My SXSW 2018 Experience | From L.A. to Tokyo
Spreading Arsenal Wares by Blake Hunter Across the Globe.
Wow. We did it! After 2 Months of planning and shifting products in my mock store around and creating all new ones, Arsenal Wares by Blake Hunter left Austin Texas proudly, successfully, and more importantly humbled at the warmth and positive reception I received. It is impossible to describe the atmosphere of SXSW without being there. It is a culmination of thoughts and ideas from all over the globe. From L.A. to Tokyo people flew to Austin to be part of this gathering. I'm so proud to say that people from over 35 different countries around the World now own a piece of my story and a piece of my Mom's Legacy. I felt the impact one can have on our world by doing something that they love and by bringing joy to others. All it takes is making that leap into the unknown even when faced with life challenges. The past year has been a journey, to say the least. I have been delayed with posting this recap of SXSW because I was inspired to share more of my own personal story and insight to what I was feeling before it began. Someone wise once said, “I’d rather be honest than impressive.” or so Google tells me...
"Plans are worthless, but planning is everything." - President Dwight D. Eisenhower
This was actually the first time I truly planned out an event. It had to be as close to perfect as possible because I knew this trip was to be something special. This was my first time taking my brand outside of the 20 mile radius of my home in Colorado. It was only this past June, less then a year ago, that I first participated in a Market or Fair. Since then I have been refining my setup as I continue to paint digitally, invent new creations, expand my jewelry and home decor lines, and step into fashion. I now have 120 different Art Prints and over 50 Jewelry Designs and counting. Basically, everything is always changing and I wanted my Pop-up Shop to reflect that by designing everything to be transformable and ready for any situation. As President Dwight D. Eisenhower once said "Plans are worthless, but planning is everything." Chances are things won't go how we imagine but regardless we can set ourselves up for the unknowns by always creating a strong foundation to stand on.
Am I Enough?
I faced many challenges going to SXSW, but these issues were not the logistics but a personal matter of my self-esteem and anxiety. It may seem silly, but the showstopping episodes I have can leave me full of doubt and wondering what I'm even doing. Up until the morning of the event, I struggled with whether I was ready to be part of South By Southwest. Attending was always part of my Mom and I's plan for our independent film 'Phantom Dawn.' Its legendary reputation in the heart of our home State of Texas has always felt right. However, change is the only certainty in life, and 18 months later here I was without her after 14 months of creating a brand from nothing. In that time I had never really understood the deeper purpose of what I was doing or the direction I was going. Everything I make comes from what I feel and what was right in my heart. I've never been one to fall in line with what everyone else was doing which had made for a long uncharted road in my life. I learn from being naturally observant of human behavior including my own, and it's served me well in bringing joy, hope, and inspiration to others because I'm searching for the same things. What allowed me to push past the fear and anxiety is realizing that nothing hurts more than not being able to witness my Mom at such a special event with me. Just like with my Art with that pain came strength, because in the end what more could I possibly lose by sharing something that my Mom inspired me to create.
“The noblest art is that of making others happy" - P.T. Barnum
This brand is me, in a 10’ x 10’ square. Arsenal Wares is a timeline of my journey the past 14 months. Every wall tells a story in order from the beginning to where I am now. I put my all into this, and I couldn't be happier I did. SXSW moved me. As someone who used technology to express my creativity, I felt at home. As P.T. Barnum once said, “The noblest art is that of making others happy" and whether it’s AI or Coding we all are imagining a better world, a happier world together. SXSW is a beacon of light to those who felt trapped from a lack of expression. The arts are so integral in our ability to communicate unique ideas to others in a way that is comprehensible. No matter what we go onto achieve in our lives the ability to think beyond the constraints of what's already written is linked to our gifts of self-expression in the arts. After meeting and talking with some of the incredible and brilliant speakers from every creed, gender, faith, and race I believe I've found a place and a people that align with my dream. A place where artists no longer need to be discovered to be successful. South by Southwest is a place that embraces the power of technology and the online network of information that will allow us to do and be anything. Artists of all ages and backgrounds can start from nothing and appear out of obscurity. They can have jobs and moonlight their talents on their free time, continually building their notoriety until they are ready and willing to step out into the world. We are meant to share our gifts and inspire each other to create new wonders for all to see. I read once that God didn't make us to be small and I believe we weren't given free will to be quiet either. We are given our freedom to be loud and make an impact on this world in the short amount of time we have on it.
Where I'm Meant to Be.
The first painting I ever I made was for my Moms Memorial Service that I put in her book titled "Unforgettable." I named it "Creative Wings", which I proudly displayed during SXSW. At the time I didn't know why I felt a need to make it. I only knew that my Mom deserved something special with a meaning that symbolizes the impact she's had on my life. We had dreams together, and she told me to keep flying towards them no matter what happened to her. Looking back, I can see that it was that piece that inspired the self-expression that created all this. Without it, I may have never started painting. I know now that "Creative Wings" was my Mom telling me I deserved something special too and no matter my struggles or self-doubts I am exactly where I’m meant to be.
Until We Meet Again.
Thank you to everyone around the world who let me share a piece of my story with you. Your support has made an impact on my life that I am forever grateful. I hope to continue to be part of SXSW in an even grander capacity next year, and I hope to see everyone down in Austin again! Keep in touch always!