Studying the Art of Weaving Liberation a chat with Amina Coleman

0.75x 1x 1.25x 1.5x 2x 0:0000:38:06 Studying the Art of Weaving Liberation a chat with Amina Coleman

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Amina Coleman

Amina Coleman was born and raised in the East End of Richmond, Virginia, and found her interest in the arts by observing the creative talents of her family. Her family is full of musicians, singers, and dancers, so she was heavily encouraged to continue pursuing her dreams in fine art from a young age.

Their support, combined with her dedication and tenacity, allowed her to graduate from Henrico High School’s Center for the Arts Visual Arts Program in 2019 with massive artistic accolades, including a national medal from Scholastic’s Art & Writing Program, a wonderful experience at Radford University’s Governor’s School for the Visual and Performing Arts,  and multiple exhibitions.

She is en route to finishing her BFA in Painting and Printmaking with a Minor in Art History from Virginia Commonwealth University in December of 2022. She will continue to thrive and receive more acknowledgment of my dedication and success through multiple awards, including The Black History In the Making Award and ongoing Dean’s List recognition.

Lisa Woolfork

Lisa Woolfork is an associate professor of English specializing in African American literature and culture. Her teaching and research explore Black women writers, Black identity, trauma theory, and American slavery. She is the founder of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black lives matter. She is also the host/producer of Stitch Please, a weekly audio podcast that centers on Black women, girls, and femmes in sewing. In the summer of 2017, she actively resisted the white supremacist marches in her community, Charlottesville, Virginia. The city became a symbol of lethal resurging white supremacist violence. She remains active in a variety of university and community initiatives, including the Community Engaged Scholars program. She believes in the power of creative liberation.

Insights from this episode:

  • Amina’s sewing background
  • Amina’s big chop
  • Finding herself through her art
  • How attending an arts high school prepared her for art college
  • Insights into arts
  • Amina’s project (weave(ings))
  • What was her inspiration for her new project
  • The inspiration behind her artwork

Quotes from the show:

  • “I watched, and she kinda tried teaching me, but I got frustrated. And I more or less picked up on the technique on my own, just sitting and reading and trying out” —Amina Coleman in “Stitch Please”
  • “Black women’s hair has become politically loaded because of the ways in which it can so adversely impact our lives” —Lisa Woolfork in “Stitch Please”
  • “I didn’t realize I was holding myself back from successful ideas or cool, weird ideas by just not allowing myself to repeat something. There are artists whose whole practice is doing one thing for their whole life” —Amina Coleman in “Stitch Please”
  • “Sometimes art is never “done.” Art is not a product, it is a practice” —Lisa Woolfork in “Stitch Please”
  • “It seems too that art is all about opening. Opening people up to new ideas, opening itself up to challenge and revision and re-writing” —Lisa Woolfork in “Stitch Please”
  • “I feel my art is always been like a reaction to a lot of outside things and me trying to make something else for myself, something oppositional” —Amina Coleman in “Stitch Please”

Stay Connected:

Lisa Woolfork

Instagram: Lisa Woolfork

Twitter: Lisa Woolfork

Amina Coleman

Website: Amina Coleman

Instagram: Amina Coleman

Facebook: Amina Coleman

This episode was produced and managed by Podcast Laundry.

Read Full Transcript

Lisa Woolfork  0:10  

Hello stitchers. Welcome to Stitch Please, the official podcast of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black lives matter. I'm your host, Lisa Woolfork. I'm a fourth-generation sewing enthusiast with more than 20 years of sewing experience. I am looking forward to today's conversation. So sit back, relax, and get ready to get your stitch together. 

Hello, everybody! We are here. I am Lisa with Black Women Stitch, and as I say every week, this is a very special episode because this episode is what happens when you happen to be at VCU, which is Virginia Commonwealth University. For those who don't know, it is a university here in Richmond, Virginia about an hour from where I am. And what had happened was I was at a podcasting conference. I was at the Resonate podcast conference that was hosted by the ICA [Institute for Contemporary Art] at VCU. And this amazing Contemporary Art Center is a fantastic and beautiful building. It was so nice, y'all. You know, I'm not really an outside-outside person yet, but it was a nice foray into the outside. And I really enjoyed learning about podcasting. But what I also really enjoyed learning was there was this young woman behind the bar. They had a bar. Not a bar, bar. They had a bar with like snacks, and water, and refreshments in this lovely bookstore that I bought three books for. And I just got to talking with her because, you know. If you know me, I'm a Black woman. When I see Black women, other places I speak. I speak to all Black people, pretty much I'd say 99% of the time I speak to any Black person I find. And this young Black woman, and I'm thinking, "Okay, she must be a student here, and this is an art school. So I bet she is really creative. Let me see." Come to find out I was talking to none other than Amina Coleman-Davis, y'all, who has joined us here today for the Stitch Please podcast at my special request. We were just chit chatting. Just a little chit chat. Hey, how you doing, la la la. She proceeds to tell me about her project that's about weaving, and textiles, and using Black women's hair, and this is all part of a larger vision of liberation and interdependence. And I was just like, "You are singing my life with your words, right now. You are doing exactly what I think has put work in the lives of Black women creatives globally and across time. So please say more, but say it on my podcast." So welcome so much, Amina Coleman-Davis. Thank you for being here today.

