Let me introduce you to my fine crafting partner in crime, Brianna Wray! While we partner up for Catfight Craft shenanigans, she’s also running her own stylish blog, called Wrays of Sunshine— because this lady is the field guide to a brighter life! And I wanna share what Brianna does to stay positive, and how she helps others move through life with a smile. So take notes— she’s the sunshine you wish could brighten your life, and this post can be your personal wray! (Hehe, didya get it—wray? It’s very punny.)
Brianna’s a modern role model! She follows her dreams and sincerely wants to experience yours. And she’s positively radiant in the face of negativity! How she invokes the best in everyone at the toughest of times is admirable. There’s never long-term worries with this lady, because she sings, paints or dances them away! Whenever a situation arises requiring a strong leader to dial up the awesome and crank the knob off, Brianna’s already there signing autographs with her badass booty shaking self. Just a minute in her ambiance will have you feeling confident, sexy and relaxed to the core.
But what was my Seattle bestie doing before all this creativity? How does she stay so optimistic and inspired to keep moving? What was her past like that she’s so open-minded? And what does she say when momma’s asking about those grand babies?!
With these and other burning questions, I put together a written interview with 3 segments. In Part 1 we’ll get to know Brianna based on past experiences. In Part 2: Her Philosophies. And Part 3 is the segment titled ‘What Would Bri Do…?’
What was growing up like?
I grew up in the wee military town of Clarksville, TN. I had everything I needed and most of what I wanted. I should say, though, that all I wanted, growing up, was to be outside, in the trees. The evergreen outside my bedroom window had a flat stump in the middle and I would sit there and practice watching. My mom is like Martha Stewart and Barefoot Contessa combined. She gave me a pottery wheel, an entire encyclopedia of crafts, paint, pretty pens and fancy heavyweight paper! We weren’t rich, these were just important enough to save for (plus Mama doesn’t believe in paying full price). I’m the youngest but my brothers were so much older that I often played alone. Today I’d consider myself someone who loves to travel and stay home. Maybe that’s where I get it.
Were your parents your best friends or worst enemies? And now?
I oscillated pretty hysterically, but mostly my best friends. My parents would describe me as a sensitive kid, quoted saying things like, “you hurt my FEELings!” It was so hard to communicate then, I wasn’t immune to teenage hormone imbalances. Especially because I was the youngest and the only girl, I wasn’t allowed to do anything. No slumber parties, no dates, nothing! “You better have your butt inside before dark,” my mom warned. Rape was the boogeyman and I was caught up in how dumb that fear seemed. Why would anyone be waiting to get me?! Of course, today, I understand. Moms are always right. But I look back and realize I basically just got all that angst out. I felt caged, so I went through some struggles. I cut myself, I would go days without talking, I would starve myself or make myself throw up, whatever. I just wanted to be in control. It looked to me like everyone else was making out and eating cookies, but I realized I wasn’t alone. I joined any and every club I could to justify getting out of the house, which is how I became the do-it-all type. I was in the International Thespian Society, acted in two plays, did set design for another. I was vice president of my junior and senior class. I was a Girl Scout. I was on the Step team. I wrote for the school newspaper. I did volunteer work at Children’s Home Society. You could even find me in the chess club. I would do anything.
Now I am the boss of me, so my parents are my best friends. 🙂
What was the hardest decision you had to make?
Moving to Seattle with nothing. It was this glimmering dream for me, but at the time my mom was recovering from some very serious health problems. I had no job and no job prospects. But I had just applied to work at a 7-11 (Siete Once as I call it) and they told me I needed to have fully graduated college to work there. I felt hopeless. When I told my family my idea to just go for it, my auntie cornered me, quite literally, and said my leaving was killing my mother, that I would go across the country, get into some kind of trouble, get killed and have no way to get back home. Hearing all that out loud and going despite it was my hardest decision. And it was the best one I ever made. Mom is 110% better. My leaving did not kill her, turns out. Since then every day has been better than the last. The very first person I met here (that I didn’t already know) became my husband and bandmate. My neighbor became my best friend and business partner. Seattle has given me everything!
Do you have regrets?
