A gas bag with me, Erika 'Flossy' Armstrong
When did you have the realisation that you wanted to pursue being a custom car painter and airbrush artist as a career path?
I knew as a youngster that cars were going to be a large part of my life. I was heavily inspired by my father who was mildly customising a Rover coupe during my child hood years. I spent as much time with my dad in the garage as I could. I grew up in Andover, England in a housing estate where the house garage was not located by the side of your house. Instead it was bundled together with other garages and car parks assigned to that ‘court’ of houses situated away in their own area.
Who was your support network and how did they play a role in your achievements?
My mother and father unconditionally.
My dad is an incredibly talented man, he made sure I knew I could achieve whatever I wanted in life, as long as I was prepared to put in the right amount of effort and energy. My mother was a beautiful lady who made sure I would always be strong enough to make my own choices.
The 1940 Pick up Hotrod Truck 'Hell Bound Train' is an Armstrong family truck. Both my father and I did her up together, I think that is what makes it so special - see the pics below.
What are your achievements?
My accomplishments: Automotive re finisher, Custom Painter, Airbrush artist, Pin-striper and tattoo artist.
I started painting cars for Coastal and Classic Panel Beaters when I was 16 and Custom painting not too long thereafter. I guess I was extremely lucky looking back now as I was surround by a support network who seemed to be in my corner and rooting for a Girl who was coming up in the automotive paint industry. My boss Doug Harding was very futuristic in his business management model and his business was the best on the coast. Together we punched out some top work, I loved the work shop camaraderie and encouragement of my fellow trade workers.
I Custom painted Motorcycles for Skip Fordyce Harley Davidson Riverside California in 2003 at age 25.
I Won the NZ Auckland Auto salon Best Paint Graphics in 2005.
Have a myriad of awards and acknowledgements for my various restoration, custom paint and airbrush art projects. I have worked on many show cars and can confidently work with all paint systems. I was even contracted to do a custom paint comparative cost and production analysis for 'ALSA' paints against the custom paint brand 'House of Kolor' – this was hard converting the RFU quantities from quartz to millilitres on various substrates.
I’ve been in business for 20 years, 15 in NZ and 5 here in Australia doing Custom paint, Airbrush art and Tattoo art.
What was your inspiration for the sport / industry?
In America I was stuck on 'Arlen Ness'. I loved how he pushed the boundaries of clashing colours, chunky stylised flames and full fairing fat looking motorcycles. I just gelled with his style from the get go. As an air-brusher I was inspired by 'Boris Vallejo', his realistic detail yet accurate proportionate structure applied to his fantasy style of artwork, blew my mind.
I have to mention ‘Little Mick’ I held him as an ‘idol’ for many years – he was known for the car build ‘moon runner’. He was Australia’s 'George Barris' if you will? L’ Mick was everything I intended to become – a good custom painter, airbrush artist, tattoo artist and builder. I’m not too far behind, I still have a little way to go though…
Who’s your idol?
I don’t really have an idol anymore. The gender discrimination has stymied my Idols.
I’ve developed more interest and respect for women who have made something of their lives and endured societal hardships.
When the odds have been stacked against them; they have had the integrity to stay on path and persevered, staying true to their dream.
I hope those words can be related to me one day, I’d like to be inspirational.
What’s been the most challenging part…?
Strong, talented women are not accepted, instead their confidence scares society’s framework so they are often used as a scapegoat, ostracised and belittled. “Kept in their little box".
I’d like to see change in my life time.
Most girls, women and ladies have rubbed up against acceptance hurdles in the industry; how did you combat this?
Ahhh yes, I’ve grown tough in my older age, I am 40 now and have a ‘bull in a china shop' kind of persona. External perspectives that are not supportive don't hold any weight at all and as the incredibly talented Kat Von D says “Go hard or go home”.
I like that phrase and so I ‘smash it’ - giving whatever I turn my hand to; the best effort and energy I can, at that time.
And, what would be the advice for up and coming females?
Surround yourself with a solid support network. People who are actually in your corner, who want to see you succeed and are happy for you.
It’s okay to walk away from anyone who doesn’t have your 6!
What’s your mantra?
Be the change you wish to see in the world.
What’s your favorite driving song and music artist?
‘I am the Fire’ by Lzzy Hale, Band Halestorm. The track is on the Girls Torque page, have a listen, turn it loud, throw up your goats and sing along!
What’s your ‘girlie thing?’
Big as lashes, eyeliner and my nails. Um… Bags n shoes – ahhh I love bags, shoeys & leopard print.
Is there anything specific you would like me to talk about, please provide a bit of detail?
I don’t know of that many females who have climbed a similar ladder to me, I am sure there are many more, they’re just not publicised. I’d like to meet them, know them and share their courageous stories - encouraging others.
The road is tough, too tough! Let’s make it easier by offering a support network…
Do you need sponsorship and if so what for…?
I want to publish this great book ‘Girls Torque’ at the end of the year. A compilation of talented women, ladies and girls interviewed, their perspectives, challenges and accolades. Who they are, what they love doing - get them out there and known.
Help support young girls, ladies and women through the 'Girls Torque' foundation and help them be a part of whatever they choose to be in life. http://www.girlstorque.com.au/
Your contact email and phone number.
Attn.: Erika Crew@sinisterurge.com.au