Amina Coleman-Davis  2:51  

Yes, thank you for having me. This is like surreal, oh my gosh, that I'm even here right now. That I'm even doing what I'm doing. Like, they say everything happens when it's supposed to, you know? 

Lisa  3:01  

Well, I am incredibly grateful. We are very grateful to you. And we're excited because I have familiarity with higher education through the kind of standard traditional educational model of what a four-year college might be. But I have a very blurry understanding of the lives of an art school or a design school. And so I'm really excited to talk about your life as someone who is about to graduate from school, about to complete this four-year journey. But I want to start backwards at some of your earliest days of creativity. And you explain that you have some background with sewing. Some of your earliest memories about your grandmother, Corinne Davis, or "Wowo" I think you all called her, for the work that she would do for you all. Just tell us a bit about your sewing background as you see it. What has influenced you to get to this stage?

Amina  3:53  

Yes, it was just the vivid memories of comfort and like tender love. And moments of connection with her. Helping her thread the needle, always having access to little scraps of fabric, and, you know, have a little fashion show. She was always very encouraging of any type of expression or art, and I was the only child. My older brother was 10 years older than me and into sports. So he was around but we weren't really like that bonded. So I was in my own little artsy world of doodles. And I also picked up on crochet really early. Added moments here and ...  My grandmother mainly raised me, and my parents were in and out of my life. And there are moments my mother would take me with her. She was like a home nurse, and she would take me with her. And one of her cases, I guess, she was an older woman that could crochet. And one day I sat, watched her, and I figured it out, and my grandmother went and got me some books from Michaels, got me some yarn, even got me some hooks to get me to try knitting, like all of that. So from a very early age, that comfort, and that curiosity, and that support of that curiosity has always been there.

Lisa  4:51  

So when you first saw your mother's patient crocheting, you said you sat and watched her and just figured it out. Did she teach you? Did this person teach? Or was this your own ingenuity? Because it sounds like you watched, and you were like, "I want to do that." What hooked you about that?

Amina  5:07  

I watched, and she kind of tried to teach me but I got frustrated. And I more or less picked up on the technique on my own, like just sitting, and reading, and trying it out. And I'm 21. So like, I had the internet, I was watching YouTube videos, figuring things out. I definitely like figuring it out more on my own. I dropped it for a while, and then came back to it [in] high school, full speed. I was like making little sweaters for my dog and doing very functional small projects.

Lisa  5:31  

And I think what I really appreciate about your story is that you had this context of your grandmother, like, supporting you, like, you know, "Hey, she wants to do something creative. I'm gonna see what I can do to make it happen. Does she need books? Does she need yarn? Does she need hooks? What does she need, because once she gets her mind around an idea, then you just kind of can plow forward with it." And that's really exciting. I want to turn to some of your high school days, because I think the high school years for yourself, now as someone who's about to complete another four-year educational journey, I'm really curious about how you grew as an artist, and how you started to develop some of the foundations for your art practice in high school. And I wonder if you think the big chop that you did for your hair was a big factor in that transition or that growth for you?

Amina  6:23  

Oh, for sure. And I also was luckily privileged and like blessed enough that I got into the Center for the Arts at Henrico High School. So all four years of that I was basically like in an arts university. We were doing fundamentals, doing still-lifes, we even had models come in. We had sketchbooks. We had to write about our ideas, we were doing many artists' statements. We had artists come to visit us. We even had like people do clay workshops. Studio Two Three came in to do like a printmaking workshop. So I definitely was lucky enough to have access. Once again, more supported information. I was just going emotional [over] the nature of the big chop, taking my autonomy back in that moment, because I was afraid. Having long hair was always like a thing. Like my brother was the one that like had the long hair throughout my life. He always had like cornrows or whatever. And I was [having] a struggle. I didn't really like getting my hair done. It hurt getting it done by other people. It was really taking the time, or the patience, or proper care for it. Relaxed it - didn't take care of it. It broke off to my chin. Transitioning through once again, YouTube, and learning how to take better care of it. And also just how expensive it was to get my hair done. Yeah, I regained a whole bunch of autonomy. And I actually learned about my hair as a material, which became really interesting. And like, I would say that is what began the overlap of it becoming like an art thing and not just being this thing on my head.

