GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - When Angela "Gigi" Hawks first started her own business, Angela's Pinstriping, in 2010, she knew it wouldn't be easy. But her passion for perfection, an artistic eye, and love of the automotive industry meant she found her calling.
"Pinstriping worked its way into my life," 26-year-old Hawks said, who noted an early interest in hot rods stemming from her father. "My dad is an artist, and growing up he supported my interest. He painted hot rods and I helped him with the cars at 8 and 9 years old."
And then she began pinstriping by herself in 2004, working on a variety of projects at just 18 years old.
What is pinstriping? It's a very thin stripe or patterns of thin striping, often used to enhance cars, hot rods and motorcycles. Both specialty paint and gold leafing can be used, and it requires design knowledge and an obsessive eye for detail and symmetry.
According to Hawks, it also requires a steady hand (a surgeon's precision, really), patience and paint knowledge (being able to chose the correct paint solvents and pinstriping paint to ensure that it will adhere to the vehicle or motorcycle).
And it's addicting.
"I'm competitive, and it just made me want to do it more," Hawks added.
Angela's Pinstriping is gaining traction in the automotive world, too. She currently works through 10 body shops throughout the region, with a home base at Clifton Auto Body. She also spends time with Grand Junction Harley-Davidson. Plus, right now there's lots of opportunity to travel to large automotive conferences across the U.S.
All this work means she's taking her passion for pinstriping full-time in 2013, a big step for her as a small business owner.
"Right now, I'm doing customer service, scheduling, bookkeeping and actual pinstriping," Hawks noted.
Jay Ferber, her boyfriend, will likely join in on sales, she added.
To realize this growth, Hawks is seeking additional advice from Grand Junction's Business Incubator Center, an organization which helped her plan the original business model.
Running her own business can be scary sometimes, Hawks acknowledged. But it also means she gets to do what she loves every day and on her own terms.
"They are my customers," she said. "It's my responsibility."
And she loves working with the individuality of each client to find the perfect pinstripe enhancement for their hot rods, classic cars, muscle cars, new cars, trucks, motorcycles, you name it. She's also designing "a car owner's treasure box" to house registration papers, keys and other sentimental objects that must stay inside the vehicle. Made of aluminum, she uses sheets of gold, etching and pinstriping to decorate each container.
"Even if they don't want pinstriping on a vehicle, there's still something they can do," she explained.
When Hawks isn't working (which is rare these days), she said she likes to relax outside, take drives, shoot guns and hike around the area.
Originally from Wyoming, her family moved to Grand Junction in 2003 when she was a junior in high school.
"My parents fell in love with Grand Junction," she said. "The weather, great winters, no wind, more opportunities."
She attended high school in the valley, and only briefly left to live in Salt Lake City from 2007-09.
"There's no schooling for pinstriping," Hawks said. "It's learn on your own."
So, Hawks ensconced herself in the automotive scenes of Grand Junction and Salt Lake City, practicing different skills at home in her garage.
A Grand Junction pinstriper, Jerry Crim, was instrumental in giving Hawks tips early on, she added.
"I'd stop in and visit him. He'd help me pick out paint and brushes, give me some secrets of the trade."