Between games with her traveling basketball team at a tournament in Tennessee last week, Gabrielle Anderson tried to keep running her business.
She had too many orders of her custom hand painted sneakers to take a weeklong break. Graffiti by Gabby, the company created last summer by the young 17-year-old Blacklick.
“She painted in the hotel room,” said her mother, Celia. “We had to say, ‘We would love to do the team movie, but she has to work tonight.'”
Despite being a highly competitive and successful athlete who committed to playing basketball at Harvard University in 2022, Gabrielle found herself in the spotlight on ESPN and the SEC Network – not at because of his skills in the field but because of his works of art.
Broadcasters noticed his kicking last year on former WNBA coach Nicki Collen, who wore a pair with a portrait of Breonna Taylor – a black woman killed by Louisville police – during an Atlanta game. Dream.
Gabrielle also designed custom shoes for WNBA and US team superstar Sue Bird; actor and comedian DL Hughley; the 26 members of the Texas A&M women’s basketball team; and University of Arkansas basketball star Moses Moody, the SEC freshman.
Blacklick teen balances art with athletics
Since last summer, she’s sold and painted over 200 pairs of sneakers, ranging from high-top Converse shoes to slip-on Vans to Caroline blue Air Jordans, many of which feature social justice themes. The price for customization starts at $ 200, but the cost varies widely depending on the art requested and the size of the shoe.
But Gabrielle said she doesn’t paint custom shoes for the attention or the money. Art was her passion long before she started playing basketball.
“I painted forever,” said Gabrielle, a rising high school student at IMG Academy, a boarding school for elite athletes in Bradenton, Florida. “I was just one of those kids who painted on the walls… I drew everything I saw. My mother bought me a lot of art supplies.
The Arkansas native, who moved to the Columbus area in 2017 with her mother and grandmother, said the art balances well with and relieves the stress of her athletic and academic endeavors.
Color among the inspiration for custom shoes
She has always been drawn to color in particular, she says.
“I see people as colorful and bright,” Gabrielle said. “When I look at someone, they ask me, ‘Why are you looking at me? And I’ll say, ‘Oh, I’m just looking at your colors, your undertones.’ ”
His affinity for color theory is evident in his shoe designs, which people can order through his Instagram page @graffitibygabby.
She said she started making shoe art after seeing someone cover a tennis shoe with newspaper on Instagram – where she finds a lot of inspiration – and she tried a similar activity. Then a friend asked her if she could paint on an old pair of shoes.
“I like to paint over things that aren’t necessarily made for painting,” Gabrielle said. “Mirrors and shoes are always cool. ”
She likes the idea that each pair is personalized so that no two projects are the same.
“Once she started painting on shoes, they became just another canvas for her,” said Celia Anderson, former University of Arkansas basketball player and director of business development for the Greater Columbus Sports Commission.
Demand for Gabrielle’s shoes snowballed after Collen, who is now a Baylor University women’s basketball coach, wore her shoes to the Atlanta Dream game last August.
Historical figures, social movements in the spotlight
When Cleevas Craig – whose daughter played on the same AAU team as Gabrielle – saw some of her designs on Facebook, he was stunned by the teenager’s talent and entrepreneurial spirit.
“I said to him, ‘How can you play basketball while traveling the world and accomplish that too?'”
But the Cincinnati resident also wondered how he could get his hands on a custom pair himself.
He said he gave her little guidance on what to wear on the pair of retro Nike Air Jordan sneakers he wanted her to customize. What she delivered was a design that included the broken chains of Black Lives Matter and the word “freedom” painted in bold type. Craig said he was blown away by the finished product.
“To this day, these shoes are in a trophy case,” Craig said. “I don’t touch them.”
Stephanie Brown can’t help but wear her Graffiti by Gabby shoes occasionally. The shoes, which feature portraits of former President Barack Obama and civil rights activist Malcolm X, as well as the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, always elicit oohs and ahs from onlookers, she said.
“People always say, ‘These shoes are just amazing,” said Brown, who works for the St. Louis Visitors and Conventions Commission.
Brown, who knows Celia Anderson through her work in the tourism industry, was thrilled not only to have trendy sneakers, but also to support a young black entrepreneur like Gabrielle.
“I want our babies to shine and know they are special beyond measure,” Brown said. “I want to support them and say, ‘Don’t let anyone steal your joy from you.'”
She has already ordered a second pair. This one will feature four influential black women – former First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Kamala Harris, poet and author Maya Angelou and poet Amanda Gorman – in white Converse tops.
Gabrielle said she always enjoys painting people, especially those who are important in black history.
“I can make them as realistic or as unrealistic as I want,” she said.
While many of her works feature themes of social injustice or make political statements, Gabrielle has also painted famous athletes, cityscapes, and even cartoon characters on shoes.
What’s next for Gabrielle Anderson
While playing basketball at Harvard, Gabrielle said she also plans to study business there to develop Graffiti by Gabby or another business she is starting. She also hopes to do a minor in art to improve herself in her craft.
Her mother has helped her daughter a bit along the way so far – sending invoices, setting deadlines and running social media for the business – but she said none of that would be. possible without Gabrielle’s creative spirit and ingenuity.
“She wasn’t meant to make money with it,” said Celia Anderson, whose home is decorated with her daughter’s artwork. ” It’s his passion. It’s been quite lucrative for her, but she loves art.