GET TO KNOW:
Ciera Dykstra is a Colorado-based artist who grabbed our attention by turning our vintage denim jackets into beautiful pieces of art. With social justice issues as the force behind her work, Ciera's self-made company, Zany Art, is just getting started.
Tell us a little about yourself! Where do you live? What do you spend most of your time doing?
Hi, my name is Ciera Dykstra and I am a young student, artist, and entrepreneur. I am originally from Anchorage, Alaska, but now I live mainly in Boulder, Colorado where I attend CU Boulder (GO BUFFS!). My art, friends, family, and the outdoors are what I center most of my time around. You can find me painting, reading, hiking, dancing, climbing and more when I am not studying with friends or spending time with my family. I am one of those people that can get bored easily so I always have new things I am doing. For example, I recently decided to embrace my inner grandma and began knitting.
What inspired you to start your business, Zany Art?
In my senior year of high school, it hit me hard how expensive college was, and I wanted to find a way to get my bachelors with as little student debt as possible. I believe that young people often don’t realize the values of their skills when they begin working, so I worked to develop skills that I am proud of and have value to me. With a lot of support from my mom, I took a leap of faith and invested a lot of my savings in opening Zany Art. I wanted to create a business where I help others embrace their individuality while raising awareness of injustice in our world. It has been a journey and every day I face new challenges that teach me more about people, business, art, and how the world works.
Did you study art in school? How long have you been practicing?
I didn’t really do art until I was about 15 after I had a couple major injuries. I was limited in physical activity and I was going crazy without an outlet. I began drawing at home and ended up taking a lot of classes in high school. Ironically, I am not going to college for art. In lieu of a traditional education, I learn through practice and reading instead. Art is such a source of joy for me, so I knew I wouldn’t stop making art if I majored in something else I am also passionate about. I have been avidly practicing art for about five years now.
It looks like you have three different main sections of your work: pieces centered around social injustice, beautiful chalk art, and custom-painted denim jackets. If we're right, how did you become interested in these three different creative outlets? In your mind, do they overlap?
When I was in high school, I began to get so frustrated as I learned more about the world. I wanted to fix everything, which is impossible for any one person to accomplish. I started expressing those frustrations in my art because I just felt that people should know and be educated about issues such as blood diamonds or human trafficking. Most of my artwork centers around social injustice (including prints, jackets, chalk art, stickers, etc.).
I feel like we are living in an age of extreme activism and this is a way for my voice to be heard, and for me to provide a voice for people who don’t have one yet. It overlaps with my overall passion for helping people in life.
I am actually majoring in International Affairs and Political Science with the intent to become an international human rights lawyer. My artwork reflects what I am constantly studying, reading, and learning about. The jean jackets came about when I realized sometimes representing an individual is just as important as talking about a movement. I love making the jackets because I get to know my customers and what is important to them as I create this outside interpretation of them for the world to see. Chalk art is the best form of art to connect with people, in my opinion. When I do chalk art, I get the opportunity to talk to hundreds of people because it is like a strange version of performance art that you do in front of lots of people. All of my artwork comes down to connection, which is the source of my inspiration.
"I believe that young people often don’t realize the values of their skills when they begin working, so I worked to develop skills that I am proud of and have value to me."
We’d love to hear about the process for creating your denim jackets! How do you pick the jackets? How much do you plan each piece? Do you sketch your painting out first or dive right in?
Most of the time it is based on what the client wants. I ask them lots of questions and sketch out different rough drafts for them to choose from. Some people know exactly what they want and some give me a lot of artistic license. I choose the jackets based on fit for the client, the quality of the denim, and how used the jacket is. Used jean jackets are the BEST! They have been broken in, meaning they fit in all the right places.
How did you decide on using vintage denim jackets in the first place? What do you like about painting on them?:
Jean is timeless! It has been worn in almost every era in recent history for a reason. I had this jean jacket I had owned forever but I never wore. Honesty moment: sometimes jean can be boring if it isn’t accessorized correctly. I made my “Bee Happy” jacket and posted it, then people started expressing interest in them. I like painting on them because it is art that won’t just end up hidden in a portfolio somewhere. It combines fashion and painting in a fun little package.
Do you have a favorite piece of art that you’ve made so far?
It’s hard to choose a favorite, but one of the most impactful ones I made recently would be my jacket representing shootings in the United States (because unfortunately, the jacket is a work in progress). On the sleeve, I add tally marks for each kid that has died in the United States and I am still adding the tally marks. The day after I made it, I found out one of the tally marks was a child that was killed at my friend's mom's school. People come up to me when I wear it and start up conversations with me, too. A lot of times they want to know about more statistics and good places to go to become more educated about gun reform. It’s a piece of artwork that I feel has an impact as soon as I step out of the house. As of July 13, 2018, 183 children have been killed by guns this year, with hundreds more injured (Gun Violence Archives).
"Honesty moment: sometimes jean can be boring if it isn’t accessorized correctly."
Where does the inspiration for your work usually come from?
All of my inspiration comes from the people around me. I get ideas from stories; people tell me about their lives or stories I learn about in the news from around the world. Sometimes my art is supposed to have a deep message about an injustice in our world and sometimes it is simply to brighten someone’s day.
What are your future plans and goals for Zany Art?
SO MANY THINGS! Right now, Zany Art is working on creating a partnership with a non-profit organization based in Tanzania called the DARE Women’s Foundation. They focus on empowering women by providing feminine hygiene, and entrepreneurship opportunities. As Zany Art grows, I want to be able to help more people than just the ones buying the artwork. A lot of young people are amazing artists but they don’t know how to get started in selling their artwork, so I want to help them get started. In the next year, Zany Art wants to represent more artists, form a brand based on a growing local art community, and continuing outreach with art!
Do you have any advice for someone who wants to start their own art-related business?
Taking the leap of faith is the hardest part. There will always be a voice in the back of your head that tells you that you can’t, but taking the first step makes the whole journey easier. Do your best to educate yourself, you can learn a lot of business models and beginning business information from the internet.
Most importantly though, stay true to your artwork. You won’t succeed in changing your art to fit what others want. There will be people out there who want your true art, no changes made.
If someone wanted to order a commission piece, how should they contact you?
Couple different ways! You can email me/message me through any of the following:
Email: [email protected]
The process usually takes about 4-6 weeks between the brainstorming, sketches, and painting!
"Stay true to your artwork. You won't succeed in changing your art to fit what others want. There will be people out there who want your true art, no changes made."