Lisa  6:23  

I'm sure we might get to it when we start talking about your thesis project, but there's a way in which that Black women's hair especially becomes so politically loaded because of the ways in which it so adversely can impact our lives. The fact that we have something called the CROWN Act that's only been passed in 18 of 50 states. And the CROWN Act is designed to bar discrimination for Black women so that we can wear our natural hair at work and not get fired. It's so powerful. The reason I mentioned it is because you saw it as a playground. It seems like in 2015, that sophomore year of high school, when you started to really get into the research of YouTube on all the things that you could do with your hair. Can you talk a bit about that kind of flexibility, and how that gave you a sense of as you just said, autonomy. The sense that you can kind of control this important aspect of your life.

Amina  8:32  

Yeah, it honestly goes far back, I guess like gender identity. Because like growing up as a kid, the women I was around and raised by weren't really traditionally feminine. I was raised that way. I would just have like, you know, my [hair] slicked back. Llke I wasn't very like frilly. I was like a tomboy, I guess you could say. Being able to like kind of rather than being like, oh, people saying like [I] go out in public with my grandma and they're like, "Oh, you have such a handsome grandson." And I'm like, "I'm a little girl." People ask me like, "Are you a boy or girl" and stuff like that. Being able to like control that, be empowered by that. This kind of androgynous state that I can manipulate? I'm finding myself. That's like the best way to explain it. Cuz like, I don't really know where I'm at in any of that. It's definitely cool to experiment with that.  That outward appearance to translate how you're feeling with that.

Lisa  9:17  

Absolutely. And the thing is that you don't have to answer that question for anybody but yourself. You are the question. This is you, and whatever feels right and whatever as you start to grow, and develop, and engage in your own particular art practice, in your own art journey, you're going to continue to discover and uncover parts of who you are. And I am just so excited for that because you're just getting started even as you finish up something that is so big. I really am excited to hear that you got great preparation in high school because you were fortunate enough to attend this program and was it Henrico High School? They had a school of the arts program within the school. And so you got trained in some way. So that when you came to art college, art university, you were like, "Oh, I know what a portfolio is. I know what studio is." So tell us a bit about how that time prepared you for doing this at the advanced stage. 

Amina  10:12  

Oh for sure. High school was my undergrad, and now I'm in my graduate program. Because it was so deep as we even had like a couple of exhibitions per year. Our senior show was at Artspace in the city. They were really trying to, like, help us. And they even had representatives from different colleges come in and tell us about their programs. Like they really wanted us to be like, amazing little artists. And outside of just like visual arts, the program offered musical theater, regular theater, and dance. So there'd be some times we would go see the other class or see what they were doing. Or we would have like little interdisciplinary moments. We're all in the same classes, same friend group. So we have something called AFO. Art Foundations the first year - all like arts and crafts, where you actually declare your major, AFO is you do time, space surface and drawing.

Lisa  10:54  

Time, space, surface and drawing. What does “time” mean?

Amina  11:00  

It's time-based media, so anything, basically in the fourth dimension, as they call it. Did a lot of rotoscoping, video work, sound work. It was very experimental and technology based. It was really cool.

Lisa  11:11  

Okay, so that's time. And then what's the second thing? 

Amina  11:14  


Lisa  11:14  

And so what is a spatially oriented artwork? What is that? 

Amina  11:18  

It's anything 3D - sculptures ,... We did a wooden sculpture that made your body into a shape, that was my project. But every teacher has a particular project and you learn how to measure things, how to scale things up from a sketch, and how to translate aspects. Basically, it was try it like. It was a program. The program is  trying to help us figure out our interests so that we can declare a major.

Lisa  11:40  

And so you did AFO. What really kind of spoke to you of the four different concentrations that you had there? Did one speak to you more than the others, or was the point to like learn to do them all together, to hold them all together at the same time.

Amina  11:55  

For me, it was the balance of discipline and, I guess, experimentation. Cuz in high school, things were a lot more strict and you had to do this, with this material, in these colors. Whereas in college, I would do what I want. Like even if I got an assignment, I would make it when I want. I would tell my teachers like, "I'm doing this instead." But once again, it was always supported. Because you know, I'm gonna follow through, I'm gonna do something fun and kooky with it. So it was great. I won a couple awards freshman year just for being phenomenally experimentationally awesome and doing really big, cool things. I learned how to dance. I made an animation. I did a lot. It was so fun. So people hated AFO, and they're miserable by it, but I loved it.

