Syd Weiler didn’t pay much attention to the pigeons she encountered when walking the streets of Wellsburg as a high school student at Brooke, but one day at Loring Park in Minneapolis a flock of them caught her attention.
That’s when she did what she does.
She sketched them.
“They were cute,” she said. “They just sort of wobbled everywhere.”
Weiler is a 2011 graduate of Brooke High and a 2016 grad of the Ringling School of Arts in Sarasota, Fla. She was visiting Minnesota during an arts creative conference, and when she had the chance grab a slice of peace, Weiler encountered her biggest accomplishment in the arts industry to date.
“I decided to sit down in a park for a bit, and these birds were everywhere,” she recalled. “At first, I realized that I had never really thought about pigeons much, but they are pretty cute; they have shiny feathers, and they are really just kind of silly birds.
“So, I drew some, and then I put them up on Twitter even though I was very, really, sure that it wasn’t anything anyone wanted to see from me,” Weiler continued. “But that post ended up being my most popular art tweet ever, and people just wanted me to keep drawing pigeons. A couple of weeks later a friend of mine told me that I should put them online as a sticker to see if it sells.”
Why not, right?
For one more month Weiler will remain as one of four of Adobe Creative residents in a program that has supplied a salary, benefits, a travel budget, all the hardware she has needed, and a great deal of exposure to professionals working in a wide range of tech fields.
“So I put aside my weekend plans and created a whole set of stickers, which are basically like emojis but with more details,” Weiler explained. “After I put them up in the app store, they were pretty successful, and it was cool because a lot of people liked them. After that, I made a holiday set before Thanksgiving and then another for Christmas and then New Year’s.
“I traveled to San Diego in November for the Adobe Max event, and that’s where I met someone from Facebook who was in charge of putting stickers up on that platform, and she told me that she wanted Facebook to license my stickers,” she said. “So, my stickers went up on Facebook near the end of January, and about a week later a lot changed in my life.”
The launch of Weiler’s Trash Doves was an international success, and media outlets throughout Asia had recognized her during her slumber.
“I woke up the next morning and checked my phone, and for some reason I had a ton of notifications on my Timelines, and that was because people were tagging me so I would see all of the attention the stickers were getting across the world, but especially in Thailand. There were news articles, new reports, pictures of me along with my purple pigeon drawings,” Weiler said. “But most of it was in Thai, and I couldn’t read any of that.
“So overnight my pigeons had created this viral thing while I was sleeping on my side of the world, and it took off from there. But that only lasted for a couple of days,” she said. “It had spread to the Philippines, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and then made it over to the English-speaking countries, so by then it was this huge thing, but then it turned into a big mess that I had to deal with immediately.”
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Not only was she receiving interview requests from both print and broadcast media members, but she noticed some in the world were liberating the drawings and using them without license. Plus, when reading over the emails composed in English, Weiler was aware that some of the notes were nasty in nature.
“People started claiming my work, my pigeons, and they started making their own stickers and t-shirts and bunch of other things like apps and games. Just all sorts of crap, you know, because the people on the Internet just took it without thinking about where it came from,” she explained. “I have taken down thousands of shirts on sale at Amazon, and I have had to deal with app stores and copyright laws, and so much else. But hey, that’s the negative side of it all.
“The positive side has been great because it’s obvious that a lot of people like my birds, and that means they have found my other work because of the birds,” Weiler continued. “Plus, there has been a lot of positive press surrounding the birds, so I do have to say that I think it’s all balanced itself out now, and now it’s time for me to move forward and further develop my Trash Doves.”
Her online stream channel, where she hosts artists daily from around the globe, has swelled with new members, and Weiler reported that she’s gained as many as 150,000 new followers across all online platforms, but she’s also surfaced from this dilemma with a new outlook about the worldwide audience.
“All because I created this bird that I made in the first place to make other people happy,” Weiler said. “But, because I told them they couldn’t do what they wanted to do with it, they attacked me. I received hundreds and hundreds of negative emails from those people, and it just kept getting worse and was very, very stressful, and very scary, too. Definitely.
“I am definitely coming out of this experience with a different perspective, but if anything, I have learned that for every bad person there are two good people out there. I really believe that,” she said. “I could not have made it through the last month without a lot of help from a lot of amazing people.”
Weiler will remain in Florida once her Adobe residency concludes in April, and she expects to return to servicing clients as well as expanding her small business while further developing the Trash Doves concept. If the international thieves did her one favor, it was showing her the potential for the product.
“The whole experience taught me a lot, and not only did the people at Adobe help me, but there were also a lot of different people in the arts community here who immediately started to help me when my art was being stolen all over the world,” she said. “One artist here had the same thing happen to her, and she immediately offered me all of her contacts and her suggestions for lawyers. Because of theft and copying, she’s in the middle of two huge lawsuits right now, and that’s why she knew what I needed before I did. That’s why, if I ever know someone that has this happen to them, I’ll be there to do the exact same thing.
“The birds don’t have names, though, because there are a lot of different birds. They’re just pigeons, but I like to think they are all friends,” Weiler said with a laugh. “And pigeons kind of look like doves, but they eat trash. That’s where the name comes from; they are less classy than doves, but they are still really cute, and I have some ideas that will grow the brand. There will be a new, ‘Trash Doves Summer’ set coming out soon.
“I mean, it could be something, I guess. Who knows? The only way for me to find out is to go forward,” she added. “The dream-come-true would be to support myself with one of my own creations. That’s every artist’s dream.”