there was nothing specifically made for kids. I wanted to make a digital resource actually made for the young people who might ask google that question. And I just checked and our very first video pops up now in that search!”

For Lindsay, it was merely a process of trying to entertain and inform young audiences who are often deprived of certain inclusive, queer storylines as they’re growing up.

Cool Girl Lindsay Amer's Show Queer Kid Stuff

“I’ve been doing queer work for kids since undergrad, but I started in theater first where I was making new work for young audiences. I just fell in love with all-ages storytelling and saw a gaping void in LGBTQ+ content and themes in the work,” Lindsay recalls. “The first time I encountered a piece written for young people with a queer protagonist, I was completely blown away and I knew it’s what I had to start working toward. I’ve pretty much been doing this work ever since.”

Most recently, through the wide audience of digital media, Lindsay and Queer Kid Stuff have been able to reach more and more people, and to inch closer towards their goal of “a kinder and more equal future.” That’s not to say that the broad horizon of the internet has been entirely filled with admiring followers. Lindsay still is constantly reminded of the discrimination and stigma that queer people, young and old, still face.

“I get a lot of online harassment, but, to be honest, I’m kind of over it at this point. There’s so much systemic oppression working against queer people, women, and trans/non-binary people and talking about it all and creating narratives around it is still incredibly taboo,” she says.

By using art as advocacy, even when confronting trolls, Lindsay is able to fulfill her creative dreams and help other young people learn how to feel comfortable in their own skin and society.

Beyond her internet videos and her day job, Lindsay is also looking to bring her vision to the stage. “I’m directing and writing a play for my theater company! It’s Bluelaces Theater Company based in NYC and we make immersive sensory-based theater for people on the autism spectrum and other developmental differences. The show’s all about imaginary trains! It’s cool!”

So what advice does this YouTube star have for anyone starting out in artistic or advocacy endeavors?

“If you love it, do it and be it. Don’t listen to what other people want you to do, or think, or say, or be. Listen to yourself and your wants and needs and just do you. You’ll be so much happier for it.”

We think that Lindsay Amer’s work bringing Queer Kid Stuff to the masses makes her one Cool Girl!

See, read, and hear more of Lindsay’s work on her YouTube channel, website, and Twitter.

 

Jennifer J. Woodward

Jenn Woodward HeadshotName: Jennifer J. Woodward
Age: 40
Location: North Portland
Occupation: Visual artist and small business owner

Texas native and Portland resident Jenn Woodward has turned pulp into nonfiction with her papermaking studio, Pulp & Deckle. But this artistic whiz isn’t happy simply making paper, she’s trying to create a community space where this craft can flourish and gain the recognition it deserves.

Jenn discovered papermaking as a graduate student at School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The medium inspired through drawing, beyond the ink to the page itself. It was from there that the page became the stage, literally.

“What excites me most about papermaking is that it is pretty magical. You can take plant waste from your yard, or worn out jeans, cotton t-shirts, or towels, and transform them into paper pulp. And that pulp can be further transformed into sculptural objects, substrates for prints and drawings and photos,” she explains.

Of course, taking art from a creative outlet to a constructive occupation was a process in and of itself.

Jenn Woodward with Bamboo“When my husband and I moved to Portland from Boston, I didn’t really have an art studio, much less a space for papermaking,” Jenn recalls. “I was making and exhibiting art, but it felt like it was squeezed into my life, instead of being at the center of it. How to bridge the gap between what I wanted to do for a living, and what I was doing become a real priority.”

She wanted to share the craft while also creating herself, and she was inspired by the idea of community building, too.

“I wanted to give artists like myself who had worked with hand papermaking before, but didn’t have the space or resources to put together their own paper studio, the opportunity to come and work and utilize our set up,” she says.

From that idea Jenn and her husband started a Kickstarter to establish Pulp & Deckle. The campaign was funded successfully, and they opened in 2012. The studio is Jenn’s answer to wanting to make a living via papermaking, as well as providing a space to expose Portlanders to the medium and its potential.

Portland Art Museum Monster Drawing Rally

For the first two years Jenn kept her day job, but she was finally able to dedicate herself to Pulp & Deckle full-time after receiving support from the non-profit c3:initiative. As a result, Jenn has been able to start Pulp & Deckle’s residency program. She’s also been completing a larger scale, community engaged art project, called Fruits of the sun (for all the unknowns), which was recently exhibited at the Portland Art Museum for a one-night First Thursday event.