Lisa  12:34  

Do they hate it because they feel like they're being forced to do things that they're not interested in? Because sometimes I know some folks feel that way about introductory classes. Like, "Oh, why are you telling me this? I'm not interested in that. I came here to do B, why you teach me about A?" You know, and like, "Well, if you do A then you could get to B." Is it that kind of tension?

Amina  12:54  

Oh for sure. A lot of people come to VCU. They're expecting I guess old-fashioned, you have to sit and draw still life. And now like that type of training. Cuz like, I feel like that's what the idea of art school is. And we'll get more into it. I'm learning that art school is definitely a lot more open and interdisciplinary now. All of my friends did not like the program, that was their main complaint. They felt like, "I'm doing all of this, and I'm not actually learning what I want to learn." It was just really frustrating for them, or was overwhelming for them. That structure and being allowed or just ... being asked to like build a giant structure out of cardboard and paint it in three weeks in your dorm. A lot of people were thrust into very ambitious things.

Lisa  13:33  

So for some folks, they're like, "Oh, well, I'm not learning what I want to learn. So I'm out." Or "This is also really overwhelming. The thing that I think I could do, but I can't yet do because I need to be a bit more patient with myself perhaps." And so I do think you're right, of course, that there are lots of ways that introductory classes for your friends that you're describing, they challenge you. They absolutely challenge you. Sometimes they challenge your ability to be bored, because it's like, "I just have to sit here and get through this." I mean, I'm saying as someone who also sat through a lot of introductory classes that had nothing to do with what I wanted to do when I grew up. Sometimes it's nice to have those in your back pocket. Now that you have the skills or the things that you know how to do, you can use them to help make what you want to do even better. And that's what I think you have actually done. So what about the AFO class, do you imagine still shows up in some of the work that you're doing today? Or is that really in your rearview mirror now that you have arrived at your fourth year? Is there anything from your first year and from that course, that's just like, "You know? I guess I am glad that I learned how to do this particular thing for you know, printmaking or whatever."

Amina  14:39  

Well, I guess something from like, freshman year that really stuck with me was my teachers encouraging me to make more, or make a different version, because I used to complete projects really quickly because I was really excited and enthusiastic. And instead of being like, "Oh wait" they're out there like, "Use that energy. Use that momentum. Oh, you don't like this one? Do it again. You're allowed to do it again. You're allowed to paint over this." getting just a lot less pressures, or getting that permission to just try it again. I didn't realize I was holding myself back from successful ideas or like just cool, weird ideas by just not allowing myself to repeat something. There's artists whose whole practice is doing one thing for their whole life.

Lisa Woolfork  15:14  

Wow. Like painting the same Apple?

Amina  15:17  

Yeah. Or like over and over again. I do my "Scribbled With Love" like tangent. I have like a little marker drawing series. I just loosely draw some family photos. If I don't like composition. I don't like the colors or around like, "Oh, I wish this color was next to that one," I draw it again. There's some that I've drawn like five times to get one composition that I'm like, show the world. But there's a lot of paintings that the world does not see. A lot of little swatches of things the world does not see. So yeah, you're allowed to ...

Lisa  15:42  

What I appreciate about what you're saying Amina, and maybe what your teachers or what your professors have unlocked in you that it's also valuable for everyone to know, is that somehow "done" is not the goal. Like sometimes art is like never done. And art is not a product. It is a practice --

Amina  16:03  

that part --

Lisa  16:04  

You know?

Amina  16:04  

l've tried that.

Lisa  16:05  

Right? I tend to be like a high energy person, and I do something, and I've done it. And I'm just like, "Oh, praise, Lord." Because I did the thing. It's done. I can walk away from it, it's finished. But if it's art, you know, you're never going to be finished. So the idea that you would finish something and be done with it, you're like, "Yes yes, yes." And your professors are like, "Do it again." And your professors are like, "Do it again." You're like, "Wait a minute, why should I do it again? When I'm done? I'm done. I'm done." And do you think that part of the art process itself is that repetition" Is the fact that the goal is not to finish, but something else? If it's not to finish, what else would there be?

Amina  16:42  

Yes, this is a question I talk about with my fellow like abstract painters, because I make a lot of textile work, little paint and have a lot of like, historical whatever towards that. People like to talk about sometimes, "Oh, how do you know when a work is finished, or like before you overworked it?" For me, it's all about feel. When did you get the work to feel a certain way? That's like my way of thinking about it. Work goes beyond the tangible. So to make something that exudes that, you have to put that into it. You have to be very sensitive and subtle. And I don't think that's something that can be calculated, personally.

