“The most potent muse of all is our own inner child.”
– Stephen Nachmanovitch
Two months ago, I was putting the finishing touches on what I had already dubbed my “Back to School” collection. Like a lot of my peers born in the mid- to late-80′s, I’ve been nostalgic for the glory days of Nickelodeon and the carefree days of childhood.
Typical. I know.
And since you now realize just how much of a cliché I am, I’ll also admit that I never bothered to grow out of cartoons. They’ve always been a refreshing retreat from the television that I’m supposed to watch (according to advertising agencies), which usually leave me feeling cynical or inadequate. And while there are a few exemplary cartoons created in recent years that I already consider classics, NOTHING compares to the colors, characters and general creativity of Rocko, Rugrats, Doug, et al.
It was after a weekend binge of classic Nick (which arguably justifies the cost of Amazon Prime) that I realized how much I longed to live in a world of clashing colors and imperfect polygons. Not to escape reality, but to make it more bearable. So I began poring over the other shows that I obsessed about with friends during our formative years. It then became obvious that I needed to bring to life the mesmerizing shapes, colors and patterns of a collective childhood.
There was just something about watching those shows that I needed to bottle up for perpetuity. They made me feel at home, but also provided the senses of freedom and wonder that I only get when I’m traveling. Since it’s been too long since I was able to feed my insatiable travel bug, I decided to journey instead through time.
I’ll give you a second to regain control of your gag reflex…
I’m sure that if you consider yourself a “real” adult, by now your eyes are in the back of your head and you are successfully chugging your third cup of coffee while simultaneously scoffing at my need to connect to my inner child. Your judgment is welcome and likely warranted. Still, I have yet to find a better shield against complacency or destructive thoughts than draping myself and my surroundings in colors straight out of a Crayola box. Attempting to do so with a level of sophistication is a challenge that makes getting out of the bed each day a little less difficult. Helping others accomplish that same goal through my work is — at the risk of testing your gag reflex again — my raison d’être.
So, inspired and newly confident in my beading skills after a well-received Spring/Summer collection, I got carried away experimenting with patterns and color combinations. Translating the purely playful aesthetic of my youth into well-crafted jewelry that grown women (other than myself) would want to wear took more hours and energy than I anticipated. By mid-August, I was racing against time to finish the final prototypes and shoot photos before my clever “Back to School” moniker became outdated.
Of course, that is exactly what happened when my relationship of four years ended abruptly, and my best/only option was dropping everything and moving to my birth home of Chicago. My nostalgia caught up with the present in the most cruel (and necessary) way. I came right back to where it all began.
Now it makes more sense than ever to create this collection inspired by the child that made her first and most confident steps in this city. (Hense, the new name: Homecoming.) I wanted to make jewelry that made me feel like the person who danced carelessly on the front porch again. I also wanted my pieces to serve as delightful and disarming shields against the tedium and trials of everyday adulthood for women also passionate about getting that life.
What I came up with in turn was a beaded jewelry line that references the irreverent color schemes and geometry of my childhood, but with a modern sense of simplicity and sophistication.
Naturally, the rhythmic use of color/pattern betrays traces of the Masai’s influence on me, also dating back to my early life.
I left Atlanta exactly one month ago today, and have gotten as settled as I can in my aunt and uncle’s house (where I’m staying until I get my own place). It’s the same house I spent hours in each day before and after attending the Catholic school around the corner. (I’ll spare you the diatribe about walking back and forth in snow taller than I was.) The Kenyan art I stared at and played with at every opportunity still sits on the shelves and walls. I pass by them each day, and remember again what it feels like to be at home.
Fall is here, and change is certainly in the air. The last two months have been a whirlwind, culminating in an unforeseen move to Chicago — my first home — and the birth of a collection that comes straight from the core of me (more on both of these developments later this week). While this year has been peppered with moments of defeat, I maintain a defiant sense that 2014 will be nothing less than triumphant for myself and for Local Color.
