With an abundance of art-focused galleries and programs, Yellow Springs is known for attracting not only art lovers, but artists of all stripes themselves — including Lindsey Williams, a Centerville digital artist whose unique work has found a home at local store Urban Handmade.

In an interview over the past few weeks, Williams told the News that her art, which adorns prints, stickers and apparel at the Corry Street facility, pays homage to the communities she belongs to.

Creating and selling her art under the mantle of Golden Mane Illustrations, the 30-year-old artist’s work is “mostly inspired by the furry community and … aims to empower people with disabilities, LGBTQIA+, mental health and other marginalized communities … but with a unique fluffy twist,” she said.

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For the uninitiated, the furry community’s interest lies in anthropomorphic animals — drawing them, writing about them, dressing up and acting as them — and, importantly, Williams said, coming together to share their common interests.

“[I love] community as a whole to dress up as a cute animal and role play with others [furries]getting a chance to talk and look at other artists’ work and support each other,” she said.

Drawn to creating visual art from a young age, Williams’ interests in art and the furry world intersected as she transitioned from “crayons, brushes, pencils, pens, etc.” for working with digital media. As with many modern subcultures whose interests are esoteric, furries tend to find each other online. “Browsing the web,” Williams said, she was inspired by a whole new world of furry artists.

“I was hooked on trying to find my own artistic style until I found one that I liked,” she said.

Williams’ works are often whimsical, with bright colors and lines reminiscent of classic animated films. Some pieces are emblazoned with positive messages, such as “I am unbreakable!” and “Be fearless like a lion!”

It was the lion, Williams said, that inspired the moniker Golden Mane Illustrations.

“I love the Lions and what they represent in leadership and empowerment,” she said.

Lions also inspired Williams for the “fursona,” or personalized animal character. Fursons are avatars created by furries as mascots, role-playing characters, or even alternate characters, depending on the individual, and distributed throughout the community. Fursona Williams is a lion and cougar mix named Lindsay, like her.

Another of Williams’ fursons, a wolf-dragon named Lizzie, is featured in a partially fur costume custom-made for the animal, which she can wear to furry community gatherings and conventions. She doesn’t have a fur suit for her Lindsey Furson yet, but she said she hopes to learn enough sewing techniques to make a fur suit of her own someday.

Furs are also common in the community. They are also, Williams acknowledged, sometimes misunderstood by those outside the community. Although public perception of furry has gradually become more balanced over the past decade or so, initial media reports in the early 2000s were skeptical and polemical, often portraying the community as sex-obsessed or somehow deviant—a classification that said Williams does not represent the vast majority of furry.

“Some people believe that the furry community attracts pedophiles… [or that] we actually see ourselves as animals,” she said. “Most just want to embrace their inner child and have fun just being themselves. Most are just going about their day like anyone else. Many furry artists love to draw animals in their artistic style and share it with the world.”

In fact, Williams said, the furry community is open and accepting of many of the marginalized communities she represents in her art — especially those like her who are neurodivergent and LGBTQ+. According to five studies conducted by various institutions from 2007 to 2019, about 15% of furries reported having autism, compared to about 2% of the general population; and between 20% and 40% of furry self-identified as LGBTQ+, compared to about 8% of the general population.

Williams pointed to a shirt she was wearing that featured a furry character named Spectre, a bionic “protogenic” look. The rainbow-colored character is accompanied by an infinity symbol — the autism acceptance icon — and the words “Shoot for Acceptance.”

The acceptance, Williams said, brought her to Yellow Springs as a place to showcase her work. She was introduced to the village by Katya Claude-Swenson, a local resident and career counselor certified by the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities, who served as her job coach.

In an email this week, Claude-Swenson called the village’s “welcoming atmosphere” and “vibrant arts scene” a “perfect fit for [Williams’] creative independence”.

“I understood immediately after the conversation [Williams] the first time it will bloom here,” wrote Claude-Swenson.

Led by Claude-Swenson, Williams said she met with representatives from the YS Arts Council, Chamber of Commerce and local businesses, including Mark Heise of Yellow Springer Tees and DJ and Connie Galvin of Urban Handmade.

“They’ve all graciously given me great advice to help me grow my business,” Williams said, and in the case of Urban Handmade, a physical location to house some of her products that were previously only available online or at convention booths.

Williams’ growth as an artist and small business operator has also been supported by opportunities for Ohioans with disabilities, which helped fund her associate’s degree in graphic design at Wright State University. Williams also received a rare honor from the Ohio Department of Special Needs Development: she was one of four waiver recipients who financially supported her business startup.

With so much support, Williams said she hopes to one day expand her creative work even further — perhaps into children’s literature.

“I would like to illustrate a book to help children learn about people with disabilities,” she said.

For now, though, she said she’s focused on growing Golden Mane Illustrations so much that it’s not just a hobby, but a full-time job.

“I hope that eventually I can have a steady income,” she said. “I love doing art and I don’t want it to be just a hobby.”

Williams’ work is available at Urban Handmade, and the artist will also have a booth at the Fall Street Fair on Saturday, October 8. To see more of Williams’ art, visit bit.ly/3SfoTWT.

*The print version of this article misstated the organization that funded Williams’ degree; this error has been corrected in the online version.