Lisa  17:18  

I think the idea of the calculation. I think that that's something that can't be calculated, because it's not meant to be a work in that way. Art is not a task. A task is something that you're like, "Okay, I will make the bed. And once the bed is made, I know the bed is done, because I'm looking at it and it looks made. I've completed that task." But you can't say, "I'm gonna make a painting. When I've completed that task of making the painting then the painting will be done." It doesn't have that, because it seems to me art is always about opening. About opening people up to new ideas, opening itself up to challenge, and revision, and rewriting, that that energy is kind of latent in the works themselves. I don't know I just find that just so exciting and so ingenious. 

Lisa Woolfork  18:04  

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Lisa  19:09  

What I'm excited to hear about, and if we can pivot to this, is to talk about the work that you shared with me that you're working on now for your big project. Can you talk a little bit about it, like what's it called, and tell us what made you think of it in the first place? Because it's a really compelling idea.

Amina  19:31  

Yeah, we're talking about the Weave(ings) right? The Weave(ing)?

Lisa  19:34  

Yes, the Weave(ings). Yes.

Amina  19:37  

Weave(ings)." Yes. Spelt like hair weave with like some parentheses and "ing." Yeah. This started as a result of me being goofy in my Intro to Textiles class a couple years ago. I was weaving on literally this. There we go.

Lisa  19:51  

That's perfect. Right there. It's perfect. Thank you.

Amina  19:53  

Old Canvas, took the canvas off, put some like marks to be like inches on it, and just warped it up. I do some of them. I have a couple of bigger ones. I'm working on getting my uncle to make a really big one.

Lisa  20:05  

I want to make Oh, that'll be nice. Oh my gosh, please do

Amina  20:09  

a little work. I used to be the yarn

Lisa  20:11  

Yes, yes.

Amina  20:13  

But yeah, I was sitting in class, right? And I was also taking an Art History class with Babatunde Lawal that was about indigenous African art history practices, and we were talking about I think the Kuba cloth, and like the improvisations, and like the overlap of like, you know, jazz, and music, and body, and spirit, and like Africanisms. I was just really feeling everything, right? And I was like, weaving or "weave-ing," like "Weave(ings)." So I went home, and I did it. Thought it was hilarious. Actually, I have a couple if you want to see them.

Lisa  20:40  

Yes, please. We absolutely want to see them! Y'all, this is one of the reasons why you should be a Patreon supporter, because you get to see the lovely Amina who is now climbing up on furniture, so that she can hopefully very safely retrieve some Weave(ings) that she did. And she's talking about weavings W E A V E, like hair weave, and she puts those in parenthesis and then I N G S next to it. So it's talking about -- Oh, my! Oh my!

Amina  21:06  

This is "Tender Headed." 

Lisa  21:07  

Oh my gosh! Which award did it win?

Amina  21:10  

She won like second place, Best in Show [at] Crossroads Arts Center. They had like a Black History Month show on Main Street Station. It was awesome. It was so good. But, yeah, she won like second place, Best in Show.

Lisa  21:22  

Congratulations. Second place, Best in Show. Wow. Wow. Tell us about this piece. So this piece - those of you who aren't seeing it what we're looking at is some weavings that combine braiding hair and synthetic hair. What's the horizontal? What's the warp pieces? Is the warp the horizontal and the weft is the vertical? Or is it the other way around?

Amina  21:43  

Yes, you got it. It's just hilarious how much language crosses over between weave, and like doing this, learning how to sew and being like, "Oh, this is how you like interlock locks. The small stuff like that. 

Lisa  21:52  

Yes, absolutely. 

Amina  21:54  

Well, yeah, this is just like a bunch of acrylic yarn, the wavy or straighter is from an old wig of my cousin's that I cut up. And these some like old locks, that, were they used or unused? I don't remember. I use a mixture of used and unused hair. I always wash it, of course. But you know, I try to be as simple as I can. 

Lisa  22:09  

Yes, yes.

Amina  22:11  

I'm just trying my hardest.

Lisa  22:12  

Well, you're doing a wonderful job. And what I love about what you've described, it's kind of like the birth of this mode of production for you, or this mode or practice for you, was birthed in the African art class. You were learning about Kuba cloth. You were learning about these different indigenous African practices. And then you were like, "Wait a minute. Huh! What's this on top of my head? That's interesting." So what made you put those two things together? I think you might have said silly or something like that. I'm not sure what word you use to describe it. And I'm like, "That's a funny way to say inspired, because it sounds like that's some straight inspiration right there." Like what clicked that for you?

Amina  22:49  

Honestly, humor. I thought it sounded funny. I've seen a few artists like do things with hair. They're usually really heavy. And it carries a lot of like weight to it. I'm learning to bring some levity to all like the fine arts. And tries to bring back some fun into putting just stuff together.

