Meet This Year's O Bracelet Designers
My art galley represents artists of the African Diaspora, including African-Americans. These artists are committed to depicting all aspects of life, whether through figurative or abstract work. Formerly a physician, but always a collector, I was disappointed at the lack of galleries committed to artists of the African Diaspora. In addition, it was important for me to create a space where we can educate and facilitate art ownership at all levels. I have fulfilled this dream by regularly hosting lectures, making the collection and my resources available to students, and offering ways to make art affordable, particularly in these tough economic times.
The O Bracelet Project: I believe this project offers hope to two groups of women who may have felt alone and without resources in the wake of tragedy. Through coming together, we were able to remind ourselves that we all carry our greatest resources—our talents, our ability to persevere, and our capacity to love—within ourselves and they cannot be taken away even by war or natural disaster. This project also demonstrates that women have always been, and will always remain, able to find and create great beauty even in the face of suffering.
I create edgy found-object art influenced by vintage styles, local color, and reliquaries. My pieces include voodoo dolls, ornaments, decorative objects for the home, and fashion accessories. Growing up in New Orleans, a place that is rich in history and tradition, I developed an appreciation for the spirit of the people—how they celebrate every facet of life, including death. I find beauty in places and objects that are often ignored or forgotten.
The O Bracelet Project: I find it interesting that women across the world are working together on a common goal. It is wonderful that such a simple concept is helping women better their lives. The O Bracelet Project is bringing to light the talents of many known and unknown artists.
I am currently working with acrylics and mixed media on canvas. I am attracted to acrylics because of the versatility and the immediacy of the medium. As a survivor of Hurricane Katrina, I am interested in the transitory, the elusive, the ephemeral, and the transcendent. The urgency that working in acrylics requires speaks to that interest.
The O Bracelet Project: The O project is important to me because all women around the world are my sisters. It gives me the chance to help a part of my family that I otherwise would not have been able to reach.
As a little girl I loved dolls, but I didn't get that many. So I made my own. We lived across from Garfield Park in Chicago, and not having money, I used a lot of things from the park—the earth, tree branches, acorn seeds—to make my dolls. Today in my work I still use products of Mother Nature. I didn't realize that what I did for a hobby was art. It's a peaceful process for me, food for the soul.
The O Bracelet Project: I got to work with a group of great women whose mission is making life better for other women in need all over the world. It has been a wonderful journey meeting my African sistahs, hearing their stories of hardship, and sharing ours. Despite everything, we still find joy in living.
I make quilts and fiber-related objects, including bowls and wall hangings. When I was a teen, I met an avid quilter. She could take scraps of fabric and turn them into something really geometric and beautiful. I thought, "This is what I want to do." I'm inspired by the ability to touch an item and know that it was wrought by a human being into something other than what it was. Recycling also plays an important role in what I do—taking unwearable clothing and transforming it into usable pieces.
The O Bracelet Project: I am honored to work with the Rwandan women. Their strength gives me strength. To be so resourceful and use their art to better the whole community is so honorable. Also, getting to know the very strong and proud women of New Orleans is a thrill. I am Chinese and was taught to be polite and mild tempered, not exposing my true self. Now I'm working with women who exude their pride and culture. Quite an experience! When the last bracelet is done, it will be wonderful and sad all at the same time.
I like to make quilts of all shapes, sizes, and designs. I've always had a passion and fascination for sewing. My grandmother was a hairdresser and seamstress, and when she wasn't doing hair, she made my mom's and aunt's dresses. When I was a child, she taught me how to make dresses for myself and for my dolls! The piece shown here is called “Mother and Child Separation.” It represents how, during slavery in the Antebellum South, it was common for African-American women to be separated from their children.
The O Bracelet Project: I'm glad to be a part of a project that's positive, helping the women of Rwanda gain income so they can provide for themselves and their children. When I met Brigitte (one of the Rwandan women artists for this project), I saw she had great passion and God-given talent that could make a great difference in the lives of the women of Rwanda. I feel blessed to be able to meet and work alongside such beautiful, spiritual, talented women.
I make statement jewelry pieces out of natural stones, gemstones, and organic materials. I love big, bold pieces and I consider my jewelry as timeless as a strand of pearls. I went to college in a small town, and I remember not being able to find jewelry that expressed my sense of style. One day I noticed this cool new bead shop. I hit it off with the owner, who taught beading lessons. I immediately began to wear the pieces that I made, and people kept asking me where I bought my jewelry—and my business was born!
