Art and Living Spaces

Monday, October 08, 2018

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AW Fashion checked into SPACES last Saturday to catch the buzz on five female artisans at a “sip, shop, and support local” pop-up event, part of the week-long schedule of events for the Jamaica Observer Design Week JA 2018 - presented by Kohler. The women open their portfolios…

[Alicia Thomas]

Marketing and data analytics intern Alicia Thomas is the face behind aMarie Art. Less than two years ago, Thomas was commissioned by a friend to create a statement piece for her home. That first painting and subsequent Instagram post launched her career. As an employee at Sagicor, Thomas was tapped to curate pieces for the company's employee showcase. She had the bright idea to design paperweights and desktop art. “If you go to Sagicor now, my art pieces will be in almost every manager's office,” she said. In addition, Thomas expressed gratitude for DeZign Diva Karen Booker, who saw her works at Cannonball Café, circa 2016, and used them in her interior design television programme.

The “not-so-typical pop art”, according to the artist and multiple-degree holder, “will brighten any space”. This, she suggests, sets her apart from her contemporaries.

Her current focus is building her e-commerce website, and the long-term goal is to expand her international reach – currently, Thomas has art pieces in five restaurants and several homes across Florida. She has since created area rugs, paperweights, handbag hangers, abstract artwork, and continues to think out of the box for the next chapter of aMarie Art.


[Ayanna Dixon]

Fashion designer and illustrator Ayanna Dixon, creator of the ASD line of apparel, stationery, art, décor pieces, and tea mugs, started the brand on a whim in 2010, and has since been riding a wave of success. Dixon is planning an upcoming project with B3 Parenting magazine's Island Child Style event, and a colouring book to empower young girls. AW Fashion gets an update.


All Woman Fashion (AWF): Take us back to that first creative itch. How did you get your start in the industry?

Ayanna Dixon (ASD): I started as a Pulse model and would often sit in for Jamaica Observer shoots. Thereafter, I began working at the lifestyle desk and editor Novia McDonald-Whyte – who, after attending Milan Fashion Week one year – brought me a T-shirt with an illustration on it. Naturally, my colleagues, who'd always caught me doodling on my notepads, urged me to start making illustrations on T-shirts. I started with hand-painted shirts and swimsuits, and I've been growing with the brand ever since.


AWF: Save for your innovative designs, what sets your works apart?

ASD: ASD is about island vibes and contributing to sisterhood: empowering girls and women, being your sister's keeper, and having something to add to the conversation.


AWF: What is your end goal, and does it involve the arts?

ASD: My goal was to become the Donna Karan of the Caribbean, which has since shifted to me becoming the most-sought after illustrator from the Caribbean.


[Karlene Torey]

Karlene Torey is a former Air Jamaica flight attendant, who started creating serving trays over 10 years ago. The founder/owner of CREOLE wore a two-toned printed caftan and white capris to her SPACES exhibition. Torey recalls being heavily inspired by an artsy mother; the pulse of Manhattan – which she would experience on layovers; and SkyWritings, Air Jamaica's inflight magazine, which compelled her to attend trade shows, before delving into honing her craft. She decided a “funner life in the arts” would be the course, and therefore started to formulate her designs. The first concept was a serving tray with an illustration of female Blue Mountain coffee in the fields.

Torey is a lover of textile work, and wishes to expand into batik-and-textile printing. She currently has a collection of ceramics, tea-for-one mugs, placemats, jugs, vanity trays, cheese boards, platters and serving utensils for the household.


[Symerna Blake]

“Antillean Charm specialises in ceramic flora and fauna, sculpted in clay, hand-painted and mounted in Blue Mahoe shadow boxes,” shared Symerna Blake, the self-taught artisan-owner of Antillean Charm, who captures essences of nature and moulds it in a cosmopolitan way.

Blake, who is a corporate marketing exec by day and craftsman by night, started creating when her day job required her to procure gifts for customers, clients, etc. She's always been artistic, and therefore felt like she had something to offer, but thought of her art as a side hustle, instead of a full-time profession. Working in the corporate world made her realise that there's a market for her pieces.

“It took me about five years to get to this point, as I'm still working my full-time job and teaching myself the craft,” she informs. Blake continues to strike a balance between work and, well, woodwork. “My vacation time is spent in workshops and studios, learning from experienced artisans. Half of the week, I'm covered in sawdust, and the other half, I'm covered in clay.” With her works, Blake invites everyone to pause and smell the tropics.


[Victoria Silvera]

Touch by VLS artist and creative director Victoria Silvera is as bold as her spike teapots. The ceramicist, whose fashion sense mirrors her unexpected hand, has released a new line of miniature magnets in her signature coral design, and a line of ceramic keyrings to match. Here's how it all began...


All Woman Fashion (AWF): Take us back to that first creative itch. How did you get your start in the industry?

Victoria Silvera (VS): I returned home from New York, and took up pottery classes to kill time. In addition, I was a personal assistant on film sets, from commercials to public service announcements; I decided to take an art class with Norma Harrack, where I learned to make teapots. Soon after, Michael Fox from EITS Café commissioned a set of cups (my very first order).


AWF: Save for your innovative designs, what sets your works apart?

VS: In terms of gifting, there's a great satisfaction in knowing that something is made in Jamaica – borne of the Jamaican innovative spirit. I think I've truly innovated new techniques as well. My work has an organic feel that's also very modern, versatile and adaptable, filled with innovation and “pluckiness” that also embodies where I am in my journey.


AWF: What is your end goal, and does it involve the arts?

VS: I looked back on my business plan recently and there was a quote that read “growth without purpose is the philosophy of a cancer cell”, and I think about that all the time. When I started out I wanted to be a household name, I wanted to be a global brand, and be the best in the Caribbean. It's not the same anymore. Now, I want to continue doing commercial work; I like to be accessible, I would like to do a proper exhibition and continue to market my work abroad to get into that niche market.


AWF: And, finally, what is your approach to fashion?

VS: Fashion? I like what I like. Sometimes I'm a little girly; sometimes, I'm funky and cool; sometimes kinda boyish. I like my two-toned shoes, if I could find a bolo [tie] to go with it I'd wear it.




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