Lisa  23:04  

Yes. I have been doing a lot of reading around Kevin Quashie - Q U A S H I E - Kevin Quashie. He's a scholar. I forgot where he is at the moment. But he has a couple of books with Duke University Press. And one of them is called, that I love, it's called "Black Aliveness, The Poetics of Black Aliveness." And in the book he talks about, it's not about aliveness as resistance. It's not about, you know, any resistance at all. It's about really sinking down into the deep, deep, rich humanity of Black life and affirming that it doesn't need to be extraordinary, doesn't need to be award-winning superlative. It just needs to be. It's all about just being. Being is enough. Just be. B E. Period. Done. Finished. Start, done. And when you are looking at these pieces and creating these pieces, and you're like, "This is not so much about oppression. Nor is it about avoiding oppression." It's about, it seems like, just being. And that we also get a chance to be joyful. We need more opportunities for levity. These are all the things that I see in the work that you've created. And it also seems like you're just kind of shaking off the expectation that comes with our hair. This idea that somehow it's meant to be a burden rather than a playground, you know? And you're like making it a playground.

Amina  24:28  

Oh, for sure. I think I just kind of got, not tired, but I was getting bummed out about always seeing just sadness and struggle, earnest just pain like around our hair, individually and like socially. And I feel my art has always been like a reaction to a lot of outside things, and me trying to make something else for myself. Something opposition. Whether that be joy, anger, or whatever, just trying to make something within myself that I can't get from the outside. So I was just trying to explore and truly see what could happen if we take this material as it is, and like, yes, all of those undertones are important and relevant. But this for a moment, let's just look at it. It's just extra scrap piece of something. At the end of the day like, the way it's like unattached from us, it is. And like, many artists, Nastassja Swift, like she is one of my favorite people doing her thing right now. Like I love her. But seeing her do stuff like that. It hits so hard.

Lisa  25:22  

Yes, it absolutely does. It absolutely does. And I can definitely see that you are working in a similar vein. And the question of the power of just, our daily lives being something that's just regular, degular. Just regular, degular. Breathing, being, existing. And so does our hair - it's just being and existing. And in that it is spectacular, in that, it's extraordinary.

Amina  25:48  

It's a very gorgeous object as well. If you take away like the fetishization of it, and the negative connotations and all that quote, unquote, bad stuff, it's gorgeous, as a thing. It's so cool, all the different things that it can do. The way that you can manipulate it. I've been considering making paint brushes out of my hair, like doing stuff like that.

Lisa  26:04  


Amina  26:06  

We generate it. That's a whole other thing. You create this. My hair sheds every day, you know?

Lisa  26:10  

That's true!

Amina  26:11  

Left it in the jar for about a year and a half. And like, I use that when painting. That's gonna be like a whole other thing. It hasn't been fully realized, but a lot of really awesome stuff coming from just being appreciative. Stepping back from the pain. It took me a while to appreciate my hair and, like, enjoy the process of the work [it took]. It took a long time for that. I definitely did not grow up ... Even washing my hair as a kid was a chore, nobody took the patience. But finding the patience for myself to sit down with this material, and my art practice in general. is tremendous patience. 

Lisa  26:44  

Yes. It's kind of like you are giving yourself that grace and generativeness that you didn't really have about your hair when you were little, or when you were a kid. When it was more like, "Ugh, now I got to do this. And here goes three hours of my day." You know? Or three hours of somebody else's day, because you couldn't do it yourself when you were a little, little kid. You know? And turning this into a space of just freedom, of joy. And also I keep thinking like a lot of brushes are already made out of hair. Right? A lot of brushes, paint brushes are made from animal hair, or hides, or some ... all different types, the soft ones, hard ones, mediums, or whatever. I wondering, like, natural Black girl hair. What kind of art is that gonna make? It's gonna make some fire shit. That's what it's gonna make. It's gonna make something that's completely ... I don't know. It just feels like, the way that brush would look compared to all the other brushes. If, for example, you make a whole line of products, which you won't because I bet you're not interested in that. But if you did, and we had all of the brushes at the regular store lined up, and then we had yours, we would know which was yours versus which wasn't. It makes me think that that itself is a certain kind of artistic engagement too, because it allows us to challenge and question the material resources we use to make art in the first place.

Amina  28:04  

Definitely, that right there. Fantastic. Yes, I think that's like a whole untapped thing. Because like, I always like the idea of, "I'll give it back to you." Like if you want to be gross to me, I'll give it back to you. At the art work a while ago, there was just like an artist, she took out her hair, the pile of her dirty braids, and like weave and stuff. It's like now you could touch her hair. I was like, "Yes." this idea of like giving it back to them.

Lisa  28:28  

Now you could touch my hair. Wow.