A reassuring indicator that my faith is not misplaced is my first magazine feature, on the stands today (!!!). Over the summer, I was asked to submit pieces of my Masai-inspired work for BeadStyle Magazine‘s November issue on global jewelry design. At first, certain that my authority on Maasai beadwork was unfounded, I hesitated to participate. After realizing however, that it would just be a tutorial on making simple hoop earrings for an audience of beading enthusiasts, my concerns subsided somewhat. And while I wasn’t able to wax poetic on how the Maasai’s noted resourcefulness and adaptability are virtues I try to emulate with everything I do, I was happy for the chance to briefly share how and why I became so inspired by the tribe and its distinct style.
Still, I’ve struggled with wondering if I was honoring or appropriating the Maasai in my work since I started making beaded jewelry last year. I like to think their influence on my designs has gradually evolved into a style that is my own, but that influence is still unmistakable.
For me, Local Color has always been an attempt to celebrate and connect cultures from around the world, so that we can see ourselves in others and vice versa. This opportunity from BeadStyle was the impetus for me to begin considering in earnest how I can ensure I am not taking anything from the people for whom I have such a deep affinity and respect. It also compelled me to pay forward all the inspiration and comfort I’ve found in the many colors this world has to offer. As a start, from now on, 10% of the sales of each item in the Local Color Etsy shop denoted as “Masai-Inspired” will be donated to Light of Maasai, which tackles social problems identified within the community where they work without attempting to change their culture or values.
Please feel free to respond in the comments with your own ideas of how I can better credit each of my influences and ensure that cultures are being honored instead of just being reduced to diminutive keywords like “tribal” or “ethnic.” And if you have other organizations in mind that I can contribute to, I’d also love more suggestions. I’m especially interested in work done to educate and empower women, girls, and artisans, but I am particular about the emphasis of community input and integration in any effort I endorse.
Finally, I hope you’ll check out the magazine, which offers some brilliant DIYs that are certain to help you live more colorfully.
Today, as I continue to celebrate Black History Month by finding truth and beauty in the Black experience, I find myself inspired once again by Zora Neale Hurston.
As a writer and anthropologist, she was insatiably curious and loved adventure. Zora reminds me a lot of the women in my family — she was classy, sharp-witted, didn’t take herself too seriously, but took pride in the things she was passionate about. Likewise, I can imagine my grandmother giving my mom and her sisters this same advice passed down to Zora by her mother.
Jump at the sun. We might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground.
For this week’s moodboard, I wanted to create a space that reminded me to focus on who I am and what I want, and most importantly, to keep it light.
Added to the Local Color Creations Etsy shop this week were brilliant and bold beaded jewelry sets. The bib necklace, rings and bracelets are inspired by the contrast and patterns of tribal Masai adornments, and made for those who want to wear color all year around.
I also listed some new fabric and hemp wooden bracelet sets that are sure to turn heads.
Today’s moodboard is inspired by one of my favorite artists and a constant source of inspiration. Romare Bearden was a prominent African American artist, considered to be one of the best visual artists of the Twentieth Century. However, his talents and influence reached far beyond the arts world.
He taught himself how to paint, developing his craft while he worked as a social worker. Once established, his background in education and social work made him a powerful champion for the arts, especially in Harlem and among the African American community.
Because his works gloriously capture various facets of the Black experience and that of the African diaspora, I wanted him to be the first person I feature in my Black History Month moodboard series. Having spent most of my childhood experimenting with collage, his work has resonated with me since my first time seeing it at The High, in Atlanta. I’ve kept framed prints of his around as much as possible since then, and even designed my bedroom around the primary color themes he frequently used.
Which brings me to today’s moodboard:
Included in today’s moodboard is a fitting Quote of the Day as well:
You put down one color and it calls for an answer. You have to look at it like a melody.
Creation starts with just one stroke, and the rest is a search for balance and melody. I hope that’s enough to inspire you to get started on whatever you’ve been putting off. I have to get back to my Etsy shop and finish editing all the new listings I have in store for you this week!
I hope you enjoy clicking on all the fabulous finds over at Polyvore, and tell me what you think in the comments. Have a fabulous and colorful week!