The O Bracelet Project: I am so grateful to be included in this project. I have enjoyed the camaraderie that I have shared with the other artists, and my life will never be the same after meeting the women from Rwanda. The bracelet symbolizes an opportunity to learn, grow, and connect with the ladies of Rwanda and local New Orleans artisans.
I design lampwork, beaded jewelry, and stained and etched glass. My jewelry commemorates the famous Cajun and Creole cuisine of the Crescent City, like chili peppers, red beans and rice, and coffee and beignets. I use a torch at 2500 degrees to shape each individual glass bead. I was intrigued by this medium as a very young child. My grandmother would bead these elaborate, sequined, red felt Christmas skirts to raise money for the New Orleans Animal Shelter. Also, having had an early experience of the Mardi Gras scene, design, color, and detail became my passion.
The O Bracelet Project: What a rewarding experience it is to assist with the healing needs of fellow women, who are using their artistic skills in countries with so little infrastructure. I am so fortunate to be able to enjoy my art while helping others make a living. It encourages me to see our community coming together and becoming many ripples of a sharing circle, which the O Bracelet signifies for me.
I make art that represents the life, love, and music that can be found in New Orleans. My work represents the true essence of being an African-American in this city. That includes spirituality, politics, and family, right along with one of the most famous aspects of our culture, music. I work mainly with acrylic paints, and now recently I have begun incorporating a lot of different types of media, such as fabric and other collage material.
The O Bracelet Project: I remember the first time I saw Hotel Rwanda, I thought to myself, "No!" This could not have really happened like this. But the sad fact is that it did. I loved that this project was about helping the women who had gone through such a traumatic event. It made me realize that Katrina was really just a little bump in the road, and that there are many people in the world experiencing unimaginable atrocities.
I create art primarily in the textile medium, expressing my visions via hand-beaded and hand-sewn works. My late husband participated in a New Orleans masking tradition commonly known as Mardi Gras Indians. This tradition dates back to the 19th century, and consists of African-American men parading through their neighborhoods in elaborate attire of feathers, stones, beads, rhinestones, velvet, and other materials. This unique form of cultural theater retains many aspects of traditional West-African heritage. After we were married, I began to help my husband prepare his attire for each Mardi Gras season, thus honing my beading and stoning skills to a high degree of proficiency. We are well known for our detailed craftsmanship, and have passed this skill to our children and grandchildren.
The O Bracelet Project: It's a privilege to work with other women, especially those from Rwanda. Their strength and courage have been an inspiration. I am awestruck by their creativity and artistry, which they demonstrate in spite of their country's recent painful history. The resolve they have shown is without comparison. I am honored to have been a part of The O Bracelet Project. I feel that we all have a responsibility to reach out to our fellow man and woman in the attempt to hopefully leave this place a little better than we found it.
I mainly draw but also love to paint. Pen and ink and acrylics lend themselves well to what I try to achieve on paper and canvas. These mediums allow for manipulation, and visually say what I am not always able to say in words. My art reflects what I see in myself and others, and my vision of the world. It usually takes on a feminine feel with soft lines that flow in an Impressionistic style. I almost always have women and/or children as the focus in my work.
The O Bracelet Project: This project allowed me to "come out" as an artist and ultimately begin the healing process that must take place after a loss. When Hurricane Katrina took away a lifetime of art work, I was left wondering, "How do I call myself an artist with no art?" This project forced me to listen to my inner voice and to face the fact that without my paints, brushes, pens, and inks—my friends—I was just a shell of myself.
I'm an associate professor of art at Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans, so I do more teaching than art these days. There are several young boys who come by my studio wanting to make things. When they saw I was working on these bracelets, they wanted to try. We work as a team. In the process, they have learned about Rwanda and what happened there.
My art specialty is beadweaving, which I've been doing since Katrina. I wanted to do something different since my retirement from the medical field.
The O Bracelet Project: The O project means I can help the women of Rwanda become independent. I am proud to be able to participate in this project.
I bead and sew Mardi Gras Indian costumes. I started making these works of art over 45 years ago when I married a man who has become an icon known the world over: Mardis Gras Indian Chief "Tootie" Montana. He taught me how to sew and bead his costumes. He was known for his beautiful and elaborate costumes, and it was an honor for me to be a part of the process. I have passed on this sacred tradition to my children and grandchildren, and feel lucky to still be able to contribute to this little-known art form.
The O Bracelet Project: When I found out that this project would help the women of Rwanda, it touched my heart and I wanted to help. It was not always easy to work on these lovely bracelets, but I kept going because it was such a good cause.
