Detroit bred artist Felle has moved around the country throughout his years in the industry, but has returned to his home city to work on his biggest project yet. Seven months ago, Felle opened a new studio, in an area known as the Avenue of Fashion to focus on a product that is the perfect marriage of his two passions — art and serving others. The Celebies Toy Company is the brainchild of Felle and his business partners Granston C. Bullard and Rasheed Wallace. By combining Felle’s art expertise and Bullard’s manufacturing knowledge, the Company was able to generate a unique product line that aims to meet some of the needs of consumers.
The company offers a line of products from Halloween costumes to cool magnets, but its signature product is the Super Troopers, dolls for children of service men and women over seas. Super Troopers are dolls created in the likeness of any service man or woman. The dolls can be worn as backpacks, and hold MP3 technology that plays voice recording and other audio. Children of service men and women can carry around a doll of their loved one that tells them how much they love them and reminds them to eat their veggies, just as they would if they were home.
The Celebies Toy Company has taken the same fundamental design of the Super Trooper and applied it to dolls made to look like your favorite rapper, politician or even yourself. The company’s designs go in hand with its pledge to promote literacy among youth. Celebies, YuDolls and Super Troopers (all Celebies Toy Company products) have the ability to download audio of poems and stories from the companies website to be read by your favorite dolls. “Imagine Michelle Obama reading your child a poem, that’s what we want to do,” said Felle, who has been working on the Celebies and Super Troopers for nearly seven years, but became active in the art and business world long before that.
While Felle got national exposure on GSN’s hit show “Skin Wars” in 2014, the self-taught airbrush artist has been a Titan in the art world for more than 20 years. After being introduced to airbrushing by a friend at age 14, Felle never stopped working with the medium, noting that, “I fell in love with the airbrush and never put it down.” The Detroit native has worked for himself since he was 21 and has done everything from owning a nail salon, to selling fine art, to working on stage design for high profile clients like Jay Z and Kanye West. The self-taught artist gained success by fighting to curate his talents, despite a teacher or mentor, something he plans to become now.
Felle got his first taste of working with children when he was hired to paint a lunch/gym room at Highland Park Middle School. After taking notice of the dreary decoration in the room, he decided to do something about it and get the school’s students involved. Felle organized an art show and competition for students to take part in, and raised money to give away art supplies to high achieving students. “They loved it. The look on their faces was priceless,” Felle said.
Felle however expressed disappointment in the lack of art education in Detroit Public Schools. “Art should be mandatory. If a child has a gift for art, then someone needs to invest in those talents. The schools definitely need to do more,” he said. In the meantime, he has taken it upon himself to invest in the talents of young artists.
Felle has taken time away from working for clients across the country to work on his passion projects. In addition to the Celebie Toy Company, he is looking to open a gallery for his newest fine art collection inspired by Detroit. Felle describes these latest endeavors as starting over, taking the opportunity to work for himself and discover fresh ways to express his perspectives. “I come from all over the place,” he said. “I’ve been conditioned to doing work for customers for so long that it’s like a vacation when I get an opportunity to paint something directly from me.”
Establishing a startup, mentoring young artists, and opening a new gallery may seem to be unrelated, but Felle disagrees because he finds a common thread in all he does, identifying these things as “all art to me.”
To catch up with Felle, visit Facebook.com/BodyPaintingByFelle.