Makers 1-on-1 is our original interview series featuring today's makers and DIYers. We're sitting down with new makers every week to learn more about their projects, how they acquire information, their purchase processes, and their passions.
This week, we’re interviewing Jordan Serpentini — a painter and skateboarder who combines two of her many passions under her brand Ragical Life. Jordan paints beautiful imagery on skateboard grip tape and helmets, as well as full-sized murals and any other surface she can put her mind to. In her toolkit, she uses paints and paint markers, clear coat, canvases, and blanket helmets and grip tape. If your brand sells to artists and painters, this 1-on-1 interview with Jordan will give you some important insights that can help you connect with makers like her.
What's your name and what do you do?
My name is Jordan Serpentini and I do everything from my heart, from art to music, to skating to creating. There we go, I create, that’s what I do!
What kinds of art do you specialize in?
It’s transformed a lot. I started in grip tapes, the sandpaper top of the skateboard that give your feet traction. I started doing grip tapes first, someone would have an idea and I would paint it for them on the board, and every time they would look down before they would do a trick they’d get super stoked or super excited. But after skateboarding for awhile, I wound up having quite a bad head injury where I absolutely got knocked out, I wasn’t wearing my helmet. I had a seizure, 12 staples, it was a really hard time. Then, with the following that I have from skateboarding, I was like I have to change something about safety not being cool anymore, so I transitioned into doing helmets. Everything from there just kind of spiraled into everything else, from recycled wood, to murals to whatever.
How long have you been painting?
I started when I was very little, probably five was my first memory of doing one and I think it was a nutcracker for a Christmas tree ornament, I just drew from there. It’s been an ongoing thing every day, it’s an outlet that’s calm and feels incredible to do.
How do you improve your skills? What helped you learn?
Something that helped me learn more about doing the art that I do is just experience, trial and error, or different life experiences that were thrown my way that just prepared me for the next thing that I needed to know at that time. So for me, I was living in Hawaii and somebody was like, “Hey, I have this skate bus and I take all these kids to go to the skatepark each week. Can you paint it?” So all of a sudden it was like, here’s a bus, here’s your next medium. That was a challenge that I knew nothing about. It’s just literally happened like that, through the opportunities people have given me and me just being like, “I’ll figure it out.”
What materials do you use?
I need grip tapes for skateboards, helmets and clear coat for the helmets. For the murals, I need a calm mindset and lots of paint, and the ability to blast music. And for canvases, I need inspiration that comes when it’s needed.
What do you look for in your paint?
Through figuring out what my favorite types of paint were, [I realized] they were assignment based when I was in school. But after that, I always knew I loved working with watercolor because water is such a big part of my life and the fluidity of it is really a good example of how I like to be. So I always loved the impact that watercolors could make with other mediums, like markers on top or crosshatching on top, those are two different things, one’s very rigid and one’s very fluid so together they make such a unique, diverse blend. So I figured I really enjoyed that aspect.
And then for the grip tapes, there’s not much that sticks on grip tape because it is sandpaper, you’re painting on something that inevitably will destroy your markers. I found a marker that works really well, it’s Posca Paint Pens, they go on really well and saturate the pores of the grip tape. When you’re skating, it doesn’t get very dirty, it’s something that can outlast the test of time. So I found those out of other paint markers. So I guess trial and error, just figuring it out, researching.
How do you research products?
Word-of-mouth, through artist friends and then the Internet, and then I would double check the Internet through word-of-mouth: “Have you heard about this? How do you like them? Would you use these? Would you recommend these for me?”
For instance, April, of Totally Tangled Creations, I was asking what she used to do all of her mandala work because her lines look super good. She used an ID pen and I got the ID pen and it does work very well, not for grip tapes but for other art.
What steps do you go through to create a grip tape design, from ideation to completion?
When I’m doing a grip tape for somebody, say they come to me with this idea, it’s something that brings them joy, I always know that, that’s the commonality. They’re always coming to me with something that hypes them up, because in order for them to want it on the grip tape, they know it’s going to make them happy each time they look down at it.
So they give me the idea, or, my favorite thing, they’re just like “You do you and I’m excited to see what comes out.” I put out a prayer, or whatever you want to call it, that whatever comes through me on the grip tape is going to be exactly what they [the customer] love. So it always comes out perfectly each time and they’re super hyped about it and super excited about it. But I would just think of how I could bring it to life. Say they wanted mountains and water, that’s something that I’m very good at doing because it’s very repetitious, but if they’re asking for something harder, like a kaleidoscope grip tape, well there are infinite dimensions in a kaleidoscope. I would just go from the beginning, what’s the first layer I need? And then I build it up from there until I have something “ragical.”
Do you sketch out first?
It depends. Some, I get the outline on the board first and others I just go right into it. That’s always been a strange thing for me because sometimes various art teachers will be questioning my work for the way I do it. I sometimes don’t build up the layers like people do. Each one is so different.
Which social media platforms do you use?
I use anything from Instagram to Facebook (the common ones), to then the uncommon ones like my website is on Wix at www.ragicallife.com, Ebay, Saatchi Art, different channels of distribution to get my art and love out there.
I like to do some grip tape giveaways to get people stoked, or some competition like that. Or just really I share what I’m doing. It seems like one really big thing happens to me after another. One week I’m teaching this art class, the next week I’m doing a mural somewhere, I always have something fun and exciting to do to share with them [her followers]. I don’t really put much thought into it, I just share what’s going on. It’s just spiraling into these cool things.
Who do you follow on social media?
I definitely follow a mix of people who will inspire me, because that’s my biggest thing, I don’t want to follow somebody that’s going to put me in a mindset I don’t want to be in, I really control what I intake in regards to that. Anything inspirational, anything artistic, creative, absolutely. And some brands that I like.
