Maebe and I in my first home studio in 2012. Photo by Jason Travis
Every now and then I'm asked what the name "Native Bear" means. While the style and types of products I've made under Native Bear has changed and evolved over the past few years, the name has always remained a constant in its meaning.
Some may know (but many more do not know) that Bear is a family nickname given to me as a baby. I think it had something to do with some bear shaped nursery decor? Not exactly clear on that! Regardless, the name stuck and I answer to "Bear" as if there's no distinction between it and my first name. The word "native" has always been an intriguing and multilayered word to me, but I had the adjective meaning in mind:
"of indigenous origin or growth". synonyms include: homegrown, local, domestic, homemade.
I decided to use this word in the name in order to give a sense of earthiness and a feeling of being home to my brand -- and by combining it with my nickname, I suppose I was also giving myself a sense of home.
As a young 20 something trying to figure out what the hell my dreams were, I was also riddled with self-doubt (I know. Poor self-esteemed 20 something?? Somebody sound the alarm...). I had always been a semi-talented artist with pursuits of painting and writing the occasional poem or short story, but issues with following through with ideas left me with a string of unfinished projects and half solved problems. Besides -- what was the point? It was too hard to make a living as an artist and there were way more talented and skilled artists in the world that were more deserving of success.
Plus, life is but a tiny speck of existence amongst a vast darkness. Why don't I just meet my friends at happy hour (again)?
Because of course that shit gets boring, is unfulfilling, and not to mention expensive...! I had a creative itch that needed to be scratched, and I started leaning into my insecurities. Not sure what made me decide to lean, but I knew that if I ever wanted to have a chance at a self-made creative career then I had to really get over myself a little bit. As much as I would have liked to think that I was being a humble bear about my ambitions, the truth is that I was letting my ego run rampant. Thoughts of "I'm not ready", "I'm not an expert so I should just not do anything", "Caring about stuff isn't very cool anyway", etc., were just echoes of my inflated ego. That's right! When you're hard on yourself and the little voice is nagging you to give up you're being just as egotistical as the dude in his BMW on his phone cutting you off in traffic.
Don't be that dude.
So when I came up with the name Native Bear, I just felt a click. I needed a name to guide me and a home to place all of my new designs. I felt it was an extension of myself without having to be my actual name -- a grounding point.
I started carving small stamps and hand printing cards, and once I had about 5 card designs I listed them in my Etsy shop. Then after a few weeks.... I sold one! That was it. I didn't know what direction I was going in, or even what I wanted beyond selling a few items a month on Etsy. The point is that I needed that name to get me focused and to just start. Since then my personal design style has gone through many evolutions but I can thank my "good" design ideas of the past for getting me to what I feel are my "better" ideas today.
Photo by Ashley White, 2016
If you're feeling any of those pangs of apprehension in your creative self I suggest starting with a name that motivates you. Let it be the sounding board to your good, bad and ugly ideas and see where it takes you. Imagine that name in big lights and you're just chillin' in your PJs at home doing what you love. Or maybe now you really are the dude in the BMW (but you're chill and don't cut people off) and you're riding around with the top down enjoying life and the beautiful weather. It's really up to you and what you want to try and create. The truth is that you really have nothing to lose and only much to gain, even if it means doing a few rain checks on that happy hour with your friends. They'll understand, and maybe even benefit from your new found motivation.
Photos by Ashley White, 2016