Marissa Barclay's unique combination of a love of creating art for other people and her late father's business knowledge has skydivers worldwide flocking to her to transform their bland helmets into flying works of art.
Marissa has only been skydiving since 2013, but like most of us, she fell in love with the sport, culture and people immediately. She painted up her first skydiving helmet with her favorite animal, a crow. In this social media world, her posts of this helmet created a buzz in the skydiving community, and she soon found out there was a full-time market for customizing skydiving gear.
Compass & Crow Studios was born.
"The Compass represents the nautical compass because my family did a lot of boating on the Mississippi river when I was younger," says Marissa. "It also represents knowing where I’m headed and where I’ve been in my life ... which direction I need to go in order to be the best person I can be. The Crow is one of my favorite animals. I have some Lakota Sioux blood in me, from my father’s side of the family and he told me a story growing up about 'how the Crow became black.' Basically the crow sacrificed everything it had so that it could keep its friends alive. It’s the story of ultimate self-sacrifice to better the community around you. So I apply this mentality to my personal and business life today: 'What gifts do I have that I can give so that others around me can have a better life?' The answer to that is, I’ve got the ability to make people smile by creating something special just for them. In turn, that enriches their life and gives them happiness. This is why I put my entire heart into my business."
In just 6-10 weeks, Marissa can transform any helmet into any design you can dream up, which is one of her favorite parts of the process.
"I get more inspired by experiences and story-telling than I do actual artists ... what inspires me is when my clients tell me a little bit about their personal stories," she says. "That way I get to know more about them and I can personalize their artwork even more."
"I grew up in a very unique environment," she continued. "My mother was a graphic designer and my father owned an advertising agency, so I got both the creative and business mindsets. Growing up, I never created art for myself. I drew, painted and crafted things for my family, friends and other influential people in my life. I see this mentality in my art making process today. I rarely make art for myself because I get more joy when I can give the artwork to someone else. I have been lucky enough to spend quite a bit of time in Arizona this past winter and the colors in the desert (the sunrises, sunsets, desert flowers, etc) inspire a lot of the colors I use in my artwork."
Marissa dedicates everything she does in business to the memory of her father who passed away in 2011 from cancer.
"Any business knowledge I’ve gotten from him, I have applied to my business," she said.
Marissa graduated from Northern Illinois University with a Bachelors of Science in Education with an emphasis in Visual Arts. She followed that by teaching in the Rockford Public School District for 4 years, creating as much art as possible in the form of writing lesson plans and making small sample artworks for students to reference. But skydiving changed her focus...
"When I found skydiving, I loved it so much that I quit teaching and decided to work in the skydiving industry," she says. "I took a job in manifest at Chicagoland Skydiving Center in 2014."
Chicagoland Skydiving Center remains Marissa's home dropzone even though now she travels a ton for her new business, including 8 boogies so far.
"I have upgraded my vendor tent to allow me to sell a few products such as clothing, tinted visors, helmet and a few other things, but mainly I attend boogies for the exposure and to meet potential clients," she says. "When people have the opportunity to meet me, they can get an idea of who I am as an artist and what kind of service they can expect from me. When I set up a vendor tent at a dropzone event, people can see exactly what is possible in regards to customizing their helmet. I can post pictures on the internet, but it doesn’t compare to seeing the artwork and meeting the artist in person."
And it's still all about the skydives...
"This season, I am continuing working on basic freefly skills and advancing my canopy skills," Marissa says. "I have just around 150 jumps, so right now it’s hard to say which direction I want to go in the sport. But the two things I’ve had a desire to do are learn to freefly and to eventually learn to swoop. Both of those goals are a long way away, but I enjoy the learning process and I don’t mind taking my time on that journey to learn both disciplines properly."
The typical price range for custom artwork by Compass & Crow Studios is $475 to $900. All work is completed personally by Marissa except for the clear coating. And every helmet is "sealed with several coats of urethane, the same coating that is applied to vehicles," she says. "This coating protects the artwork from UV and other damage. The clear coat acts as a 'workhorse,' taking the brunt of the wear and tear."
Customers can send back their helmet once a year to have it re-cleared too at no charge (except for the cost of shipping there and back).
"I take a lot of pride in my artwork and how it looks," Marissa says. "My clients have invested a lot of money into their helmet and they deserve the option to keep it looking new throughout its lifetime."
Check out some of these favorites from Compass & Crow Studios.
There have been a few pieces that have taken her a substantial amount of time, but the one that took her the longest was a Phoenix recently painted on a Tonfly 3X camera helmet. Total time she invested in this helmet was 70 hours from conception to completion. The client and Marissa worked together to design this helmet (colors, components, options, etc) on the Tonfly website, developed the concept for the artwork, and then Marissa put her talent to work.
"Helmets that take me a longer time to complete are some of my favorites because I get to develop a real relationship with the artwork and I take a lot of pride in the finished product," says Marissa.
Marissa has also painted a few Harley Davidson motorcycle helmets, and would love to do more. She has a goal to participate as a vendor in a few Bike Weeks around the country starting in 2017. She is also experimenting with painting other things such as motorcycle fenders, gas tanks and car hoods/doors.
"There’s really no limit on what can be customized!" she exclaims.
She also does custom work on visors using either a Dye-Tinting or Perforated Vinyl process. Dye-tinted visors are available in one, two-tone or three colors for a prices of $70-$150 (including the visor). Perforated visors are a flat $150 fee plus the cost of the visor.
In addition to all of this skydiving helmet and visor work, Marissa is developing a body of work that focuses on story-telling and shamanic symbolism. The current theme will consist of pieces representing a different animal in a galactic setting with it's own story and symbolic meaning.
So what's next for this budding entrepreneur?
"One short term goal is to launch a clothing line, which I’m working on right now with a wonderful local printer," says Marissa. "I’ll have shirts, hats and a few other really cool pieces for people to purchase! A second short term goal I’ve been working on since February is to offer a mirrored visor option for my clients. I’m in the prototype phase and I will hopefully have these available mid summer/early fall 2016."
"My main long term goal is to rent/buy my own studio space," she continued. "I love being able to take my work almost anywhere, but it would be great to have a small brick and mortar building to call my own. Another long term goal is to hire a few assistants or possibly other artist to work under the Compass & Crow Studios name. I’d love to eventually have a team of other really talented artists to work with!"
The majority of business for Compass & Crow Studios is via referrals and social media. To have your own helmet painted by Marissa, you can contact her through any of the avenues below.
To purchase helmets or visors for Marissa to customize, visit ChutingStar's helmet section online below: