Celebrating Black Makers, Always. Meet The Makers!
The last day of February marks the end of Black History Month in the US and Canada, an annual observance that celebrates the history and contributions of African Americans. It is also a time of deep reflection on the significant achievements and struggles of African Americans—and the collective work that still needs to be done to attain true equality.
Dr. Carter G. Woodson, an American historian, founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) to “raise awareness of African Americans’ contributions” and chronicle the Black experience in the United States (The Library of Congress). The ASNLH established Negro History Week in 1925 with that purpose and more than 50 years later, Negro History Week officially became Black History Month—a time to celebrate the transformative achievements of Black Americans. Each year the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (formerly the ASNLH) chooses a theme for Black History Month, not to restrain the exploration of the Black experience, but ultimately to gain and focus the public’s attention on important issues (ASALH). Read about this year’s Black History Month Theme,“Black Resistance”.
In 2019 it was found that the median household income for Black households was $46,073 compared to that of $76,057 for Caucasian/White households (Wilson). Etsy’s 2020 Seller Census highlighted the disparities in opportunities and challenges that face Black makers. More than any other race/ethnicities, Black sellers reported inconsistent sales and business/brand marketing and promotion as the top financial challenges facing their business (Etsy). With racial disparities in income as a barrier today, the need for targeted investments and solutions for Black makers who face systemic challenges is ever-present (Nest).
Elevating Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) makers and increasing representation in the craft space is core to Nest’s Makers United program year-round. The program is building a more vibrant and inclusive makers movement, supporting maker entrepreneurs who have faced systemic challenges and barriers to accessing the resources they need to increase their incomes and grow their businesses. Since 2019, Nest has delivered programming and targeted resources across the US to 1,396 makers, 35% of which are African American or Black-owned and led businesses (Nest).
While we are intent on making the Maker Movement more diverse and inclusive now and in the future, we are excited to highlight five inspirational Black-owned businesses in our Makers United community this month:
Sarah Miller is the owner of and maker behind Awkward Auntie, a line of hand-dyed, hand-poured concrete home decor including small items like trays, candles and planters. In the second half of 2018, she began using cement as her medium to create fun planters and candles for herself, friends and family; they encouraged her to sell her pieces. She’s currently based in both Austin and her hometown in New Hampshire.
Atiwo Designs is a handmade jewelry brand based out of Seattle, WA. Dorianne Attiogbe, the founder, handcrafts all the pieces using mainly polymer clay as well as other mediums, such as African beads. She draws her inspiration from her West African background, which gave her a love for vibrant colors and bold patterns.
Depart with Art
Based in Chicago and founded by Enjoli DuBose (EJ), Depart with Art (DWA) is crafting organic products including beard balms, goat’s milk soaps, essential-oil based soy candles, with love and intention. DWA is specially dedicated to victims affected by gun violence. In their honor, DWA donates a portion of proceeds to anti-violence organizations.
Virginia Felix is a ceramicist born and bred in Brooklyn, New York exploring the dichotomy between function and form. She designs decorative and sculptural vessels using the unpredictability of clay. Her work ranges from tableware and lighting to creative projects.
In 2019 she launched keraclay, a collection of handmade pieces designed with a distinct perspective on style without compromising functionality. All pieces are handcrafted with an obsessive attention to detail using recycled clay out of a shared Brooklyn studio.
Based in San Francisco, furniture maker and designer Dominique (they/them/theirs) started Oaksmith Furniture to make handcrafted, custom furniture accessible for all. In addition to custom furniture, Oaksmith also offers limited edition gifts and decorative objects made by hand. In an effort to run a zero-waste shop, each piece is designed and crafted using excess material they have collected over the years from past projects. All their materials are sourced from local businesses in the Bay Area.
All photos courtesy of Awkward Auntie, Atiwo Designs, Depart with Art, Keraclay, and Oaksmith.
The Artisan Voices blog explores the histories, experiences, pivotal moments, and innovative initiatives in an artisan or maker business while celebrating craft, community, and culture.
Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). “Black History Themes.” ASALH, https://asalh.org/black-history-themes/.
Etsy. Global Etsy Seller Census. 2020, https://s22.q4cdn.com/941741262/files/doc_financials/2021/q1/v2/GLOBAL-COMPILED_2020-Etsy-Seller-Census_DIGITAL-(1).pdf
Nest.The State of the Handworker Economy. 2022, https://www.buildanest.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/Nest-State-of-the-Handworker-Economy-Report-US-Edition.pdf
The Library of Congress. “Black History Month.” Black History Month, https://blackhistorymonth.gov/about/.
Wilson, V. “Racial disparities in income and poverty remain largely unchanged amid strong income growth in 2019.” Economic Policy Institute: Working Economics Blog. 2020.