I can finally share the details to something that has been secretly brewing! I mean, I wanted to share about it more, but you know how that goes. If it doesn't happen right away, all people hear is yea, yea, yea. So I kept my head down and got to work. Life has its way of accelerating you in different directions, and that's when things get VERY interesting. For a while I've been gathering inspiration, knowledge, and brilliance from some of the industries most amazing, magical, and dopest POC. Introducing, "Interviews : The Black Maker" . Episode 1 starts off with no other than the gracious Malene B Atelier. Featured in Domino Mag, Architectural Digest and many more national publications, Malene was sweet enough to grace The Nappy Bohemian and spread all her good juice.
Talking with Malene was a true honor. She radiates all types of grace and confidence. She is an artist by nature, flipping through various mediums with style and grace. She is a creative influencer with a philanthropic vision. She is also the amazing creator of The Bad Guild (Black Artist + Designers Guild). BADG is a curated collective of Black Artists + Designers throughout the African diaspora. Here's how it went:
TNB: "How did you get into Ceramics?"
Malene: "I decided to take a ceramics class at a local studio, and coming from a 20 year rug design background, it came natural for me. It was just using a different medium. I started painting clay for about a year first. I started subscribing to different magazines and increasing my exposure."
TNB: "Love that it just came natural to you. Now for me, when I walk into a room, i'm used to being the only or first in the room. How do you handle the diversity in ceramics? Do you feel like we are represented the same?"
Malene: "When I created rugs I experienced the feeling of being viewed as different, but with clay, we have a such long history of using this medium historically. It felt natural and apart of me already so I didn't have to struggle to feel like I need to fit in."
Malene talked about how welcoming clay felt and how natural it was to her. She explained how dominant clay making is within our lineage. When she talks about clay making, I legit feel a certain rich history within her that made me feel a certain ownership of the art that I'd never felt before. I thought of beautiful women in tribes in Africa adorning their hair in the rich red clay and all the melanated men covered in clay mixtures used for vanity, practical and spiritual purposes.
TNB: "Do you have a certain strategy you can share for building exposure for the makers that are just starting out?"
Malene: "You just have to be clear with who your clients are, and really go for those people. It takes time, and when you are first starting off it is a lot of experimenting to see what works, but you have to analyze whats working and go to those clients."
TNB: "How do you handle the copy cats?"
Malene: "I don't. I just don't experience that. I try not to look at other people's work as inspiration, and neither should others. You have to find the real sources of inspiration."
Malene made it clear that we should appreciate each others work, but finding the source of inspiration is the key. Be inspired by things in its natural form, the trees, the wind, the people, etc. I talked with her about seeing completed work, and wanting to recreate that idea and she single handedly debunked that like a true artisan would. I realized more so, that you can stay original in a world full of reposts and Pinterest pins by finding your own interpretation sparked from the original sources.
TNB: "Did you ever have to change your vision or road to get here?"
Malene: "Of course! You have to shift with the market and evolve, that's how you grow as an artist."
TNB: "Any advice for other makers looking to get started in ceramics?"
Malene: "Just go take a class. You just have to commit to starting. It's not hard to start, but you do have to start."
And for fun...
TNB: Whats your favorite ice-cream?
Malene: "Tofutti, Vanilla Almond Bark. Its non-dairy, but you still shouldn't eat too much."
Thanks Malene! It was such an honor to talk, and I look forward to owning some of your work!
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