When asked about her work, Japanese avant-garde fashion designer Rei Kawakubo, summarized her process beautifully with one monostich: My energy comes from freedom and a rebellious spirit. This philosophy or what some would call lifestyle is something I have tried to embody with my practice in visual art and design. I have always felt comfort and creative confidence by not limiting myself to one medium but embracing experimentation and the cross-pollination of different skill sets, ideas, and reference points. My introduction to art, started when I was young by tracing over cartoons in an effort to learn how to draw. My creative practice started with illustration but as a young kid, growing up in Washington, D.C., I found myself constantly being consumed by my routine in academics and sports.
Sports always played a pivotal part in my life and in my creative process. Growing up my older brother Lloyd and I tried almost every sport imaginable. But it was basketball that ran in our family and became something we both fell in love with. My grandfather, William James Stephens, was an all American at Eastern Michigan for basketball; and Lloyd and I always had aspirations to follow in his footsteps. Lloyd was the first one in the family to compete outside of school, playing for an AAU organization called DC Heat. I watched him play and eventually found myself sitting on the bench and practicing with his team. It was a true privilege to be a part of that experience, which ultimately motivated me to take the sport more seriously and compete at the highest level I could reach.
After years in the gym, I developed my game to the point where I was able to be a part of elite AAU programs like Nike Team Takeover (DC), make varsity as a freshman and play four years in the IAC; and eventually, receive all-conference and score 1,000+ career points. After four years of high school ball, I finally got an opportunity to continue playing in college at the Division 1-3 level.
But after years of working on my game, I always found myself coming back to art - to both clear my mind and to express myself. Even though art was such an important part of me, I dismissed it as a hobby second to basketball and never considered actually pursuing it in college. As college applications quickly approached, I came to the ultimate realization that this is who I am and what I want to do. So after deciding to devote the next four years of my education to studying the visual arts instead of playing basketball, I was admitted under merit-based scholarship to attend St. John’s University for illustration.
Around the same time I was admitted by St. John’s University, I had an idea to start sharing my work in a public matter by utilizing social media and other various digital platforms. I made a website and decided to name it studio -
S W I S H in an effort to marry these two passions of mine inferentially and share with people my rediscovered purpose. For the first time, at St. John’s University, I was introduced to formal art training and felt inspired to the endless possibilities in where I could take it. This leads me to both changing my major from illustration to graphic design and two years later, make the decision to transfer to Parsons School of design; where I am currently pursuing my BFA in communication design with a minor in fashion communication.
While I have been in college, I made it a priority to continue what I started with studio S W I S H by adding and experimenting with different mediums. This included painting, illustration, photography, and sound through DJ'ing. Over the past three years, studio swish has matured into a creative conglomerate that has allowed me to collaborate with other young creatives, host art exhibitions in both DC and NYC, and inspire people to identify what makes them happy and pursue that to the fullest extent. My goal with studio S W I S H is to eventually turn it into a business where I can venture into advertisement, branding, fashion, and design and share with others stories like mine that may continue to influence a generation of self-starters and creatives who like myself find comfort in a DIY modern approach to art-making.
Thank you for reading.