Carrah Aldridge hopes her social media stardom will help her launch a career as an artist — for now, though, she wishes Starbucks would bring back their signature red holiday cups
The buzz is brewing about artist Carrah Aldridge.
By day, the 22-year-old works at a Kroger supermarket in central Ohio, stocking and organizing shelves for customers. By night, she creates whimsical, intricate drawings on empty Starbucks coffee cups — spending between four and sixteen hours on each one.
That hard work is paying off: Since she started this endeavor, Aldridge has racked up more than 81,000 fans on Instagram, and Starbucks itself has taken notice. The company recently sent her a 25 ounce bag of their signature Christmas 2017 coffee; a “cup decorating kit,” which contained gemstones; and two special holiday cups.
“It makes me feel a little happy, because my art’s actually being noticed,” Aldridge told Moneyish in an interview. “I’ve had a bunch of followers say that they don’t really drink Starbucks but would go for the cups.”
Her foray into this brand of artistry began four years ago, when she started transforming empty Starbucks cups into works of art. “I entered a lot of various art competitions on Instagram to get larger art accounts to notice me,” Aldridge said. “If I won, those larger accounts would feature my winning piece on their page… I was honestly shocked.”
Better photo of my #GiveGood starbucks cup ❤ I realized my previous photo was a wee bit dark 😅 i love lots of details but might make another, sinplified cup art for this holiday season 🌸Thank you again, @starbucks for this opportunity and the little care package with art supplies and coffee! #starbucks #starbuckscupart #sharpie #marker #starbuckscoffee
The idea for the cups originally came from fellow female artist Kristina Webb, who also draws on the coffee chain’s branded cups. Although Aldridge may have borrowed her creative inspiration from Webb — whom she now calls an “acquaintance” — she says that their artistic styles are distinct.
“Kristina has a more bold art style while mine is softer… I also use a lot of gradients on mine while she focuses more on details.”
Now, Aldridge has about 20 of the cups decorating her bedroom in Newark, Ohio — with plans to create one cup in each hue of the rainbow, using alcohol-based copic markers that generally retail between $6 and $10 each.
Many fellow artists and fans are loving them. “I have two kinds of compliments that make me overwhelmed with joy. The first one is every time one of my idols notices my work and leaves a comment on it or reposts it to their page. It means a lot when someone you look up to notices your work,” Aldridge shared.
“The second are some of the comments from fans. The fans who say that I’ve inspired them to pick up their pencil and start creating make me happy… All they have to do is pick up a pencil and start creating.”
Going forward, Aldridge has big plans — she’s hoping to use this project to launch an artistic career. Indeed, she has taken a hiatus from her university studies in seismology and geology, and hopes to return to college soon to study art more formally.
“I really dream to do something that I love for a living… I don’t mind working at a grocery store, but I really want to do something that I enjoy waking up to every day,” she says.
But, she’s also keenly aware that doing so won’t come easy: A report out this week from online sales site Artfinder has shown that three out of four artists in the US earn less than $10,000 a year, and the numbers are worse for women. As many as 83.6% of female artists are earning as much — barely a living wage.
For now though, it’s one cup a time for Aldridge — though she told Moneyish she wishes Starbucks would make her life a little easier by bringing back their signature red holiday cups (their current holiday varieties already feature intricate designs).
“It’s kind of hard to put my designs on there… I can work around those designs and make [them] my own still, and I love the artist that they chose [to feature] this year, but part of me does like the solid red cups. It gives me more space to be a little bit more free.”
In the meantime, what’s Aldridge’s advice for other young social media influencers and artists out there?
“Just keep chasing your dreams. I know it’s a cliché, but you can’t give up.”
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