Today’s quote is from another one of the most interesting ladies of the twentieth century, Anaïs Nin. Fearless, free-spirited and quick-witted, the author revolved her career and life around pushing boundaries — both her own and society’s.
And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
For Nin, who was curious, well-traveled and ambitious, the restraints of polite society and gender norms were stifling. She challenged notions of propriety, intimacy and justice in her diaries, novels and lectures. Her confidence in confronting life honestly and on her own terms can be an inspiration for those of us who are less sure of our own voice or direction.
While some of us may not personally feel held back by society’s expectations, usually our own perceptions of our abilities can be more damaging. Insecurity breeds bad attitudes, fueled by negative feedback loops which convince us that failing at any effort is worse than not trying at all.
We all have creative potential, but the difference between those who realize this potential and those who do not is sometimes just the willingness to risk comfort for growth. I’m not saying everyone has an inner Picasso, I simply mean that we are more likely to identify, use and improve our personal talents (whatever they may be) when we have the ability and willingness to step outside of our comfort zones. We thrive when we’re okay with being bad at something or looking foolish long enough to adopt new knowledge, perspectives and skills. Getting to this point — just before you’re able to blossom — requires a well-nourished sense of curiosity and a childlike acceptance of our own shortcomings/ignorance. Only then can we push through insecurity and move toward self-actualization.
Of course, stepping out of our comfort zones is a privilege many don’t have. Having the internet at your disposal, having access to culturally-rich programs and institutions, being able to move with relative ease within your region or country are all luxuries to most people around the world. So if there is anything you could be doing to learn, connect or grow, then do it, even if only in the spirit of gratitude.
A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.
If the 20th century had an expert on the power of the imagination, storied writer, poet and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry might have been it. I still refer to the copy of The Little Prince I bought to brush up on my French after high school. It helps me remember the child inside, begging me to stop taking myself so seriously; urging me to see what could be instead of what always has been.
Confronting our problems as possibilities is an excellent start to bringing innovative solutions to life. With a little research and a lot of elbow grease, the ability to think creatively will get you far.
More chic Valentine’s gift ideas for her and for home in today’s Etsy Treasury.
The warm peach/coral color used is one of my favorites to wear in winter to contrast with the sea of grey, black and brown outside. I hope you click through to the collection to explore the wonderful shops and artists featured — it’ll be worth your while, even if you’re just window-shopping for now.
My favorite piece is the mesmerizing pattern print done by talented duo Kati and Alan at Twamies. I’m also drooling over EVERYTHING at Imelda Shoes, and – as always – I managed to find a perfect offering from Mawusi.
The point is, there’s plenty more where these came from, so hop on over to the treasury and start exploring a glorious world of handmade and vintage.
Dr. King has a legacy of challenging people to be more than their nature; to turn the other cheek, to see beyond their own self-interest, to see the best in others — even our enemies and oppressors. I think of his words when I need to be reminded to check my anger, or when I’m ready to give into bitterness. On his holiday, I’ll celebrate his legacy — in part — by sharing this quote.
There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.
I hope his words encourage anyone who happens to read this blog not only to think more and harder, but also to ask more questions. Often our unchallenged paradigms can land us into a rut or a fog. We can find clarity and solutions when we begin to see a problem from another point of view.
Let me know about a time when you found this to be true in the comments below.
I’ve been wanting to use mood boards as a way of sharing color and inspiration weekly here. To kick off this new feature, I couldn’t think of a better color to feature than Pantone’s latest color of the year: Radiant Orchid. I immediately fell in love with this color’s boldness and brilliance, and thought it would make a perfect wardrobe staple or home accent. Here are my finds:
Where you invest your love, you invest your life.
I chose this Mumford & Sons quote to include in the set because this year I want to focus on investing in the things and people I love most. For me this means creating more, exploring more and challenging myself more to share my work and experiences. Where are you investing your passion this year?
Be undeniably good.
With whatever you do, heed this advice from comedian Steve Martin and push yourself to do your best. There’s no qualifying taste, but when you put you’re all into your work, it shows.