Nay. None. Basically my rule for life, my go-to answer to “should I do this” is will I regret it later? Usually when things seem difficult I know that’s the right way. That’s not to say that I haven’t done stupid shit or changed my mind. I got married the first time at 18 years old. Everyone said it was too soon and I wouldn’t hear it. It was what I wanted and I don’t regret it at all. Without that experience I wouldn’t know how to be the kind of wife I want to be, nor the type of partner I require.
What’s your biggest fear, and how do you avoid it?
I’m afraid of wasting time, of taking advantage, of growing lazy, of talentlessness, and of certain spiders (with muscular spider-builds). I schedule, meditate appreciation, try harder, create and spray the windows/doors with insect repellent every season, respectively. You can’t avoid what you’re afraid of. Kind of like Voldemort, we mark the threats that affect us the most. Anything can happen and the more time wasted worrying only brings fears to light. But usually when they do come to light, it turns out the fear was irrational. Most of them are, but hearing it out, giving the fear your attention really helps cut through the bullshit.
Let’s get Personal
What inspires you?
Absolutely everything. I go through the world, essentially a sponge, soaking up whatever ugly or beauty is around me. Giving time to acknowledge one’s surroundings and the effect of said environment is a process I try to repeat at least annually. I try to take in everything, but mainly reflect the beauty, the light. I feel like that’s a sort of vague answer, though. Visually, I’m most often gasping at textures and sharp contrasts between lightest lights and darkest darks. I love anything your eye can feel, be it linen or the warmth of perceived light. Musically, it’s a bit harder to pin down. Music is more about the relationships at play in a song than a particular style for me. Genre be damned, if you put together tight drums with bass that lets your hips know how to shake, you’re always halfway there! But let’s not underestimate melody and vocals, because those are crucial. Harmonies forever! As a writer I’m inspired by real-time, fast-paced conversation. I want anything I present in writing to feel as true-to-life as if we were speaking in person. Seriously, everything. It’s raining outside; I’m inspired. Oh, it’s stopped raining? That gives me an idea!
What makes your morning such a ball of sunshine, and how do you continue that optimism throughout the day?
Short answer: coffee. Long answer: The day I moved here from Orlando, my flight was the most perfectly introspective transition. I thought about how Seattle was supposedly so depressing, with high suicide rates and almost entire season of grey skies. I’m definitely influenced by my environment, both positively and negatively, but as my plane broke through the cloud-barrier I was able to feel the warmth of the sun, but also see clearly the city below where it was drizzly and cold. I realized then that even if it seems rainy and cloudy in my direct vicinity, the sun is still shining up there. Any time I get down, I remember that things can be deceptive. And it only takes a day for everything to turn around. I almost wish I’d had a camera to capture that moment, but maybe it’s better that I don’t because I’ll never forget.
What’s your most productive time of day? Is there a reason?
That really depends on the day. My life is a bit compartmentalized as I’m a college student, part time employee, business partner and wife. Tuesday/Thursday (school days) are my spongiest days, I’m up and and about from noon to nine. I get the most reading done and the best writing, in general. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (work days) are great for getting through red tape, probably because I’m up earlier and at a desk. When I’m in my natural environment (not working or schooling) I’m most productive from early afternoon until about ten. Slow mornings with coffee and kitty cuddles are such a luxury for me. There’s no doubt when I have one, I’m more apt to be creative and productive for the rest of the day.
What are your guilty pleasures?
I have several! Chocolate, sex, shopping, starting a new project and binge watching tv/movies. Jeff Goldblum. Christopher Walken.
What’s your favorite medium?
What a horrible question for someone with project A.D.D.! My answer probably changes hourly. Right now, nearing upon 6pm I’d have to say printmaking. I love that it combines historic craftwork with painterly, stenciled, and textural freedom. You can have it all and you can create entire editions. They’re inherently repeatable, yet limited and handmade. In an hour or so, I’ll be going on about oil paintings. Love that buttery feel. Mmph. Ooh, woodwork!
If you were stranded on an island, what would your power animal be?
Find me a kitty and we’ll work it out. Cats are my little heroes. Even as kittens, they’ll do everything in their tiny-cute power to survive, yet they’re graceful and mindful. And they get all the naps. I’m openly jealous of the all the naps. (I’m also really partial to giraffes but they’re usually in the woodland part of sub-Saharan Africa…or zoos. If I were stranded in a zoo, I’d say giraffe.)
