Earamichia Brown always wanted to be a fashion designer. But she always excelled at academics, so she started her career as a lawyer. Now she follows her dreams and communicates her passions through fiber art. Her left brain and right brain work together beautifully to create meaningful images in fiber.
Why do you call your website “Cocktails and Thread”? What do you hope visitors will gain by visiting?
Cocktails and Thread started 20 years ago. While in New York City for a few years working as an Assistant District Attorney and settling into the legal world, I decided to go back to my original love of fashion. So I took one of those, now popular, make classes. I signed up to learn to make a skirt and sundress at this loft studio on the lower east side. It was a multi-week class and upon arrival I met a handful of young women from a variety of ethnic, cultural and professional backgrounds. I was the outlier as the lawyer, but we dubbed ourselves the United Colors of Fashion Class girls. The teacher said we were allowed to have drinks during the class, and we would go out for drinks and appetizers after. Thus: Cocktails and Thread. We usually sported pieces of Thread on our clothing when we were out.
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Cocktails and Thread has become so much more since those early days. It remained my connection to my creative identity. I often operate both parts of my brain simultaneously, and well, sipping and creating requires the brain function of both sides as well. So my website is an extension of that. It has clean lines, and I would venture to say very modular and linear in style. Then you are infused with color and creative eye candy. Imagery, that in my mind, is opposite of the structure that is presented.
How did you find yourself on an artist’s path? Always there? Lightbulb moment? Dragged kicking and screaming? Evolving?
This legal eagle of a woman, that is me, wanted to be a fashion designer first and foremost. I had always been tracked in intellectually gifted programs throughout my primary education, but I also sought the creative arts as well. At the time I attended Fashion Industries still required a higher level of traditional educational core work. Clearly, I was talented enough to pass the entrance exams and the portfolio reviews to be accepted. However, in the late 80s there were not many examples of successful black women in the fashion world. Certainly, Project Runway had not been an option for exposure. So, desiring stability, I went for plan B and became a lawyer. (Insert laughter here. I always chuckle at the reminder.) However, the creative goddess, always the jealous lover, was never far away.
Why textiles? Why quilting?
I often made small items as gifts over the years through college and law school. I didn’t focus on the arts as greatly as I may have wanted during my undergrad and graduate years. While in the DA’s office I needed to find a release from the pressures and stress of my life. So I started knitting because it allowed me to bring my projects to court and be productive while I waited for cases to be called, prisoners produced, and defense attorneys to show up for the cases. Then the items became presents during the holiday season or birthdays etc.
Occasionally, I dabbled in making clothes. I made knitted coats and sweaters, etc. In 1999 I believe, a colleague of mine invited me to a holiday party where I met his then girlfriend (now, still married, loving wife.). Miranda decided to start a quilting bee. Now we laugh about my recollection of why she wanted to start it. I recall it having to do with Miranda wanting a chance for a group of women to get together and plan a world takeover. But I am sure that was merely my justification for taking the time every month to go drinking and learning how to quilt from the book Quilting for Dummies with a random group of women I had just met. We did everything by hand.
That experience was the springboard to my buying a sewing machine and realizing fabric was cheaper than yarn- being a yarn snob didn’t help. Beginning with quilted coasters, pillows, placemats and other quilted items, it became a more inexpensive method of making and giving gifts. It also saved me many hours of knitting. Fast forward to Katrina and the the aftermath, loss and devastation. My aunt had lost all of her art work in that storm and years later, I made her a quilt for the wall. I painted, quilted, and embellished the piece and discovered I truly enjoyed working with textile as a medium for my artistic expression.
What do you learn about who you are through your creative endeavors?
I am still discovering who I am going to be when I grow up. Smiles. I believe my creative endeavors are showing me all the possibilities that reside within my existence. Recently, I launched a subscription pocket square business called Be Squared that literally came about by chance. I would make pocket squares with unique fabric pieces that I had and send them to dear friends. Then it was suggested that I do this for others and a few months later, I am www.BeSQD.com. Creating this business has pushed my artistic abilities in the design and development of my website, the marketing materials, images for social media promotion, and my choices in how I curate the collections.
I am discovering that there are no limits. Undoing two decades of being an attorney first hasn’t been easy. Exploring and expanding creatively shows me the strength that exists when you are whole and integrated. So I am pulling together the scattered fragments of myself and stitching them to the me that has always wanted to be. I am all the parts that make up my whole. This was evidenced recently in a radio interview I participated in on the 70th anniversary of the United Declaration of Human Rights. On a panel with politicians, university professors, a renowned lawyer and journalist, I was there discussing a piece that I created for an exhibit that is traveling, visioning humans rights in the new millennium- curated by Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi. However, I was both Attorney and Artist, and that whole minded connection felt incredible.
