Independent Black Artist of Threadless

As more people are turning to entrepreneurship to carry out their passion projects, Black Enterprise spoke with independent artist Jack Walls of Threadless, who reflected on how he turned his dreams into a reality through the success of his artwork.

Having read many artists’ biographies and finding a passion for drawing while growing up, Walls has always been captivated by great designs. After setting out on his own at age 17 to join the Navy, Walls landed in the heart of NYC, where he began his artwork full time. As a way to further bring his designs to life and capitalize on his artwork, Walls now operates an online shop through Threadless, the e-commerce creative community that makes, supports, and sells great art. Threadless allows both emerging and established artists, like Walls, to start independent stores with Artist Shops and sell their art on Threadless’s many canvases, including tees, hoodies, bags, pouches, home décor, and more. Each purchase supports artists and enables them to monetize their work while further spreading their work’s message with the world.

Having an online shop where consumers can purchase his art designs enabled Walls to showcase his artwork through different mediums while capitalizing on his designs.

Through his personal Threadless’ Artist Shops platform, Walls is able to share his artwork with the world in various mediums and further thrive as an independent artist.

Black Enterprise connected with Walls to discuss how he got started in the art world, his continued success as an independent artist, and how other black artists can utilize Threadless’ Artist Shops to further build upon the success of their work.

How did you first become interested in art?

“I didn’t go to art school but I was always reading art books and biographies about artists. I romanticized artists’ lives to such an extent that I morphed into one myself over a period of time,” Walls explained.

“I thought art was for the privileged few. Luckily, through a series of circumstances in the early 1980s, I got a job in SoHo, which was the epicenter of the art world at the time. The Annina Nosei Gallery happened to be next door to where I was working. Jean-Michel Basquiat just happened to be represented by Annina at the time and was painting in the basement of the gallery. So I would see him around a lot, too. I was sort of in the right place at the right time.”

What is Threadless, and how did it impact the success of your artwork?

Threadless, the e-commerce creative community that makes, supports, and sells great art. “In this day and age, if someone comes along with an idea that sounds good, why not? It’s nice to have an online store,” said Walls. “Community is now on the internet.”

How does Threadless support independent artists, especially African American artists?

Transitioning to a full-time artist was not something Walls had ever imagined for himself. “I think in black society, it’s difficult to express yourself artfully in a positive way. I’ve gone through, and continue to go through a lot, in the art world. I am fortunate, I made lots of sacrifices,” Walls explained.

From his experiences, he believes that other African Americans and artists alike can achieve success just as he did. “I would like people to see my art as I see it, which is sublimely overwrought. The take-away should be joy. I want people to look at my art and see that if I have the courage to become an artist, so should they,” Walls explained.

What is your advice to other artists?

“I didn’t speak to my family for long stretches of time because all the feedback I got from my family was negative. I left home at 17, I joined the Navy. I made life an adventure, because I read books. Be bold but stay humble, that’s my advice to all the young black artists.”

Through Threadless, it is Walls’ hope that other independent artists can capitalize on the success of their designs to further achieve independence and carry out their passion.

You can follow Walls’ journey as an artist on Instagram @hifibangalore and, of course, purchase his designs at his Threadless Artist Shop.

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