Kri (they/them/their) is the architect of The Bathtub Project. "The Bathtub Project is intentionally intimate, creating space for artists, activists and humans of all kinds to fully share thoughts, fears, dreams, and life experiences." Kri is also an artist of words. Throughout our interview, I was amazed with their honesty and authenticity. They inspired me to live more into myself. I hope you leave feeling inspired as well!
How do you identify?
I’m a gender, so I use they/them pronouns.
When did you realize?
I realized the first time I got my period. I didn't understand why it was happening. It didn't feel normal. It took multiple years of having my period before I said anything about it. Now, I actually prefer the term “bleeding out” because of the agender identity.
Talk to me about growing up and coming out.
I grew up in an area outside of Toledo Oh!, so I was already weird for not wearing Abercrombie clothes. I was that kid in high school who already had tattoos. As I got older, I met queer people and just kept learning more. Like, I knew that I was queer but I didn’t really understand.
I wasn’t out, at first, because I just didn't really understand. It wasn't something that was discussed and it wasn't a big deal. It became a bigger idea when I was older. Nothing felt right. I started using they/them pronouns when I was 23 years old. I know that other agender people use the word “trans” or “transitioned,” but I feel like I've never really transitioned into or out of anything. It was less of a coming out and more of a direction. For me, it was getting more and more queer.
Where did your interest in art begin?
My family is actually very conservative. I got into art stuff with being taught how to be a woman. I grew up doing all of these really cool art things with textiles. It was expected, as in “this is the sort of things you do in order to become a good wife.” I kind of flipped it on its head and would embroider penises on things.
I have a really good relationship with my family surprisingly, and my dad has always been super supportive of me doing my art things. In art classes, I got really into it. When I said I wanted to become an artist they would say, “That’s really hard. Maybe pursue it as a hobby.” And when I became an adult, art as a job stopped being fun for me. I do art projects because I enjoy it. So, I kind of took their advice, but not in the way they intended.
What different forms of art do you do now?
I kind of do everything. I used to burlesque professionally. I’ve done cross stitch, I sew a lot. One of my favorites was that I used to be in a band. It was really fun. We sang really raunchy songs with ukulele and made them sound really cute. Basically, I’ve had my hands in anything crafty.
What is the bathtub project?
The Bathtub Project is an interactive art project focusing on vulnerability and the core of who a person is. We do this by bringing bath bombs to an individual’s home, photographing and interviewing them in the tub. The Bathtub Project was initially based in Washington, DC but relocated to Chicago, IL in the spring of 2017.
I started the BTP because I got sober. You're the first person, actually, who's getting this part of the interview. I used to view this part of my story as my truth. Now, I’m ready to share it as a “if it helps you, then it’s kind of your truth as well.”
So I’ve been sober a year and some months. This project started as a “holy shit, there’s so much time when you’re not drinking, project.” Since I've quit using substances altogether, other than that I’ve done a lot of more weird art stuff than when I did art stuff when I was drinking. It’s awesome. I’m really into being sober.
What is the process like?
Someone emails and says, “Hey, I'm interested in doing this.” And I say back, “Great.” Then I generally go to that person’s house, unless they don't have a bathtub, and I invite them to design their space however they want to. It’s really fun because people get really creative. Some have decorated their bathtubs with crazy lights or flower petals, it’s all beautiful. I’m open to the other person’s ideas. It’s about giving the other person the space to do what they would wish. I want the space to represent the person I’m interviewing. So for the actual interview and photos some people wear clothes, some people pose a certain way, and for others, it means decorating their bathtub.
What is your favorite part of the BTP?
So this is very cool for me, specifically. I get to see how I'm similar to a DC banker. Or how I'm similar to a young queer couple. It’s really really good for me to see that I'm not that different from everyone else. When we’re kids we’re taught “you're a special unique little snowflake. You're different.” It’s a super good lesson, but for me, I need to remember that it’s easy to connect to people if you are open to it. That were not that different after all. We all have our struggles. My struggles aren't that unique. Especially in sobriety, there’s less of a feeling of being alone, and that, to me, is really really cool. It literally happens every single time I interview someone. I’ve interviewed people with anxiety and depression and mental health issues. It’s such a good feeling to validate someone else’s experience, and it’s also validating to myself. This is just part of the human experience. So knowing that I can connect with someone else and find similarities in our struggles, that’s my favorite thing.
How did you get started on this project?
So working for a community like L’Arche with differently abled peopled, I learned what it meant to be fully present with people. L’Arche invited me to stop drinking by helping me be present-present. It was still hard and it sucked, but at L’Arche it was easier to not drink and it was easier for it to stick. It was an emotionally raw space. I started drinking when I was 17, I never really stopped until last year. So my emotions were that of a 17 year old. It was raw. At L’Arche it was ok if I had the emotions of a 17 year old and felt raw.
I realized that other people have to feel raw, and anxious, and shitty, and exposed, and excited, and happy. People have to feel raw at some point. I learned how to be chill and present despite whatever raw feelings I or someone else was experiencing.
Being really present with people where they were at, made me really want to invite other people into that same space. So I wanted to create a space that allowed that. A space that invites others to take down their barriers and let someone else in.
Talk to me about self-care.
I’m a really big advocate of boring self-care. I have really really high anxiety and deal with bouts of depressive moments, like I would forget to shower. So for me, it’s making myself healthy meals, reading fiction, going to the beach, taking a shower with nice soap, those are things that are really healthy for me. It’s the things that can be easily looked over. It’s really small but makes a big difference.
Another big thing is leaving my house. I have to ask myself, “Am I buying into my feelings?” Like tumblr is pushing out things like “Take a day for you.” I totally agree with that, but life doesn't stop for anyone. So I need to do the small things like cooking, walking my dog, taking a shower. Very simple things. As soon as I do that, I realize that a lot of the time I'm feeling really depressive is that I'm buying into the idea that I don't need to do things. In my life, I have to work to support myself, I’m in a romantic partnership, I have a dog to take care of, and I don’t actually struggle with depression, just depressive feelings. I have friends that legitimately cannot make themselves get out of bed. That’s different. For me, it's buying into the feelings and thinking life will stop for me. Life sucks and it's hard, whomp. Move on.
Tell me about your romantic partner.
We actually met online. They thought I was cute and gave me their phone number. I thought he wanted to do the bathtub project. His end game was smooching me however. We started talking and realized that we had a lot of similar view points. The longer we've been together, the more we've realized we actually have differences. We love talking about it. When we first started talking, we agreed about everything. We've been married since April 1st this year.
You got married on April Fools Day?
We got married April Fools Day cause marriage is kind of stupid but we love each other and wanted to do the commitment. So we chose April Fools Day. Our friends were waiting for us to say, “just kidding.” But that would have been the most expensive prank ever.
We’re pretty awesome. Together and separately, that’s what feels really good to me. He is wonderful. He's my best friend. He's great. I feel safe and supported. For us, marriage is about growing and changing and being open to communicating and changing together.
What advice would you offer someone exploring their identity?
Give yourself the space to experiment. Learn what feels right for you. It takes time. Whatever your answer is, if you're looking for it, you'll find it. It’s all totally up to you. So really do what feels right for you.
Head on over to the Bathtub Project to read the astounding interviews that go with these portraits!