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Mai Tais and Kobe Bryant: The week I told people I was an artist. (PART I)

It is rare in life to find a friend like Nicole Reyes: a friend who is your fiercest advocate and role model. A friend who is equal parts fan and someone you "stan." It is even rarer then, that a friend like that would also fly you across the country, treat you to a week of LA’s finest, give you the opportunity to be surrounded by creative energy ,and provide a space to make your very own works. By some miracle, that friendship exists, and that opportunity happened. 

I met Nicole 7 years ago as a mostly-aimless, pink-haired teen, working at a summer camp at Stanford. We both seemed at a bit of a crossroads in our lives. To be completely honest, that summer was a blur. The work hours were long, the breaks were short, and I had a lot going on, in the way most 18 year olds do. 

We got close the following summer working for the same program, this time at a university in Los Angeles. It was over the course of several weeks that our friendship truly blossomed. We dubbed each other Nicole the Bomb Dot Com & Addiezilla. We’d make up ridiculous dance routines, listen to music during downtime, and Nicole would swear up and down that my Snapchat stories were comedic gold. She believed in me, for some crazy reason, and that made me believe in myself just a little more. 

When my post-camp plans fell through, it was Nicole who drove 2 hours out of the city to rescue me. “Don't worry! Steve and I will show you a good time!” Steve was another coworker from both camps (a true gem), and show me a good time they did. Despite being LA natives, they swallowed their pride and took me to the Walk-of-Fame and Griffith Observatory, and let me gaze in awe at the Hollywood sign. Nicole graciously let me crash at her place, showed me her art, and drove me across town to LAX the following day. After living away from home for a few years, these acts of community were invaluable.

When someone who isn’t even your family will drop everything to make sure you have a place to sleep and food in your belly, don’t let them go. 


A few years later, in 2016, Nicole reached out to me. “Let’s collaborate!” she said. She had started delving into ceramics pretty seriously, and had already created intricate lamps, some of which I’d had the opportunity to see that summer after camp. They were mesmerizing. Reminiscent of coral and barnacles, the lamps rotated on a wooden base casting spheres of light across the walls and ceiling like a Neolithic disco ball. Naturally I jumped at the chance to work with her. 

I remember being anxious about it. I had never collaborated with anyone, let alone try and sell a product of my own. We agreed that I would send her several pieces of art that she would copy onto mugs and then sell as part of our GAMS collaboration. (GAMS standing for my absurdly long legal name: Grace Addison Marie Steinbacher) My heart would race every time I sat down with pen and paper. What if they don’t sell? What if no one likes my drawings? At the same time, I was exhilarated by the prospect of collaborating with someone so talented. I of course told anyone who would listen about it, and it was always met with excitement, which in turn gave me the confidence to go through with it.  A few months later, a handful of handle-less mugs bearing my illustrations appeared on my

doorstep. They were perfect.

I took the GAMS Mugs to my day job, and my boss allowed me the opportunity to sell them there. Every time one sold I internally freaked out. If I felt brave that day I’d tell them, “This is mine! I collaborated with a good friend in LA who makes these with my drawings on them!” Sometimes it was received with “oh cool”s, but mostly people cared. Nicole took them to stores in LA and sold them on her online shop, and even today my husband and close friends still use their mugs for coffee and tea. The pride I have every time I see one in someone’s home is indescribable.


FUN FACT: Some prop scouts for the new Space Jam movie that's in the works popped by Nicole's studio and took a few GAMS Mugs to use in LeBron James's house! They may or may not make it to the final cut, but keep your eyes peeled for one of these beauts when the time comes.

Check out Nicole's studio Cobalt & Clay here:

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