Fruits of the Sun Pop Up Portrait“Over the past several months I hosted pop-up portrait drawing sessions at farmers markets and other spaces, inviting participants to sign-up as live models via 20 minute portrait sessions.The drawings were made with handmade paper embedded with various types of seeds. The paper will act as fertilizer for the seeds, and the drawings will decay and grow into fall vegetables and native wildflowers,” Jenn explains. You can read more about Fruits of the sun (for all the unknowns) on her project blog, http://fruitsofthesun.com.

Jenn’s artistic vision is blossoming. Even after a recent fire which damaged part of the Pulp & Deckle home base, she sees the studio’s outreach and ouvre spreading branches from its Portland roots.

So what advice does this hardworking handcrafter have for other young female artisans?

“Try to be kind and patient with yourself and others. In our daily lives it can make a huge difference!”

For her papermaking prowess and for cultivating a creative community, we think Jenn Woodward is a very Cool Girl!

You can keep up with Jenn and Pulp & Deckle at: http://pulpanddeckle.comhttp://jjwoodward.weebly.com, & http://fruitsofthesun.com. Or, visit Jenn’s social pages: Facebook, Twitter, Pulp & Deckle’s Instagram or Fruit of the Sun’s Instagram.

 

Elle Potter

Name:  Elle Potter
Age: 33
Location:  St. Louis
Occupation: Founder of Yoga Buzz

As a child growing up in Kansas and then Colorado, Elle Potter was inspired by lands far far away. No, not in fairytales, in the encyclopedia.

“I was really obsessed with India when I was young. I used to do presentations on India to my class based on what I learned from World Book Encyclopedias, not because it was an assignment, but because I just wanted to share everything I learned. I’m not sure when I was first introduced to yoga, but knowing myself, someone probably mentioned it was a thing from India and I probably immediately pretended like I knew all about it,” she says. “I first started practicing yoga in high school with Rodney Yee VHS tapes and on PBS with Wai Lana. I didn’t take my first actual yoga class until I graduated college, and when I took my first vinyasa flow class, I immediately knew I wanted to be a yoga teacher. Within a week, I had signed up for the yoga teacher training at that studio.”

That said, Elle’s journey through practicing to teaching yoga didn’t lead to zen-like calm. After her previously untreated anxiety disorder sidelined her in 2014, Elle realized that she needed to do something for herself. She took a break from teaching yoga, brainstormed, and decided to take her desire to inspire away from the studio.

“My husband worked at a brewery, and we worked together to put on a yoga and beer tasting event as a part of St. Louis Craft Beer Week in July of 2014,” Elle explains. “I thought maybe a few of my friends would come, maybe twenty people tops… but we sold out the event at 100 people, I was on two local news channels and St. Louis Public Radio! I started getting emails from folks asking when we were going to do another one.”

Not long after, Elle was hosting an event at the Ferguson Brewing Company in Ferguson, Missouri. It was one month after Michael Brown had been killed, and Elle was teaching yoga to a community that was still wounded from racism, segregation, and civil unrest.

“We choose to donate a portion of ticket sales to the Ferguson Youth Initiative, an incredible organization that offers after-school activities for local students. We had a great event with a sold-out crowd, but as I looked around the room, I was surprised to realize that even though we were kind of making yoga more accessible by taking it out of the studio setting, we were still reaching the same demographic that was already showing up to yoga; able-bodied white women who could afford a $20 yoga class,” Elle recalls.

“It was a defining moment for Yoga Buzz; I started asking more questions about all the barriers that make yoga in-accessible, and I realized if I wanted to do work to make the practice available to more folks, I was going to have to do a lot more than yoga at breweries. Since then, we’ve hosted 300 pop-up events all over St. Louis, and trained a diverse community of 73 new yoga teachers to take the practices of yoga to a variety of populations who might not otherwise have access.”

Yoga Buzz’s instructors have gone on to teach yoga to senior citizens in assisted living facilities, children who are part of foster care/adoptive services, veterans at the VA, and prenatal yoga for low-income families.

“I’m eager to do more work to elevate the voices of yoga teachers and students in my community who are breaking the stereotypes of what a yogi looks like,” Elle adds.

Making yoga more diverse and all-inclusive has been the foundation of her foundation, and while it is an effort of many, Elle’s spirit is what sparked it all. By taking her diverse yoga circus on the road and inspiring communities with Yoga Buzz’s message of accessibility, unity, and inclusion, we think that Elle Potter is a very Cool Girl!

Check them out at Yoga Buzz, FacebookTwitterInstagram, & Snapchat.