|Let's talk about the life of Creepy Gals' Elle Chen, the brilliant artist behind and owner of the feminist clothing label.
Instagram serves as its own sub-culture for whatever you’re interested in. Whether it's fashion, fitness, memes, or like me, retro kitch art and photography, IG has the content for you and no doubt, there's a pin to match.
Born in 2015, Creepy Gals has been showcasing wearable art that celebrates women, mental health and downright sassiness and I am here for all of it. From sweetly ironic pins and tees that say “anxiety” and “sickening,” to hotdog weddings, Kewpie's and Anti Valentines celebrations, not only are these pieces cute as hell — but they’re also packed with an important message.
Starting out as an Etsy shop, Creepy Gals is so much more than a store - it's a little slice of the internet where weirdos can unite and share their creativity. We wanted to get to know the artist behind it all (that also has a voice of an angel FYI) Elle Chen to figure out what goes into a normal day in her life.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?
Hi, my name is Linda, or Elle which I have used as my art name since middle school. I am a Los Angeles based illustrator and owner of Creepy Gals. I draw inspiration from the kitschy, cute, and irreverent and touch upon subject matters including femme empowerment and mental health. Aesthetically, I’m drawn to vintage valentine imagery, pinks and reds. It is just what resonates with me and it is through this palette that I create the Creepy Gals universe.
How did you get into this business?
I have always and still have the insatiable need to create in whatever capacity I can. I’m not the best at articulating myself with words most of the time, so creating visual art is my way of communicating with the world. As a child I had two dreams, to be an artist or a pop star. Growing up I was always drawing, crafting something or singing, but when it came time to go to college, I was afraid that being an artist would not be practical. I followed logic instead of my heart. I took a more pragmatic route in college and went for a marketing degree. I wish I wasn’t afraid to embrace my creative calling, but it was just a detour. I went through four grueling years in business school only to come out of it knowing that I wanted to pursue art. The corporate life was not for me.
I had a vision of a world I wanted to create and I took the leap and opened up an Etsy shop. I started off selling handprinted patches and hand pressed buttons with my designs and went off from there. With the help of platforms such as Instagram, I was able to connect with so many amazing like-minded people and my business flourished because of it. Also , almost a year ago I decided to uproot my life in New Jersey to pursue my art in Los Angeles and it was the best decision.
I’m so happy that I eventually ended up living out little Linda’s dream.
If you weren't doing this, what would you be doing?
I can’t really see myself doing anything else. But if I couldn’t do visual art, I would pursue music. Music is already a huge part of my life to begin with. I’ve been in bands in the past, and I would just love to be on tour forever.
Do you have a life motto / mantra?
There is currently a fortune cookie fortune that I taped to my wall near my desk. It says” Today is up to you to create the peacefulness you long for.” My mind is generally plagued with anxious thoughts, and It’s so easy for me to go down a rabbit hole of negative thoughts. So this little fortune’s message reminds me to be mindful of my thought patterns and catch myself when I feel like I’m spiraling. It kinda helps me center myself so I can focus on the things that matter in my life.
Also I love this John Waters quote and I want to live my life by it, “ go out in the world and fuck it up beautifully.”
Take us through a typical day. What time do you get up at?
Since I don’t work a conventional 9-5, I don’t have much structure in my day. I really just do whatever I feel like I should do at any given time. I usually wake up around 9am, spend hours in bed watching cute animal videos or having an early morning existential crisis. Afterwards I would either pack orders from my lovely customers, work on illustrations, or get caught up in the chaos that is my mind.
I also regularly go to the arcade by my house and play DANCE DANCE REVOLUTION (DDR). I rationalize that its my exercise for the day. You might think its lame, but I really don’t care. I live for it. And when I’m not home working on Creepy Gals stuff, you can find me hanging with friends, getting up to no good. ;)
How do you keep yourself organized?
I don’t. HAHA. I mean I attempt to stay organized with lists. I write a ton of lists, but then I write so many lists I get kind of lost. Somewhere in the chaos there is a semblance of order. I have made it all work for me thus far.
Do you have an idol?
Ru Paul, Dolly Parton, John Waters, and Kate Bush to name a few. These people are legendary and are everything I want to be as a creative. All these people were not afraid to live their fullest truth. They knew what they wanted in life and they did everything in their power to actualize their dreams. They all went against the grain, unconventional in their approach and came out on top and became leaders in their respective creative medium. I am so inspired by all of their stories, their art form, and the genuine love they have for their craft.
How do you keep yourself going through a humpday?
Recently I had been experiencing a creative block that left me feeling super defeated and less than. I reached out to friends and to my social media audience for advice. Everyone was so amazing and kind, and gave me encouraging words that really lifted me from the dark headspace I was in.
I’m constantly doubting myself as an artist, but I know that it is just the artist’s mentality. We are constantly at odds with ourselves and it is through that tumultuous inner battle that we grow as artists. It really comes down to just realizing it is all part of the process and knowing you will certainly get over that hump day. Also give yourself credit and cut yourself some slack. Sometimes when going through these humps its easy to lose sight of how far you have come. If you take a step back and see your journey as a whole, you will realize how how much progress you have actually made. Having this perspective allows you to be little kinder to yourself.
Biggest misconception about the job you do?
It’s not always super exciting or glamourous. It can be quite isolating sometimes because in order to create, I need a lot of solitary time. I can go days on end in my room or studio working out ideas and illustrating. It is the perfect job for an introvert.
How do you wind down?
I love singing and playing my guitar. In moments when I feel too overwhelmed by my work or mind, I have a good sit down with my guitar and sing some songs. It puts me in a meditative state. I focus on nothing but the music. I also love watching Youtube videos of my favorite drag queens. The art of drag gives me LIFE! That always helps me unwind.
What's your favourite thing about what you do?
I really love having full autonomy over my creative vision. Whatever I want to create, I do it. No higher ups, no man telling me what to do or delegating tasks to me. I’ve never liked being told what to do, so having the freedom to create uninhibited is a dream come true.
Any advice for someone who would like to follow in your footsteps?
If you have a dream and are passionate about it, then I say reach for the stars. Our time in this existence is ephemeral. Why be comfortable living a half life doing something that brings you little joy and wondering what if , when you can just take a chance on something that makes you feel alive.
Don’t be afraid of hard work. No one ever got anywhere without putting in time and effort. No-one is going to hand you success in a neat package. Its a result of your own perseverance and hustle.
Don’t be afraid to live your truth , fuck the standards that society confines you.
And last, but not least, make sure to drink plenty of water. It solves a lot of problems.
Be sure to shop the full Creepy Gals collection here.