• Artist Editions: Working Girls

    Designed exclusively for Urban Outfitters, Artist Editions  is an ongoing series of limited, original designs from some of our favorite new artists. 

    Founded in 2015, Working Girls began as an art experiment and has evolved into a brand specializing in tongue-in-cheek accessories and clothing items. Working Girls finds their inspiration from ‘80s and ‘90s music, movies and pop-culture, with a focus on females from those eras. 

    Photos by Brooke Shanesy
    Can you introduce yourself — tell us more about who you are, where you’re from, and what you do..
    Hi!  My name is Shailah Maynard. I’m and artist, designer, and founder of concept brand, Working Girls, which specializes in tongue-in-cheek accessories and clothing items inspired by 80s/90s pop culture and music.  My history comes from the fashion industry, and over the past 13 years I’ve lived all over in New York City, Boston, and London.  I moved back to my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio three years ago, and shortly there-after, Working Girls was born.

    How did Working Girls come to life?
    Working Girls isn’t just one type of craft or product. The brand as a whole is a concept. It started 2.5 years ago as an art experiment.  I had an idea for a line of pool floats in the shape of body parts, and I had to make the idea come to life.  Once I got going, I found I had to buy a ton of them to hit the minimums so I built the brand around it.  In addition to our products we sell, I’ve made a number of site-specific installations locally, and overseas.
    Tell us more about your Studio! Can you walk us through a typical day in the life?
    My studio is a 1,000 sq ft space in an old warehouse with no heat or air conditioning.  If you happen to place an order from me in the dead of winter, just imagine me wearing three layers of old lady sweaters to keep warm while putting together.  But I make it work.  The space is very much needed.  A typical day in the studio would be me running up the many flights of stairs in my building, opening my doors out of breath, turning on an old boob tube tv/vhs player named WGTV, and then sitting down at my desk and assessing orders/inquiries for the day. From there, it just depends on what I’m working on at the moment.  It could be meeting a friend in the studio for a photoshoot, organizing, or concepting an installation.  (I’ve got a good one coming up soon, so stay tuned!) 

    What's been inspiring you lately? 
    Working Girls is mainly inspired by music/movies from the 80s and 90s with female leads i.e. Working Girl, Sister Act, Basic Instinct.  The entire reason I started the brand is because of the pool scene in Earth Girls Are Easy when Geena Davis jumps into the pool onto a float shaped like a hand. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend.  It is such a good movie filled with TONS of inspiration.  Most recently, I’ve been inspired concept furniture (think of a hand chair, for example) so I’m working on some pieces as a part of a new installation project.  Really excited about this one!

    How did your style evolve to what it is today?
    The things that inspire me have always remained the same, but my style has definitely evolved over the years. I’ve done anything from printmaking to quilting to weaving…  There will always be an undertone of satire, and female-forward thinking, because that is who I am.  My focus now is mainly design and installation, but I love teaching myself new skills, so who knows what the next thing will be. 

    What's the most important thing to you when creating a piece of work? What do you hope for people to take away from it?
    If it makes me laugh. I’m not that serious of a person, and neither is Working Girls. I hope that people who follow along and buy our products find some entertainment with our merch. I don’t take myself too seriously and am proud that that is translated through Working Girls.
    Who are some other artists (in any medium) who you look up to?
    Of all time?  100% Mark Mothersbaugh. Devo is by far my favorite band. Everything he does is extremely inspirational to me. From early Devo songs/shows/videos, to his exhibition work now. I had the pleasure of meeting him at a book signing a number of years ago, and I was so in awe with how funny and unpretentious he was. He doesn’t take himself too seriously, which translates through his work. 
    Recently?  I had the chance to work with Peggy Noland last summer on an installation called CAR WASH which was a part of a fundraiser for a local gallery, Wave Pool. CAR WASH was a play on a traditional old man car show, but all car beds made by a number of various Cincinnati-based artists, and Peggy came out to do one herself.  It was so fun!  Similar to Mark, she is so creative, so funny, and unpretentious.  I was honored to have been able to work with her last year.

    Most importantly… I’m super inspired by two of my cousins who also run their own creative businesses. We worked together on this UO series as a matter of fact. Aleah Stewart-Souris who owns Clay Pond Studios in Hudson, NY is an extremely talented ceramicist. We created the tiki mugs together, and made an exclusive color glaze specifically for the UO collab. Thane Lorbach is a woodworker in Cincinnati, OH and he can make damn near anything. He helped me cut/engrave the thousands of drink stirrers for this collection. I couldn’t have pulled it off without them, and I am so happy we got to work together on this project.

    What are some current projects you’re working on?
    I’m working on another large-scale installation that involves furniture pieces, which I hope to launch in the Fall.  Not telling the specifics, so you’ll have to follow along!  It’s gonna be goooooood. I’m also in the concept-stage of writing a series of commercials that I plan to work on with friends. Who knows when this will happen, but I am super pumped at the idea of creating 90s corny commercials for Working Girls. 
    Any advice for others who are looking to begin their own creative endeavor but are unsure how to start? What have been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned?
    If you have an idea, and you’re looking for a way to make it come to life, make it happen!  You’ll figure it out along the way. No two people’s processes are the same. For me, I found the most valuable thing I’ve learned is that mistakes are going to be made, but it’s not a mistake if you learn from it. 10 years ago, I was so bogged down at my job, I never would have imagined that I would have started my own creative business later on. But here we are! My idea came to life because I believed in it, and now a couple years later I’m working with Urban Outfitters on an artist collaboration. That’s pretty sweet.
    Lastly, what’s a dream project/ collaboration for you?
    I would love to keep working on large-scale installations going forward. If I had all the money in the world right now, I would create a funhouse-style installation. Big blow up bouncy houses, halls of mirrors, rides, you name it! Know anyone who’d want to invest?  

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