What do you want to be when you grow up?
I want to be myself (blogger, a painter, craftsman, writer, musician), but financially stable. That answer applies to why I’m in college, too. There’s nothing I can’t do, but having the experience of college, the challenge of the college environment can sometimes make the difference between starving artist and burgeoning enterprise. I’m not afraid to be the former but I’m aiming for the latter.
Let’s Get Philosophical
What do you desire out of life?
I probably shouldn’t tell people this but, I’m easy. I just want to share in a community made of artists and otherwise creative types who give a fuck about their surroundings and our planet. I’d like a break from that feeling of you-can’t-afford-to-get-sick and the-rent’s-too-damn-high, too. That’d be good. I want to live someplace beautiful that isn’t too close (to any neighbors) or too far (from good hospitals, concerts and eateries) with an art studio, a music studio and a wood shop. And I’d like a million dollars, please. And a medium fry.
Are you helping other people with your desires?
I think so. I see a big gap between what’s out there and what I’d want to be (or even could be) a part of. There’s a lot of exclusivity out there in Seattle’s arts community. I want to get in there and find a way to make it so that no new artist feels as unwelcome as I have in some ways.
What do you think life is really about?
I don’t really know, judging from my life I’d say life is a great lesson in learning that there’s a lot you don’t know. If I were being scientific I’d say, life is about the passing, the transference of energy. But I mostly think of it in terms of these two songs:
“life’s too short. Your mission’s to die and nurture another mind before yours expires. Pass it on, push it along like the brotha said in that one song…” and
“I believe in surgery and I believe in prayer and I believe in mercy killing when I’m beyond repair, yeah, I believe…in love.”
What’s the most universal form of creativity?
Music, hands down. I’ve known a few people in my life who didn’t like music and those people weren’t right. Something was off there. I mean everyone loves music. Anyone can identify with it in some way or other. Some sing or dance or mosh or play an instrument, but everyone feels music.
I know you make music with your band, Super Plaid. Where would you like to take your musical abilities next? And do you want to make a career or side gig in the club out of it?
Super Plaid is my heart, it’s evolving and growing constantly. Lately I’ve been playing drums while singing, so that’s a whole new aspect of things. I basically need to relearn every song we’d written from a new perspective. We’ve said fond goodbyes to some members. Jesse moved back to Minnesota and Kevin’s been being the best dad there is, so our dynamic is different. Jared’s been killing it on bass and Jeff comes in on whatever else, be it keyboard, crazy synth, or drums. Matt can play anything except trumpet, so there’s no end to the talent of musicians around here. For me, it’s been tough to coordinate schedules around school, so Super Plaid’s been pushed to the back-burner. I want to put together a solo album, but I haven’t had the time to really hammer it out. But I think once I’m out of school I will want to make a more honest go of it. The few shows we’ve played live have been great successes, and no one else is making music like us so why not? And it’s on my Ultimate To-Do List to start a girl band. Hey, you wanna start a girl band with me?
You’re already the most inspiring person I know, but how could your life be more interesting?
That’s like Martha Stewart saying she loved my decor ideas: a compliment in the highest! More interesting? A question like that makes my eye bulge a little because I can see so much on the horizon. I consider myself on lock-down right now. I get so many ideas that I just can’t wait to have time to address. Sigh, time and resources. School is a big challenge and there’s really only so many of those you can feasibly face all at once. We get down and crafty now, but I look forward to growing our business. Renting studio space for cooking and dance workshops, really building this idea turned small Etsy shop into a community, into a thriving entity.
Oh, it’s gonna get interesting. Stay tuned.
What would Bri do …?
…When momma asks where her grand-babies are?
My Mama doesn’t ask cause Mama knows I’m a student and artist. I explained my thoughts on something the size of a bowling ball escaping through a hatch the size of a dime. Not my idea of a good time. Thanks, but no thanks. My mom’s the most supportive woman. But to a hypothetical Momma, I might offer her a beautiful painting, handmade print or feathered hair clip. I would tell her its name and the perilous conditions at which I faced to create this work of art. These are my babies. This is my offspring. Fruit of my mind-loins.
…When a family member asks about her sexuality?
Honesty is always the best…but I think anyone who has a problem with anyone else’s sexuality has enough sense to stay away from me, THE BISEXUAL!
