Jody Levy - Conversations with Artists
What is the art in what you do?
"I believe that in everything that I do, whether it’s a painting or an installation, an experience in a space or creating a brand and a business -- it’s all an expression of energy. It’s all an articulation of energetic frequencies and creating opportunities for people to connect with themselves, connect with others, connect with things beyond ourselves. Whether it’s cosmic truths, information or stories - in all of the expressions that I work on, the intent is to invite people to feel good and to feel inspired and thrive."
Do you feel that it’s the same part of you that has the business head?
"Being an artist is no different than being an entrepreneur; it’s a constant state of identifying stories, ideas and problems to express ourselves. The creative process that goes into making a painting, making an installation, creating an immersive environment, or creating or being in a state of continuing creation with a company or brand, is really all the same. That creative process uses similar parts of the brain and the body. There is one big difference; one is very much alone and the other is very much with other people."
There’s a broad understanding that artists make terrible business people. Do you agree with that?
"I think artists and designers make the best business people, but it really depends on the type of artists and the type of designer. I believe women are amazing in business and I believe men are amazing in business. I don’t believe there’s a delineation between the two. For me, we’re all different types of humans. There are some humans that excel in being the conduit where they’re pulling all the pieces together to figure out the whole and there are others that are better as a piece of the puzzle. I think there are some artists and designers and creative thinkers that are very strategic and therefore make amazing business people and I think there are some other people in the world that aren’t inclined to be in certain roles in business."
What are you passionate about?
"I’m passionate about anything that I get involved in. The things that I tend to get involved in are typically opportunities that have never been done before - to bring love and magic to the forefront and to help spread joy and inspiration through business, through art, through designed environments and experiences to as many people as possible. In all of my different roles, I function as a nucleus and I couldn’t do any of it without the people who are with me and around me. I’m just the conduit that can bring it together."
You bring energy to everything. Where does it come from?
"It’s always been there. I know when I’m on the right path because I wake up every morning with ideas dripping from my fingertips waiting to be expressed in a sketch or a thought or a note."
Do you sketch your ideas out?
Yes, I sketch everything out. Sometimes that’s me with giant pieces of paper and ink and pens and pencils, sometimes its my notes and pulled images and drawings all coming together to express a concept. I have lots of dreams and concepts for experiences and companies. They all come from a place of art and they’re all ways to inspire and empower people to be the best version of themselves. One by one these dreams are coming to fruition as the people that are meant to help bring them out into the world with me reveal themselves. I believe in the perfection of timing - as long as I stay in the flow, everybody comes to it. Many of my dreams I’ve been working on and thinking about and perfecting and tweaking for years and I work on them each day, bit by bit. Then somebody shows up and they’re aligned and the timing is right and I go get the money and put the team together and then the dream becomes reality in the world.
I also source energy from the earth. I use my daily rituals and meditation techniques to connect to the earth and to connect to the fields of vibration that exist around us to stay balanced and to create an infinite loop so that I can keep charging up and giving to others and giving to myself."
Some might call that magic. Would you?
"Yes, I think that there’s some magic there. I call it Juju. Energy. It’s all the same."
If you could name one, what’s been your most amazing moment as an artist.
"There have been so many. When I was 8 years old I was asked to copy a painting by Georgia O’Keefe. It was this ugly purple flower. I was working with gouache - egg paint, and I remember sitting in a room with fluorescent lights, copying that painting. It was the first time I lost time and space, the first time I reached flow state. It was at that moment that my spirit was bigger than my physical body and I knew I was on the path to be an artist. What I didn’t know is that it was going to lead me on a wild adventure of being a creative thinker, designer and problem solver that comes from the creative path. It was that moment that set my entire trajectory for life."
How did the copy come out?
"Just as ugly as the original - but I love Georgia O’Keefe — she’s such an inspiration to my life. I was recently in Santa Fe and I went to the museum and there was one of the purple flower paintings. It’s something about those colors that I just don’t connect with - but my heart just exploded when I saw it."
If you could go back and say something to the 8 year old you, what advice would you give to yourself?
"Love yourself. I've followed every dream, I've followed every lead. I've nurtured everything that has come to me, but I wish I knew to love myself all the way through."
Do you love yourself now?
How did that happen?
"A combination of things. One - was just pursuing and following everything that came to me, and seeing how much joy I bring others. I've also had to deal with health issues my whole life and really learn about healing and how to take care of myself and how important it is to understand the connection to thoughts and what exists in the world.
Thought equals reality."
Life is composed of magic. A lot of people miss that.
"I know, but we don’t. I like to find ways to touch people and shift perspective and inspire so they feel it, even if they don’t know how to define it."
You have the capability of laughter. You can laugh at yourself. That’s important in this existence.
"With everything that I put on myself, which arguably is a lot, if I didn’t laugh through all of it, it would not be as much fun. I know the minute I’m doing something I shouldn’t be doing because I’m not having fun. And if anybody around me is not having fun, then its time for them to not be doing what they’re doing."
Do you ever feel as if you’ve bitten off too much? How am I going to do this? Do you ever have that moment?
"Unfortunately, not. That moment would probably help me sometimes - it would definitely help my social life I know one thing about myself: I thrive when I’m free. And so if I know that I thrive when I’m free, I set everything up so that I can have the most freedom possible. When I start a new company or start a new project that will ultimately lead to a new company - I put the right people in the right position so that I can stay free. Early-stage startups is my sweet spot - it’s what I love, it’s where the art is, but it’s overwhelming. For me, it's all about staying cool. Everyone else can get overwhelmed, but I know it is important for me to keep it fun and light and to stay really strategic with a view of the macro. Sure I get stressed; real stuff happens. No project or company ever has enough money. There are a lot of lives at stake with anything when it comes to business and the humans you employ. That stuff affects me. But because I believe in magic and the flow and synchronicity of the universe, I tend to believe that everything’s going to provide - and that eases things.
Sometimes when it’s dark it’s hard to see that the universe is going to provide, but I still hold onto that concept and believe."
Jody Levy is CoFounder & CEO of World Waters, a company committed to redefining how and what we drink to nourish our bodies and sustain our ecosystem. World Waters aims to develop promising new and efficient models of food production that eliminate waste and take the stress off our environment. As an environmentally sustainable and socially-conscious beverage company, World Waters aims to grow water while using healthy practices that benefit consumers and the earth.
The mission of World Waters and WTRMLN WTR is to educate people about why clean healthy eating is so important for the health and sustainability of our communities. www.wtrmlnwtr.com
Jody Levy is also the founder of Stitch Experience Design + Assembly. Stitch is an experience design firm with a focus on multi-disciplinary storytelling. Since 2001, Jody has been creating unique events, interactive environments, brands, products, and multi-sensory installations that connect people in engaging ways. Her professional focus is all about the integration of art and technology. Jody is the creative director and executive producer at Stitch and her work includes the design and production of live theatrical events, touring stages, hospitality environments, interactive installations, immersive brand activations, and non-traditional marketing and social campaigns. Jody has experience working with clients that include American Idol, Chrysler, The Coachella Music Festival, Ford Motor Company, Heineken, Hewlett Packard, Lexus, MAC Cosmetics, Mos Def, Museum Of Modern Art, The Museum of Science and Industry Chicago, Palm, Paramount Pictures, Project Runway, San Francisco Museum Of Modern Art, Scion, Shades Optical, Toyota, W Hotels and many other international brands.
Jody is an entrepreneur, artist, designer, director, producer, educator and writer from the Detroit area who lives in New York City.