What inspires you? Are there recurring themes in your work?
Ha. Sorry, I am currently working through a SAQA mentorship program with Deborah Boschert as my Mentor, and that very concept of theme is a theme. Lol. I am all over the place, when it comes to inspiration. However, if I think of a theme that recurs, I would say in the recent past, it has been connecting with that inner child. I have made a number of pieces that have a correlation to the healing of that little girl inside of me.
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
Oh yes. I recently moved from New York City, where I had one room that housed everything. So now I have a creative dome. I have a data area and entry space that allows me to work on the computer, print, and access a larger design space, just in case the design walls in the two rooms are filled. Then from this open area I have two rooms side by side. One room has my main machines, a Juki and a Babylock Quest plus, and a second room has my Juki Virtuoso Pro sit down long arm. Of course, the requisite storage and cutting tables, etc. are all neatly packed away.
Are there indispensable tools and materials in your studio? How do they improve your work?
Being blessed to have multiple machines is integral to my work. I don’t have to worry about taking a project off of a machine because I need to piece or do some other task. My other lifeline is Misty Fuse. It is my everything product – I can create more efficiently and not worry about pins and things slipping away. So I can tack things down and reposition them, and it provides me with the flexibility and efficiency to get my ideas completed.
What is your favorite storage tip for your fabric and creative supplies?
IKEA’s Antonius, with the wire baskets, for my fabric.
Also, regular see-through plastic shoe bins for pens and all other items like that. And of course the IKEA fabric shoe box to separate and store all the fixings for a project.
What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, movies? What kind?
What day is today? On any given day, you will have R&B, dancehall, pop music, House music, jazz, classical, gospel. But be assured there will be music. Recently, I find that if I am quilting something quick I may have a romance novel playing in the background. But I find it hard to hear and may lose focus on a key portion of an audiobook while the machine is going. Rarely, if ever, am I in silence.
How do you make time for creating? Do you try to create daily?
That is a million dollar question. As of today, I will let you know when I figure that out. Prior to my move, it was more purposeful because I was in the office full time and had to cram in the hours to complete the flow of ideas that would manifest themselves. But today, everyday is something creative, whether, writing, drawing, envisioning my next quilt, etc.
When you begin to create, do you have a finished product in mind? Or does the work evolve?
I tend to have an end idea of what I want. However, it will definitely evolve as I pull out fabric and start the process.
How many projects do you have going at once? Or do you focus on one creative project at a time?
As many as I have in my mind, are as many that are going on. But at any given time, I have at least three or four in the queue.
How do you get unstuck creatively? Is there anything special that you do to get into a creative mindset?
Call my quilty friends. They will usually tell me to sit and sew something together. So that creates the in-between time and the because-I-was-bored quilts. Lol.
Do you think that creativity comes naturally to people – or do you think creativity is a skill that people can develop?
I believe everyone is creative in some fashion. Whether they are the next Basquiat or Warhol is all subjective. But I believe creativity is an expression of desire. As such you can develop the skills to express that desire.
What piece of work makes you most proud? Why?
The piece, “Simple Joy”, that I just completed. It is the first time I completed something that depicts my image. And, more importantly, it truly expresses my current state of being.
When you’re not making art, what other interests do you have?
Learning new things, golfing, creating new businesses, cooking, creating new delicious cocktails, and writing.
Which fiber artists do you follow? What draws you to their work?
I follow my friends mostly, I guess I don’t follow for inspiration. A wide variety of quilty folk that are talented in a variety of ways inspire me. I follow Hollis Chatelain because her work and use of dye is breathtaking to me. I have been fortunate to take her class and spend time in that creative space with her. Jill Kerttula is a recent discovery, but I haven’t followed her as yet.
For fear of being influenced by what I see, I think I have shied away from following people. But I recently started looking at the work of Charles White because he created works that seem to touch me within and I wanted to learn more about how he created in a way that evokes so much feeling. I follow my photographer friend, Milton Washington – Slicky Boy Studios, because we have collaborated and I have created some of my coolest quilts using his photographs for inspiration.
What’s next for you?
The Sky, the Moon and Stars. Smiles. I have no idea, which I have learned for someone like me is an amazing thing. It means that I am truly in a new space.
Now the other side of my brain would say, continue to create work that speaks to people. So show my work in more venues and enter more shows. Then continue to add to my artistic resume, with the participation of shows, exhibits, inclusion in books, and have a solo show. All while continuing to grow as a fiber artist and remain relevant in a world that is battling with the need for instant gratification and mass visual consumption.
I do not want to have to produce for the sake of feeding a public that seeks the next thing, moments after consuming the art that took hours, days, months to create.
Interview posted December 2018
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