Amina  28:32  

Here you go. Now you can do things with it. Now you can oogle at it. Now you can like fiddle around. It's like, I don't know. It's very interesting to me, this repulsion but also attraction that people have for Black people, Black hair, specifically. Like, even in class it was so interesting. I remember a painting, right? In the corner of it is a chunk of hair. It's like my art signature. It's like a very concentrated chunk of hair. And one of my classmates wouldn't even go near it. He was like, "No offense, no nothing." But he was like, "Hair just freaks me out." He was like, "I love your work. Your work is amazing, but I can't do hair." And it was so interesting to me how having something detached from the body can cause a visceral reaction for [some people].

Lisa  29:08  

Well, that's absolutely true. Well, we know that's true. Shoot, you go to the buffet at the Whole Foods, and you scoop up a thing of chili, and somebody's hair is in there. You're like, "The hell? Garbage." But that's it. It's so interesting to have it on a canvas. And think about it as art. And also there are some people that do have a phobia about hair. It's called something. I don't know what it's called. But there's like a thing that people are afraid of hair. Just like people are afraid of spiders. You know, it's the same kind of phobia. Now I did see this - one of my friends made this really hilarious Tik Tok, and it was kind of like, if you're a natural-haired girl you understand. It looked like it was a spider, but it was really just a hair puff from combing out your hair. I mean, I've done that. Like, "Oh my gosh! Oh no, that's just my baby. That's some leftover braid hair or whatever, you know, something else." But it is about detaching it from the body, but it's not detached from culture. 

Amina  29:08  


Lisa  29:58  

And then once you take that and put it on a canvas, it becomes art that then has reverberating effects reverberating impacts. We talk a lot, for example, about texturism, which is the different types of hair textures that Black folks have. Everyone has different hair textures, but within the Black communities, within Black communities, the texture of your hair also has social weights, social significance. And so it makes me wonder, too, about the connection between textiles and texture. And I think that your project plays with that as well. Right? In what way, when you're weaving in hair, you're also creating a textile out of this textured ... I don't know, it just feels really, really rich. Have you had some sense of discovery, or growth, or revelation, after you've done this work? You've embarked on this study for quite some time. And now you are near the culmination point of it, at least for this phase. Is there anything you've learned, or that's really surprised you, in addition to like one of your colleagues being freaked out that you have hair as a signature?

Amina  31:02  

Well, number one, the main thing has been wanting to scale up, because everything in my practice is just getting bigger. Everything's getting more grand. And it's been very exciting. It's a little artist who makes big things. And it's always kind of hilarious. Yeah, I take a lot of pride in it.

Lisa  31:15  

I love that. 

Amina  31:16  

And yeah, so scaling up is number one. Number two is taking them out of the rectangle. I like the rectangle as a container. I think of it as you know, the Mesopotamian tablets and those like registers of different things in like stone, but taking them into the round, even, or into just weird wonkily shapes. I've also thinking about wearables, textiles.

Lisa  31:39  

I love that. 

Amina  31:40  

Well, hair suits or a giant masquerade suit. Lots of overlapping ideas kind of getting like flung around my mind in my studio. I've also started, you can see up in this corner up here, I've started ... Oh, you know, there's some more of the Weave(ings) over there.

Lisa  31:53  

Oh, yes. Please show us. Oh my gosh, look, ya'll. Oh, wow. I think I see some of these pieces on your IG and on your website?

Amina  32:04  

For sure. This though, I'm starting a new series called "Swatch Proofs" where I take swatches of crochet yarn, I dip them in paint and slap them against paper, and make like model prints. I think it's so fun. And they're just so really pretty. This one is like a granny square. I did another one up here. That's just oh, this is like miracle. This one up here is the first one.

Lisa  32:25  

That one. Yes, yes. The white one with the black. Okay, for us it's on our left side. Yep. Yep, I'm looking right at it. Uh huh. 

Amina  32:31  

Yeah, that was first in that series. Edition one of Swatch Proofs was taking that specific one, which I also used to make like six different paintings, taking that and slapping it against canvas. I made a couple of paintings. 

Lisa  32:44  


Amina  32:44  

Yeah, the paintings are a series called "Soggy Matrix," which ties like a whole... Like I said, I'm very generative. I bounce things around, all over the place.

Lisa  32:51  

This is fantastic. It seems as though that art school, that VCU has kind of done for you what I hope university does or college does for anybody that goes there. And I tell my own students, I'm like, "College here is not designed to help you be where you want to be, what you want to be. College in my mind is designed to help you become who you are. More of who you are. deeper version, louder version, more excited version, equipping you with all types of resources, and possibilities, and ideas. And it seems like you have grown as an artist. Not just from your really excellent foundational training in high school through that program. But also here in Virginia. I'm saying "here" like you're in Charlottesville, but here at VCU, you have really flourished! Looking at your studio where you are right now, it's all around you. Do you ever look around, and you're like, "Oh, I remember when I made that" or "I've come so far!" Do you say things like that to yourself, I hope, nicely?

