At 38-years-old, Claudia (her last name cannot be released for legal reasons) is riding high on life, zipping through Manhattan streets, dodging suspicious NYPD cruisers (“Oh wait, the cops are behind me…hi, oh my God I’m golden, golden I tell you, Jordan. Super,” says Claudia during her daily Manhattan drive to her office, a drive that Claw Money has to duck twice from curious cop cars). Claudia, known to graffiti writers as CLAW, to the publishing and fashion industry as Claw Money, pays no mind to potential bummers enforced by New York’s finest.
Claw Money’s first book, Bombshell: The Life and Crimes of Claw Money, will be released in April 2007, but the clever graffiti writer turned author will author another book – “I have The New York Times bestseller, kiss and tell all, but I can’t tell that for another 20 years,” Claw money says jokingly, expressing her carefree personality while flirting with the truth.
Her graffiti writer resume crowns Claw Money with street credit and equally important, her experience in the fashion industry makes Claw Money the right woman for her position as fashion director at Swindle Magazine. Multi-talented is an understatement. Claw Money is golden.
“I started buying and selling vintage on the side of my bartending gig, you know I would see a crazy outfit, buy it and resell it. I was like, oh I can do this for a living!”
Format: Please explain how your fashion career started.
Claw: In 1986 I started attending Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and I dropped out a year later and I was an assistant designer for several outerwear companies in the mid to late-80s. I always knew I was going to be in fashion when I was a kid. I was an assistant designer for a long time, a couple years. Then I started working in nightclubs and I was making so much more money in nightclubs and I was like, why do I need a straight job? I started buying and selling vintage on the side of my bartending gig, you know I would see a crazy outfit, buy it and resell it. I was like, oh I can do this for a living! I have had many incarnations of fashion jobs. I moved to Los Angeles in `95 and I started styling. I was styling, then. I was a stylist, a vintage dealer and when I moved back to New York in 1997 and I started making clothes. I made two collections in 1997 and they didn’t really go anywhere, because I was doing everything and sales wasn’t my strongest skill. I stopped making clothes and stuck to styling and vintage. Then in 2002, I started making clothing, again.
Format: Please explain the roots of your publishing career.
Claw: Swindle Magazine, I basically got that job at Swindle Magazine, because I was a graffiti writer and the guys that started the magazine, Roger Gastman and Shepard, Roger is an ex-graffiti writer and Shepard is a street artist. I have no idea why they hired me sight unseen. They knew my work, because I had a good reputation, word of mouth and that’s what happened with Swindle. Thank God I do a good job, because I still have my position. My book, Powerhouse was asking me for a longtime to do a book.
Format: How long did it take to find the materials needed to create Bombshell: The Life and Crimes of Claw Money?
Claw: Well I had all the materials need. I just went to my storage space, went through pictures with my assistant and there were so many pictures I could have made a book ten times the size! We just weeded through it and it was a huge team effort – it was me, my art director and layout.
Format: There are several writers featured in your book that comment on your persona, how did you choose them?
Claw: They’re all good friends of mine and people that know me really well, all the different people that have a different vantage point of me that know me differently, but in the same respect. I chose seven people that are extremely close to me that have had a great deal of influence and effect on my life.
Format: Please explain your concept of the CLAW throw-up.
Claw: It was the W in my name, in my book you can see that I started adding nails to my Ws and that’s basically why it looks like that.
Format: What is your real name?
Claw: My name is Claudia.
Format: Why did you assume the identity CLAW?
Claw: I’ve been in fashion for the last 22 years and the CLAW was never something that I wanted to sell or make money from. It was always this extremely special expression of mine that I would never take in the marketplace. All of a sudden all these people were like, ‘You should do a CLAW T-shirt, I would really like to see a CLAW on a T-shirt, want to do a CLAW T-shirt for my company?’ My boyfriend, at the time, was like, ‘You have to do this, because it’s ridiculous how many people are bringing this up with you.’ I was like, OK, just for fun I did a CLAW T-shirt and it wasn’t anything serious. Next thing you know they sold out of it in a week and then I had to make more, and then more colors and the demand kept growing. I think the symbol is very powerful. In the past I was so attached to that, like it’s mine, but now I don’t feel that way it is for everyone. It’s not me anymore. It’s whatever you want it to be. It’s open for interpretation.