What kinds of posts would you "like" on social media?
I like to see the creation videos. The ones where they’re actually happening right there in front of you whether it’s the creation of a skateboard trick, someone going and doing a really rad grind, or somebody doing a stop motion of something that they made, or just a start to finish of a sped up project, where you didn’t see [the end result] coming. That excitement makes me want to go to my studio and do that for myself.
What's your favorite part of the creative process?
My favorite part of the creative process is the journey it takes to get it to what it is. Because the ending is always so fun, that’s probably my very favorite is putting the final details on it once you’ve got it to what you want it to be. That’s my favorite, getting into the really really intricate stuff at the very end of the mural. That detail, that extreme detail gives it that realistic quality. That’s my favorite.
How do you balance your time between different projects you have going on?
I’m a Libra, that’s [been] like my main challenge in this entire life and I know that because I offer so many things. When I first moved back to Ohio, I was just playing music for people and I was doing art for people, and I was skateboarding for competitions. Now I do the backside of all of that, playing music and offering music lessons, and then I’m skateboarding and doing the competitions but offering skate lessons, and I’m still doing the art for everybody but now I teach like three art classes a week. So now I utilize a calendar a lot more than I ever have. Money always seemed to flow through projects, I just kind of let go of the worry.
So I’m mostly at the studios when the studios are open, it’s open Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Summit Art Space, but I’m here creating at night because I get a lot of creativity at night. But to find all that time, it can be seasonal too. A lot of skate lessons that I do are going to be way easier in the summer than in -5 degrees. Music is kind of the same, you have to have the want to go out and to perform.
What is the most rewarding part about what you do?
Being able to be an example for everybody, an example of coming from your heart, an example of not letting fear create your reality, an example of so many different things. I think inspiring people, when they come in here, they’re like, “What?” They get that look and that feeling, and they always seem to leave with a higher excitement to go do that or, “I haven’t drawn in four months, I have to go try that,” or “Oh my goodness, I’m definitely going to start this.” They always leave with such enthusiasm. So for me, the most rewarding thing is probably igniting people’s souls in that sense and to get them all fired up about what they can do and create.
What's the support like in the local art community?
I grew up here, I was born and raised in Ohio. I spent every hour of my existence here essentially snowboarding and/or skateboarding or wake boarding. Any sideways thing I was doing it, or trying to leave. Most of my time here was spent trying to leave and travel. But now that I’m back here, I actually never got a chance to appreciate all Ohio has and to see that I live so close to Cuyahoga National Park, it’s just so beautiful and so close to such a thriving scene. Akron is just teeming with so much creativity and so much good music. Now I can actually appreciate that now that I’m older, when I was younger, I wasn’t really coming here. Now that I have a studio here and I’m able to see what’s going on. Akron is just uppin’ it from here, and I’m just blessed to be a part of it really.
What motivates you?
My heart, indefinitely. You can’t just get this inspiration, this really cool thought and this perfect image of this thing that only you can bring to life, and not do anything about it. So I can’t just have this come over me and come into my mind and not do anything. That keeps me going every time, to know that anything that I do is spreading a lot of love and joy when people see it, I’m not there anymore, once I leave the skatepark and give them the grip, but that grip tape is still making them stoked every time they ride so that smile is like a little drop of happiness that I leave. And same with the murals ya know, I’m just kind of leaving little imprints of different things to inspire and to help people create.
Where do you go for advice when you run into a problem or challenge?
That would pertain to what the project is, where I go to find a solution for a project that doesn’t go your way. I would go to the person who it would make sense to go to the most. Maybe it’s my dad, because he’s super good at building things. Or other artists. I always seem to find it. Or, if I don’t have an answer, I’ll go meditate on it and I’ll get one. I’ll use that inner guidance first before I ask other people, to be honest. I’ll go and sit down and try to figure out what my heart says first, sometimes my heart gives me a person to go to. So I just try to go by that instead of going by my mind.
What's coming up next for you?
There’s so many exciting things coming up to look forward to. I have this whole episode through this Skater Life series that’s coming, and I got picked to be one of the skaters to represent Ohio and Cleveland, so they’re coming to interview me.
Also, I just finished recording Acoustic Spirit, which is my first album, it’s Sound, Light and Love. I finished it here with Ace Epps , who’s a really incredible community leader, just finished it three days ago. So he’s in the works of editing it right now. And I have so many shows to come and things to come, and that’s what I’m most looking forward to.
Skateboarding-wise, I have this video, it’s called What a Ragical Life, [explaining] what a ragical life is, a project I’ve been working on for two years. I’ve been going around the world, skating, and have gotten so much footage and finally put it together. I’m going to have a premier at Sun Valley Sports, which was my first sponsor here in Ohio. They were the ones that actually made me pro and gave me a pro model and all that stuff. So I’m super excited for that coming in the summer. There are just so many things to be stoked on.
Western Fruit Basket, right up the street, I’ll be painting a mural for them. It’s a really crazy Greek scene, because it’s a Greek restaurant. So it’s going to revamp that whole restaurant. Then there’s so many things I can’t even say yet because they haven’t happened yet. I’m just excited.
Anything else you'd like to add?
I’m most stoked about the helmets. There’s one more aspect to all the art that I haven’t really talked about. I actually got certified as a Reiki master and I use the divine energies to heal people. Every single thing you see in here is artwork that comes from my heart but also I have put that Reiki energy healing in too. So when you’re wearing a helmet, you get divine blessings and healings when you’re riding or when you look at the pictures, you get feelings of warmth and you get those same feelings of healing. I’m excited to say and share that I take that step above to better our community by just putting that little extra love there.