…With a big hairy black spider crawling her way?
Ahh, that, my friend, depends on two things: how big is the spider and who’s in the room. If I’m alone or with someone who is even more afraid of spiders than me, it’s like I’m in the jungle. I morph into Predator. I’m invisible except a shimmer, and I’m fast! It’s me versus spider and I won’t be defeated. I move swiftly and justly, (saving lives if they’re not too scary or aggressive) and the problem is solved. If, though, the spider is above me when I’d been sleeping (true-story!), or as-big-as-my-hand huge those are the ones that get dealt with by the mister. I have a collection of vases to contain them. I should mention, though, if I’m camping or in nature and I see a ginormous spider, I don’t mess with it. That’s respect, you don’t go into someone else’s house all rude like that.
…When a friend is hurting?
Listening is first. Nine times out of ten if I’m stressed and venting I just need to be heard, I offer listening unconditionally. Then I ask clarifying questions, just making sure I can clearly grasp the problem. I guess it depends on the hurt. But I’m always there. 3 hour time difference be damned, if you need a Bri, call.
…On a stranger’s birthday?
I don’t talk to strangers as much as I used to, but I’d buy that lady/fellow a drink and ask an innocent, but introspective question like, “what made your favorite birthday better than tonight?” I dunno. I’m a troublemaker.
…To resolve a situation and keep steppin’?
Again, honesty. It hurts, but as long as it comes from a place of love there’s nothing truth can’t heal.
…When no one’s moving and shaking?
If the atmosphere is dank, the music is on point and I’m in a room of people too aware of other people looking at them, I gotta shake it. Most everyone I know or would want to know would cut loose after that and dance with me. Anyone else, ain’t my people. More often than not, though, I’m too busy having my own good time to notice. Being my—dance-happy, giggle-crazy—self is the best cause anyone who sees that realness in me can join in no pressure. Everyone else will go about their boring time. One time I was dancing all wild at R Place or Pony or Purr and this beautiful queen circled me on the dance floor and said, “ohmylawd, you dance so free!” Compared with my girls back in Orlando, I’m definitely only an alright dancer but damn that’s a compliment. Like, damn.
…In a warm thunderstorm? A cold, windy rain?
Warm thunderstorm, I’m pulling up a motherfucking bench. I really miss the torrential downpours of the south. And lightning! As for cold rain, that’s exactly what the indoors are for. Thousands of years of architecture to study, music to dance to, amoks to run, etc.
…If the plane was going down, or it were the end of the world?
I’m pulling up a motherfucking bench. What else can you do?
…To keep the party going after last call?
Make sleazy diner breakfast at home for my friends.
…In an alligator fight?
That’s easy! I’ve been trained for this. Have you been to Gatorland?! Lemme tell you something, it’s better than Disney! These guys are gator whisperers. I was so jealous when I found out all the elementary schools go there for field trips! I grew up in Tennessee, so we learned line dancing. Not as cool as gator wrastlin’ (which is exactly how they spell it at Gatorland). But I went to Gatorland as an adult and it blew my friggin mind. After that I felt fully prepared to take on a gator if need me. Here’s what to do, jump up and back. That part was a knee-jerk reaction for me, but seemed to work as a means to position my body over the gator. You thwack ’em right in head. It doesn’t take a lot of pressure, imagine like you’re whacking a mole. That thwack stuns a gator and then you can quickly and easily grab their upper front and back legs to flip ’em over. Then they’re really disoriented. Or you can just clamp their mouths closed. All their muscle power is in clamping the jaw, not opening it, so you can’t go wrong there. I don’t have a picture handy, but I essentially looked like this guy, but happier.
Whenever I try to type ‘Brianna’ in the keyboard, my pseudo dyslexia kicks in, and instead the word ‘Brain’ comes out. Coincidence? I think not! Life is punching me in the face and telling me to invoke the chill vibe, sexy demeanor, and free-flowing spirit Brianna embodies! When I need a reminder what the best parts of life feel like, I envision what this sexy mama would do if there weren’t enough sunshine in the room! I dare you to channel your inner Bri and her magnificent power to create the life you envision for yourself!
This is what sezy looks like, by the way. Take it all in!
Love ya, girl!