Format: Please explain the challenges you had as a female graffiti writer, if any.
Claw: Of course I did, of course I did, but basically, for the most part I had a crew of guys that held me down and really protected me and I’m really blessed that I have a real crew that looks out for the people in it. I was very well protected. I’m all about breaking stereotypes so if someone tries to put me in a stereotype, I’m going to do everything in my power to prove them wrong.
Format: What challenges were there while making Bombshell: The Life and Crimes of Claw Money?
Claw: I do so many projects and so many professional projects that it’s just – am I saying what I want to say, am I telling the story I want to tell? It’s an extremely personal book. There are pictures of my family from the `70s and this is not to be taken lightly by myself. I just wanted to give an honest overview of who Claw Money is.
Format: How did you get started creating jewelry?
Claw: I do jewelry, because that’s the stuff I’m really into printed T-shirts, personally, I like them and I wear them – oh wait, the cops are behind me…hi, oh my God I’m golden, golden I tell you, Jordan. Super – anyway, that’s the stuff I’m into; high-end accessories so it’s just natural that I would really be into making stuff like that.
Format: Why do you specifically use the Gucci and Chanel designs for your accessories?
Claw: Lots of different things, I’m not tied to one brand. It’s not specifically those two. There are a million others that I’ve used, too. I’m a luxury brand kind of girl. That’s the stuff I wear, that’s the stuff I like, that’s the stuff I’m co-opting.
Format: The photography in Bombshell: The Life and Times of Claw Money is fantastic, how did you arrange the guest photographers and how many are yours?
Claw: There are a million guest photographers in my book! It’s not just my photography. There are a million credited, famous photographers that shot stuff in my book, so I can’t take credit for those. Those are probably the ones you like! I’ve always been a novice photographer my whole life, especially in the digital age it’s so easy to pick up a camera and start shooting and see what’s good.
Format: Is Bombshell: The Life and Crimes of Claw Money a graffiti book?
Claw: The book isn’t a graffiti book, it’s not a fashion book; it’s just a CLAW book. It’s a visual autobiography, it’s personal and I feel like it was my time to tell my story, so here it is visually. I have The New York Times bestseller, kiss and tell all, but I can’t tell that for another 20 years.
Format: Are there any graffiti-type books that did inspire you for the layout and content?
Claw: No. I absolutely did not want it to look like any graffiti book, ever. I absolutely, 100 per cent, did not want it to look like any other book, ever. I love other graffiti books and stuff, but it’s not mimicking or copying anything. I’ve never saw a book with all this collage stuff.
Format: You’ve been in a lot of books and films as CLAW. Do you feel like you’re giving your identity away and what effect has that had on you?
Claw: I loved being anonymous for so long and I loved being a speculative person for a long time, but I’m not painting illegally no more, so I felt it was my time to let niggas know what the deal is! Now, here I am, straight up, not sugar coated. I think it was important to let other girls know that we’re out here.
Format: Do you feel that you have a responsibility to females in graffiti, as a role model?
Claw: I don’t know if I feel a responsibility, but I feel like some sort of passing of the torch or something. Yeah, it is important to know that there are others that are out there and if I can do it, anyone can. It’s not just for woman. It’s for anyone that wants to make something out of nothing.
Format: Was there anyone that passed the torch to you?
Claw: Yeah, I’m nothing without the people that have helped me throughout the years and there are a million people that have helped me throughout the years. A million that have helped me and passed the torch to me – ZEPHYR, REVOLT, DONDI and dudes like that. Specifically, like the people I painted with, DONTAY, DEVO, MQ, MISS 17 and people that are younger generations of graffiti writers I feel indebted to. I wouldn’t say MISS 17 passed the torch to me, because I’m much older than her and have been painting longer, but she brought me back out of retirement and back into the game, basically.
More Info: http://www.clawmoney.com/