Spray Can Confessions: Sticker Slapping

by - 3:00 PM

Back when I took my first insecure steps into the world of street art I had no idea how hard it is to actually create something that's not butt-ugly. Apart from that my first attempt ended with me almost shitting myself and realizing spray paint is a difficult medium; I'd accidentally painted my entire hand a Satanic shade of red and the paint had dripped all over my stencil. Street art was hard.
About a month later I got my hands on four Bunbun stickers when I did a street art tour in Utrecht. Spreading them was easy, a quick way of adding some color to the world. As I worked on Mission Bunbun I started to appreciate sticker art more and decided to give it a shot while I tried to find out where to get some proper spray cans that wouldn't make me look like a demon. Soon I started designing stickers. It was the start of a new era in my street art life.

To be honest, I had no idea how to design a sticker. Sure, I can draw, but I didn't know how to turn a sketch into a digital design. No, I didn't think about googling that information. I'm old-fashioned and was lucky enough to find a graphic design magazine at the local thrift shop that explained the whole process step by step. Now I just needed a design. I leafed through my old sketchbooks in hopes of finding some inspiration. That's where I saw an image of a cloud puking a rainbow. I converted that sketch into a digital design.
Even though it made my best friend and me laugh, I didn't love this sticker idea. It wouldn't surprise me if some people in the gay community would be offended to see their symbol as puke, so I put that idea on hold. You never know what kind of backlash something silly like this could get online and I didn't want to step on any toes. I didn't want to go through with a design I if I weren't behind it for 100%. Then one day, out of nowhere, I got the perfect idea in mind. A butterfly, but with my name on its wings.

Two weeks after hand painting this design on a purple piece of paper I had a stack of 150 stickers in my room. I was completely in love with them, but also a bit insecure. My stickers aren't the average street art sticker: they're shaped like a butterfly with the word Envy on them in swirly letters, clearly made by a girl. But it was my design and I was proud of my slightly psychedelic stickers. Soon they popped up all over my hometown and the center of Rotterdam. And when summer came, I took it to the next level: I took my stickers with me to Southeast Asia.

While working on Mission Bunbun I'd developed this technique of putting a sticker in the palm of my hand, slapping that hand softly against for example a lamp post in passing. Quick, efficient and not too obvious. Still I was a nervous wreck when I did this at Schiphol Airport right in front of a police van (which I hadn't noticed until my dad pointed it out the minute I vandalized a lamp post). Not the start I was hoping for on my biggest streept art mission to date, but things were much easier on the stop-over in Helsinki, Finland. The only thing that was difficult here was keeping myself to the sticker limit I'd set myself to each country. I couldn't take as many stickers with me as I wanted, that's just one of the downsides to backpacking, so I had about four stickers for Finland, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia each. On top of that I wanted to leave one behind in every city I was going to visit. That was no problem in Finland though, as I only visited Helsinki. There I broke the sea of Rock Church stickers with my Envy butterfly, left one on a bridge near the ferris wheel and put them up on a pole at the bus station and the airport. No problem whatsoever. The real challenge began in Thailand.

Bangkok was full of street art and I couldn't wait to add a little something to the colorful mix. Before I knew it I was down to one sticker, after already taking one from the stack that was meant for Chiang Mai. I had to leave one more sticker in Bangkok, I just had to: I'd found Ox-Alien stickers on a lamp post and really wanted one of mine to be next to one made by my favorite Rotterdam based artist. As I reached out, aiming for a spot next to the Ox-Alien on the lamp post, standing on my toes to reach it, I spotted a police officer in a very important-looking uniform on the other side of the road. I panicked, hoping he wouldn't notice me vandalizing his city. I lost my balance, missed my mark and my sticker ended up half on top of the Ox-Alien sticker. I didn't give myself time to feel bad about it; I quickly walked away before the police officer could come over to see why the weird white girl had fallen over for no apparent reason.

Sticker slappin' in Chiang Mai proved to be a lot easier, but again my stack had disappeared before I knew it. After my jungle trek I sat down with the alarmingly small amount of butterflies I had left. I knew I was going to go to Luang Prabang and Vientiane in Laos. Hopefully I'd move on to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap in Cambodia afterwards. With that plan in mind I put three stickers aside for each city except for Siem Reap, where we'd probably only be for a day or two to visit Angkor Wat. I was ready for the Lao part of my mission.

Laos made it easy for me to put stickers up. No one gave me weird looks, no one frowned at me, nothing. Now that's usually my goal, but in Laos it's apparently socially accepted to put stickers up everywhere in broad daylight. It made my mission so much easier. Luang Prabang got some Envy butterflies on lamp posts on the bank of the Mekong River. They looked lonely there, as there was barely any street art on the Luang Prabang peninsula. In Vientiane I decided to give my stickers some company, which is why I left one on a traffic sign next to a sticker of a yellow dancing elephant. My favorite sticker location of the entire mission is the lamp post in front of a book store in Vientiane though. That action left me with one sticker less for Phnom Penh. No regrets though. Once a bookworm, always a bookworm.

When I said 'no regrets' just now, I should have said: 'I regretted it a little.' The Cambodian lag of my mission now came down to only three stickers: two for Phnom Penh, one for Siem Reap. Again I left a sticker on the banks of the Mekong river, now in Cambodia's capital. I put it on the flag pole with the Dutch flag on the boulevard. Then the entire mission was over before I knew it. I was proud of myself: I'd made my own street art stickers and had left them in eight cities in five countries over the course of two months. But that wasn't enough.

Half a year has passed since my biggest street art mission yet ended in Cambodia. Since then I've put a few more up in Rotterdam, but I need more. Not just more cities and countries to leave my stickers in, but also more colors. I'm thinking blue and red butterflies. And I definitely need more stickers to continue my mission - because if there is one thing I learned from my sticker rationing this summer, it's that you can never have enough street art stickers with you.

x Envy

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8 Fellow Ramblers

  1. I ADORE street art (post about it every week on my blog) and I've always wanted to hear from the people who do it! So happy to get this inside scoop! I would be so nervous too - bravo for conquering nerve! Im looking forward to seeing how your street art evolves :)

    1. Your blog is one of my go-to places for street art posts! Actually adding to the colorful chaos is so... weird at first. You really have to overcome some selfawareness that makes you extremely nervous when you're about to stick a sticker somewhere. I hope to make the step to spray paint this summer.

  2. Love this!
    I've just recently been to Berlin and saw some INCREDIBLE street art there! Particularly along what remains of the Berlin Wall

    Chloe ❤ http://www.anomalouschloe.com

    1. Berlin is definitely one of the best places for street art. I can't wait to go there again and put my stickers up on some nice walls.

  3. I love looking at street art! Wow, the butterfly with your name on it is so pretty and creative! Fantastic post! 💖 xx

    Bexa | www.hellobexa.com

    1. Thank you so much! I put so much effort into finding the right design. I'm glad I came up with this because my first few attempts were really bad... At some point I thought I'd never make a good sticker!

  4. I love this post. Street Art has always fascinated me and the sticker you made is awesome.

    1. Thank you, I'm so glad you like my design! Street art is my favorite art form, because there are no rules and limits to it.


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