Abstract Painter CJ Carpenter on Art, Her Favourite Jewellery & The Trip

Meet CJ Carpenter, a Manchester-based polymath who we absolutely adore. CJ is an abstract artist who also founded The Trip, where she sells vintage and her own retro Americana graphic tees.

CJ’s personal style is as free-spirited as her paintings. On any given day, her jewellery choice flows between tough, rock’n’roll edginess to boho beads with Yin Yang symbols. Her inhibition, creativity and fearlessness is what makes her a STAXX muse.

We took a trip up to Manchester to check out her incredible apartment and chat with CJ about her journey into art, her love of jewellery and what she thinks about the STAXX collection.

How did your creative life start? Does it run in the family?

I don’t have anyone that creative in the family! My grandad was an architect but other than that, it was a bit random. I wasn’t very good at school, I basically failed everything, so I didn’t have any other options! I got my grades and then when it came to college, my mum was like, why not just go and do something creative? So that was that, really!

CJ Carpenter abstract artist

That’s amazing! So how did you land on painting as your chosen art form?

I actually studied photography, but everyone around me was painting and I thought, I’m going to give it a go! I hadn’t done it before college, but I was so inspired by the people around me that I thought, if they can do it, I want to give it a shot. You have got to try everything in life, because you never know! 


What are you working on at the moment?

I did [commissions for] clients for a little while over lockdown, I painted nudes for people and that did quite well, but I felt a bit limited and under pressure when I was doing more commission-based stuff. I’d never be quite happy with it because I wasn’t free to do whatever I wanted. Now, I’ll do a painting and if someone wants it, they’ll buy it, rather than doing something so strict. I’m not that kind of person, I prefer being free and open. 


Is the artistic goal to show your work in a gallery or host an exhibition?

I’d love that, but it’s one of those things that I’m not 100% confident in it yet, I just need a bit of a boost and then maybe I’d do it. For now, I’m producing art and really enjoying it for what it is: being creative. I’ve got so many other things going on business-wise, I have another business (The Trip) and I work full time, so this is a bit of fun for me. If someone wants to buy a piece, that’s an added bonus! 


Speaking of your other projects, did you always set out to have lots of different projects on the go? 

I love doing lots of different things, I get bored easily! I’ll probably always be painting but I love doing so many different things and trying new things — I can't stop. I’ve got a bit of a chaotic brain, I’m a bit all over the place! You won’t ever catch up sitting behind a desk, trust me. 


What sort of artists inspire your work stylistically?

I’m really into Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, that whole era is really huge for me. The art they produced had something behind it, rather than just being paint on a canvas. It was a lifestyle, which I find fascinating. All the colours I use are bold and that’s who I am as a person. I dress loud, I am loud, so I think my work is quite fun and psychedelic. Sometimes I will say to myself, I’m going to do a purely blue piece, and then I’m there throwing red on it. I can’t stop the rainbows!


Tell us about The Trip, your clothing platform. How did it come about? 

I’ve always been a collector of vintage t-shirts, it’s something I’ve done since I was a teenager, it’s all I wear. I was always going to have a vintage platform, so I started doing that about a year and a half ago selling vintage on Depop, and then I thought, I’ve got so much going on in my brain and I need to put it out there! I started making my own t-shirts, starting with location and gift shop shirts. America is a big inspiration for me, I’ve been around America and got the merch. It’s something I really enjoy and I feel like a lot of people love that style too — the whole American thing — people eat it up, don’t they? 


Tell us a bit more about your jewellery style. What sort of pieces do you gravitate towards?

My rings are very rock’n’roll inspired, I wear skulls and dollar signs and stuff like that. I wear a ring on every finger, considering I’ve got tiny little fingers, I don’t know how I do it! Necklace wise, I wear pearls and beads, more hippy vibes. Like I say, I’m all over the place. I can’t put my finger on one style, I like to be a rock’n’roller one day and then a surfer the next day, I like to mix it up! 


We love your shoot for STAXX, can you tell us how it came about? 

[STAXX founder] Anna messaged me one day and said: I love what you do. She was kind of the first person to say that sort of thing to me. It was so nice, someone actually likes what I do! So I was super excited about working together, I always loved what she does anyway. STAXX is phenomenal so it’s an absolute honour. She came up to Manchester, we did the shoot and it was a good time! 

What is it about the STAXX motto that resonates with you? 

I think a lot of jewellery brands are very pretty and girly, but they’re all a bit samey. It’s hard to be original these days, but I think STAXX is so original. The models, the collections, they’re all so different. It’s a bit darker, and you don’t see that with jewellery very often. Anna has really hit the nail on the head. 


What are some of your favourite pieces from the collection? 

I’ve currently got the Thalia necklace on, I wear it every day! I love it. I love gold, I wear a lot of silver rings and gold necklaces, I’m one of those people. I wear the most random things. Everyone asks why I’m wearing mix and match jewellery but I love them both — I can’t decide! I love the shade of gold that STAXX has, it’s hard to get that right I find. I love everyday pieces, something you can wear all the time that are classics. 


STAXX is all about celebrating creative expression. What does creative expression mean to you?

I don't think I could go a day without doing something creative, it’s such a big part of my life. I’m always thinking about doing different creative projects, it’s my way of life. People have other outlets like sport or whatever, but this is mine. We all need that outlet and I’m lucky that I found mine. I feel blessed!

Follow CJ on Instagram HERE and check out The Trip HERE!