Born-and-bred New Yorker Claw is something of a graffiti legend. Renowned for her signature three-nailed claw, which she threw up across the most dangerous parts of the city throughout the nineties (along with her partner in crime Miss17), she’s moved away from graffiti a bit with her new couture label Claw Money and was fashion director of the Shepherd Fairey-founded Swindle magazine.
Is it just embittered old school writers who say graffiti has changed and it’s not as good as it used to be? The way each generation of everything says that. Or has the scene kinda reached saturation point so the talent is hidden by the masses?
Graffiti is notorious for ‘eating its young’, as they say. The older writers throw some serious hate around, especially to the new generation. We need to embrace the toys of today – as they will be the kings of tomorrow! The kids need guidance, I know I did… My mentors were dropping pearls of knowledge and I was scooping it all up. Each one Teach one!
Are today’s artists as dedicated as you were?
Unfortunately I am not as up as I should be on who is doing what, where and so on. The only way to really make a name for yourself is to do the work, though the internet can give you instant stardom – which I see is becoming the motivation for a lot of the movement today. But of course there are the stand outs – such as my girls Miss 17 and Utah killing it with their usual alpha wolf style.
You and Miss17 would go and paint in what you called Jock Spots, are there any really memorable places where you were kinda crapping yourself and thinking ‘this is waaay dangerous…?’
Every night! We would be bugging – but the desire to paint was stronger than the fear factor, or we would never have gotten up! I drive by some of these spots and often think how things could have gone badly. We are some tough chicks, so we are ready (at least in our minds) for anything.
What do you think of graffiti being used to sell everything from cars to vodka?
Graffiti, and ex-graffiti, artists have infiltrated the creative workforce, so it is only natural that the aesthetic would become prevalent in advertising, fashion and fine art, just to name a few. It is a quick way to visually define a product as ‘urban’ or ‘hip-hop’, even though that is completely limiting to us, as the community. Graffiti is so much more global than ‘urban’ and ‘hip-hop’ – it is the bridge that brings cultures together.
Do you see Claw Money as a kind of extension of graffiti – you’re reaching so many pairs of eyes with people wearing your work? They’re throw ups on people…or do you think fashion was always where you were ultimately going to end up?
T-shirts are the new billboard! And people pay money for them! Double whammy….. You cannot subsist illegally if you want to really grow as a person and/or an artist, so I had to evolve into something legit. If I could I would be in the tunnels right now painting a masterpiece almost no one would ever see! But alas, I have bills.
You do a bunch of things – running Claw Money, Swindle, collaborations with people and brands… Is this huge output of work a kind of methadone to sedate a writing addiction formed 20 or so years ago?
I have always been the kind of person who has 10 million things going on – when it wasn’t work related; it was painting, partying, shopping, babysitting and hustling.
Where do you want to go with Claw Money?
I really like to do different things. Today I might be making clothes and two years from now I might start making furniture – or designing housewares. I consider my life a journey of artistic endeavours and am luckily to have a fan base that wants my products, whatever they might be… so stay tuned – lots of unusual and unexpected surprises in the not so distant future.
New York now. New York early 90’s. Which is better? Honestly. Why?
The 1990’s hands down! That was a time when real New Yorkers lived in NYC, there was grime and grit, hip hop was an underground NYC secret and living here was affordable… Ahhhh the good ole daze!