My work is centered around handmade paper, which has been my specialty for many years. However, I also do watercolor, oil paintings, graphic arts, various crafts, paper-made sculptures, bookmaking, and jewelry making. I love making paper, as I am keen on the importance of recycling—reviving something that to the eyes of many is already dead. I also find ecology and nature so captivating. Ripping, transforming, pasting, cutting, constructing all blend into a language of my own, giving me the necessary tools to express myself. Creating is my mission, through which I give warmth, hope, and happiness—my way of inspiring jubilation in my environment.
The O Bracelet Project: I was very attracted to the purpose of this project and its cause. It's a beautiful opportunity to be able to help other women. All human beings have value and potential. All we need sometimes is a little push, some support from others. I feel very honored to learn something new while supporting other women—not just with my heart and attitude, but also with my hands.
I paint, construct sculpture, and quilt. As a self-taught artist working with acrylics, oils, and pastels, my work has been described by one critic as "colorful and expressionistic, with big brush strokes, reminiscent of 'primitive art.'" My sculptures are assemblages of everyday, free resources. I recycle many different materials. My efforts in this medium are nourished by New Orleans' quest for neighborhood and architectural preservation. The expression goes, "One man's trash is another man's treasure." In my case, one man's discard is this woman's art. Since 2000, my occupation has been restoring fine, handmade rugs and textiles. I have my own business, "Natural Weavings." Recently, I've been working with a quilt group that uses African-American designs and materials.
The O Bracelet Project: When my father went to Rwanda two years ago, I asked him to try to locate some women who did weaving or textile crafts so my quilting group could communicate with them and possibly share a quilt project. So when I was invited to participate in The O Bracelet Project, I was hooked. It was like a call from God. It was as if there was an invisible string connecting the ladies in Rwanda with all of us here. This project is a dream come true.
My work is multi-media, using painting, digital printmaking, photography, and installation. The goal of my art is to introduce a different cultural view of the world. I am a Latina, and for the past ten years I have been exploring the confusing roles of the Latina woman in the 20th and 21st centuries. It is my goal to confront society's stereotypical depictions of minorities and change them to an image of pride. My recent artwork was my reaction to the catastrophe of Katrina. The images are of the Aztec and Mayan gods and goddesses of wind, rain, rivers, flood, and hurricanes. I was calling on the divine for inspiration and therapy; I was calling on my ancestors to help New Orleans and its citizens.
The O Bracelet Project: Working on the O bracelet program means a great deal to me. It has brought me together with women artists I haven't seen since the storm. It has giving me a connection with wonderful women in Rwanda. I am grateful that I can use my skills as an artist to benefit other women in need. This project has filled my heart with love for women I have not met.
I make traditional and art quilts, decorative items, wall hangings, clothing, and accessories, using all types of fabric. I knit, crochet, bead, and paint, sometimes all at once; most of my work is embellished. I am a "fabric-holic." I started quilting because of lack of money. I bought a quilted apron and potholder kit, for $1.00, one Christmas in the late '60s. All my family and friends received aprons and potholders that Christmas. I thought, "If I can make aprons, surely I could make a whole quilt." One of my inspirations is the Mardi Indians at every Mardi Gras in the 7th Ward. Seeing their elaborate costumes, I just had to experiment with beads, feathers, marvelous colored fabric, cardboard, and wire. It has not ended yet; I am still experimenting and learning.
The O Bracelet Project: I was so excited to join this project. I met artists in the community that I did not know personally, and reunited with artists I do know. We are supporting each other's art and rebuilding our destroyed homes from the levee break and wind damages due to Hurricane Katrina. I felt such a bond with the women from Rwanda. Even though our tragedy is not the same, we both have a sense of financial, community, and family loss. It is an amazing feeling, women helping women through our art to sustain our lives.
My work is an evolution of contemporary African-influenced, mixed-media art. I use pencil, ink, cardstock, polymer clay, imported African cloth, and other fibers to create unique one-of-a-kind art pieces depicting women dancing, singing, and praising in celebration of life. I've always drawn and made costume jewelry, and 10 years ago I taught myself to use polymer clay to make Afrocentric beads. These made my jewelry unique and prompted me to create a dancing sister brooch, clothed in African fabrics. That brooch ultimately evolved into a series of framed mix-media art works that are lively and fun.
The O Bracelet Project: The O project is an opportunity for me and other women to use our skills as artists to assist in making jewelry that financially benefits women in Rwanda, and that brings attention to the plight of women in Rwanda and around the world.
See all five bracelets