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In DIY DOC’S, we take a look at how illustrators, artists, and designers put their stamp on a Dr. Martens product. Painting, tattooing or de-constructing – we’re giving them the creative freedom to express themselves off of the canvas.

Rachel Gropper is the talented store manager of our Dr. Martens Wicker Park store in Chicago, IL. When she’s not helping people into their new boots, Rachel enjoys expressing her creativity through painting, illustration, photography, clothing curation and more. We asked Rachel to transform our Metallic 1461s in her own way; keep reading to see her fresh take on a shiny classic.

Introduce yourself. 

Hi, I’m Rachel or Ray, I live in Chicago and manage Dr. Martens Wicker Park! When I am not at the shop you can find me working on my art in my home studio, chilling with my cats, or traveling.

How would you describe your artwork?

My work is an interpretation of all the visuals I am inspired by on a daily basis. I switch between different disciplines and find ways to mix them together for the pieces I create. I love making work that is fun and puts me in a good mood when I see it, so I use a lot of color and focus on form and pattern.

Do you have a project/piece you’re most proud of?

Currently, I am most proud of my project Curio. I started Curio as a way to house all of my self-initiated work. Within it, there is photography, illustration, painting, graphic design, sculpture, and animation. The most recent piece I created was an enamel pin that comes attached to a print that can be mailed as a postcard. It was like making a miniature piece that people can carry with them wherever they go.

The Bronze Shop is a project I started with my friend Jordan. We both love vintage and styling and we found that our personal closets were overflowing. There were also pieces we were finding that didn’t fit us but we couldn’t pass them up. We decided to start an online shop using Instagram and have also done some pop-up shops in the city too. It has been a really awesome outlet, we get so excited about hunting for the next piece to add, how to style it and shoot it. In the future I see us setting up an option to shop by appointment for anyone that is in town and adding menswear too.

Rachel’s work for Curio and The Bronze Shop.

Talk us through your customized Dr. Martens. What were the challenges of working on the shoes/boots?

My number one color right now is yellow, so that went perfectly when it came to this pair. I keep coming back to drawing this girl’s face so I decided to make a pattern with her eyes and cheeks, with the silver it was as if she’s looking at herself in a mirror. The challenge was I only have this one pair! I better not mess up or change my design halfway in.

What are your top three tracks at the moment? 

  1. I Can’t Wait by Nu Shooz
  2. Cathy’s Clown by The Everly Brothers
  3. Alien by Wild Nothing

If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be? 

There are so many artists I admire. But think Ellen Dusen of Dusen Dusen is up there on my list. Her use of color and pattern is insanely good. It would be so special to work on a pattern with her and incorporate it into a wearable piece.

Metallic 1461s customized by Rachel.

Tell us your favorite thing about living in Chicago.
I think there is always something to find in Chicago; just going to get groceries or riding the bus puts you in contact with so many different people. I’ve also gotten used to the winters, so as long as you’re layered up you can still do all the usual things.

Tell us about your first pair of Dr. Martens.
I’m from a tiny town at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, I didn’t even know what Dr. Martens were until I moved to Chicago. So I got my first pair on the day we opened the Wicker Park store! The leather reminded me of a pair of cowboy boots my dad owned; they got me through the winter for sure.

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