Amina  33:51  

Daily. I have so much work. Sometimes like I bring other professors in here that like have been following me for a couple of years. And they're like, "Take all your paintings and put them away so you don't see them, and only look at your textiles." Or they'll be like, "Leave these three drawings out and then put everything else away so you can focus." Because I'm literally - I'm on my computer, my desktop. It's like a big work and a bunch on the wall.

Lisa  34:12  

I love those two girls with the pink and the blue dress. Yhat big one with the pink and the blue dress. I can't tell all of what it is because of the angles, but that is stunning. And they're saying, "That's enough. That's enough of that painting. You're on textiles now, ma'am. Let us focus."

Amina  34:28  

I love her though. Yeah, I make so much. I make so much. I'm working on some other yarn sculptures as well. Those are like --

Lisa  34:35  

Yarn ...?

Amina  34:35  

[Do you want to] see those? 

Lisa  34:36  

Yes please. Let us see your yarn [sculptures] because we want to see those.

Amina  34:39  

The actual textile stuff. 

Lisa  34:40  

Yes, we want to see all of it. Oh what?

Amina  34:44  

Well these are me taking my really big crochet hook, and I crochet like giant net-y looking things and then I dump them in paint [unclear] and then they dry really weird. So I've just been playing around with--

Lisa  34:56  

They're beautiful.

Amina  34:58  

I'm also like [unclear] dyeing canvas, and then like cutting that into strips, and then using that for my weavings.

Lisa  35:04  

Yes. Oh, that's a lovely one too.

Amina  35:07  

[There's a] lot of them. Like four --

Lisa  35:09  

It feels like you're trapping air. It's really lovely, y'all. You're gonna wish you had Patreon because this junk is so fyah! This is amazing. Amina, I am so grateful to you. Thank you so much for talking with us today. Well, before we go, I have to ask you our favorite question. The slogan of the Stitch Please podcast is "We will help you get your stitch together." Amina, here you are in your final semester of university. You've been studying, you've been creating, you've been painting and weaving and stitching and all. What advice would you give to our listeners to help us get our stitch together?

Amina  35:46  

I would say number one, be nice to yourself. So you heard that from the world, but be nice to yourself. It's true. It helps. Never tell yourself "No." Amazing advice I got from my aunt that's like literally saved me from missing great opportunities. You are more equipped, I promise, [than] you thank you are. You got this. And number three would be just apply what you know and be confident in what you know. If you do that consistently. something's gonna happen, and it's gonna be good. That's how I'm living.

Lisa  36:10  

I love that. I mean and tell us where we can find you. I will make sure that we have links to all of your things in the notes of this episode, y'all. So Amina's is going to say where you can find her, and then I'll be sure to add the notes. But tell us where can we find you, because we want to find you! 

Amina  36:24  

Y'all can find me at my regular website, That's like my portfolio, my blog and writing, some of my like history and professional stuff. And I also have an art Instagram Savidanima, we're gonna write it down. It's Amina Davis backwards, but Sivadanima. That's my art, my studio stuff, me daily, randomly being a 21-year-old in Richmond. Hit me up, y'all. I'm really nice and bubbly. We can hang out if you're local. 

Lisa  36:50  

This is wonderful. It's been a really great time. I just want to say thank you so much Amina for being with us today. Thank you for making the time. Thank you for being patient with me. I'm sure, I mean, it was like, "What is up with this lady? I really ... she just keeps --"

Amina  37:07  

It's all good! The world is a lot.

Lisa  37:10  

It's a lot. It's a lot. We had such a great time. It was such a great time meeting you in that wonderful spot at the ICA. And so this has been a real treat. Thank you so much. 

Lisa Woolfork  37:23  

You've been listening to Stitch Please, the official podcast of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black lives matter. We appreciate you joining us this week and every week for stories that center Black women, girls, and femmes in sewing. We invite you to join the Black Women Stitch Patreon community. With giving levels beginning at $5 a month, your contributions help us bring the Stitch Please podcast to you every week. Thank you for listening. Thank you for your support, and come back next week, and we'll help you get your stitch together.

Hosted by Lisa Woolfork

Lisa is a fourth-generation sewing enthusiast who learned to sew while earning a PhD in African American literature and culture. She has been sewing for more than twenty years while also teaching, researching, and publishing in Black American literature and culture.

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