SUPER COOL SCIENTISTS

 

Super Cool Scientists, written by Sara MacSorley and illustrated by Yvonne Page, is a celebration  of women scientists making waves in their fields. From physicist LaNell Williams to paleontologist Michelle Barboza, Super Cool Scientists tells the stories of diverse scientists who are using their creativity and compassion to better understand our world, take care of our planet, and conserve our vital ecosystems. 

As Sara MacSorley writes in the dedication: "Super Cool Scientists is also for all the women out there, right now, doing incredible things in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. It is for the women who are bringing others with them on their journeys as mentors—we want to lift as we climb. It is for all the women who have come before us to pave the way for our opportunities. It is for all the women, and men, who will come after us and continue our important work in science mentorship and inclusion."

This inspiring coloring book is proof that representation matters. Paging through, I marveled at how many stories I knew next to nothing about—and how many women are bettering the world that I live in through their work in the labs and in the fields. When I shared this coloring book with a friend's daughter, it was such a gift to see her joy. My hope is that books like Super Cool Scientists will inspire young women to pursue their passions, find meaningful work in the sciences, and believe in their power to tell their own stories. Herewith, creator Sara and I talk about writing new narratives and creativity. 

LOAM: What inspired you to create this book?

SARA: I've always been interested in science. My first degree is in Marine Biology! I wanted to be a researcher until I had my first research project my junior year of college and realized that I didn't like it. Although no one else told me what to do with a science degree, I had some really great people in my professional world so I had several jobs that gave me the opportunity to be around the science without doing research. 

I eventually came to Connecticut to work for Green Street Art Center. I felt like I had veered off course from having science in my life and I missed it. I was looking for something that brought more science into my life at the same time as I was searching for different ways to manage my anxiety. Coloring was part of my toolkit, but when you googled "women and science coloring books", nothing came up. That was the lightbulb moment. I coordinated a Kickstarter for the project and did the whole "learn-as-I-go" thing!

LOAM: How do you hope your book will encourage readers to write new narratives for themselves?

SARA: Representation matters. You can find your mentors and inspiration in all kinds of people but it's easier when they look like you. Throughout the whole book, I tried to provide as many touch points for connection as possible for readers. I wanted to show not only what [these scientists] do now, but what they like to do with their families. As far as writing new narratives, it was important for me to include a really wide range of science fields. From communications to research to policy. When you are working in the field you do a mix of those things so I didn't want it to be a book of just people in lab coats. The more you are exposed to what the options are, the more [empowered you are] to write your own narrative. That's why I included resources in the back. 

LOAM: How did you choose the featured scientists?

SARA: Some of the scientists were women that I looked up to during my own science journey like Drs. Sylvia Earle and Ashanti Johnson and so I wanted to tell their stories more! They were really excited about it. Some of the others scientists were from connections I made when I worked in Rhode Island. 

LOAM: Why is exploring the environment through art important to you?

SARA: Both science and art are about creativity. Being a scientist and designing experiments is a really creative process. A lot of the women in the book have their own creative pursuits outside of their science work!

Part of my interest in science was growing up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and wanting to learn about everything growing beneath the water. Time spent in nature as a kid truly spurred this interest in how the world worked in me. And I think that's a really important way that science and art interact—because at the end of the day, both are about understanding how things work.

 

 

CRESCENT COLLECTION

WORDS: KATE WEINER & MARINA BONNIN

IMAGES: TULA PLANTS & DESIGN

I first discovered the work of Marina Bonnin through Tula, a vibrant resource that inspires a deep love for plant life. I had been following Tula on Instagram for many months and was always inspired by their bodacious plants and beautiful arrangements. I particularly fell for Marina's Crescent Collection, a gorgeous series of inky blue-black planters that are a heavenly home for slithering snake plants and ghost white cacti. 

I grew up in a home filled with plants and to this day, I feel most at peace in a little Eden. Part of the reason I resonate so deeply with the work of Tula and Marina is that plant life for me is not only about tending to a living, growing, breathing being; it's also an opportunity to infuse my everyday with beauty, to celebrate craft, and to be in colorful conversation with plants. Housing plants in homemade ceramics helps us transform our living spaces into sanctuaries and honor those blossoming botanical beauties who give us life. 

Inspired by Marina's wild ceramics that evoke the sea, soil, and night sky, I recently reached out to Marina to learn more about her creative process. Tune in as Marina shares her meditations on making. I hope her reflections will move you as they have moved me to be fearless with your art—to bring mindfulness into your work as well as a spirit of adventure. 

 

LOAM: What inspired you to be a potter?
MARINA: I think it’s the wide range of possibilities that pottery gives me. The material has been used since the beginning of our existence and it still surprises us! It's raw, handmade, it's technical, experimental, it's chemistry...I have said this before but for me [pottery is] like the cookie jar that never ends, a world of endless possibilities.


LOAM: How do you find inspiration in your landscape?
MARINA: The landscape has always limited and expanded my work in different ways. I am used to arriving to a place and making the most with what I have, and that has affected my art practice. I have lived and practiced in London, San Francisco, Stockholm, Mallorca, New York and I spent some months in Japan. When the space has been provided. I made sculptures, and where there was a wheel, I pottered. I love learning from masters in different places and working with the ceramic materials that the place has to offer.

It was not until last year that I found my own voice instead of letting the wind of the landscape guide me. [Right now] two defined landscapes have decided to reside in me and give me a voice, One is the calmness and the sea of Mallorca; the other is the disruption of the city, the noises, the smoke. You can see this juxtaposition in my last work made in collaboration with Tula House.


LOAM: What experiences and emotions fuel your creative process?
MARINA: Two main emotions drive me. One is the mindfulness that gives me the practice of pottery. The process of [working at the] wheel is one in which you are totally present. You cease to exist [when you are throwing]; there is no place for memories or debate, only the intuition that your hands have developed through the process of repetition.


The second emotion starts during the process of glazing. I like to be quite rough and disruptive [when I am glazing] and sometimes it can get intense. I think the experiences that led me to those emotions come from my time in Japan. [In Japan] tradition and futuristic elements are equal parts of society, and so contradictory elements can coexist and beneficiate from each other.


LOAM: How does living with plants help us live fuller lives?
MARINA: I am a believer that plants and beauty improve your wellbeing. To be surrounded by colorful organic forms that live and breathe in my house just makes me feel happier. And having plants gives life to your house, literally.

Plants also purify the air. Even more importantly, when I enter a house full of plants my perception of my host changes completely. [When I see plants in a home] I immediately think of my host as a caring and loving person that appreciates all form of life. It takes time, patience and care to make those beings beautiful and I think that can give you a lot as a person.


LOAM: Tell us more about your collaboration with Tula!
MARINA: Christian & Ivan from Tula and I decided to venture out ourselves in the production of the project Crescent. It has been a really productive and enjoyable collaboration in which every potted plant has become a true work of art. There is a curatorial part of Tula that I love, and they know so much about plants it's crazy! One of my favorite collaborations is this one: I will make a crazy pot, in the manner described before, very peacefully and very mindfully, and then I may punch it or kick it or disrupt it in some way. In the same way, Tula will be very caring and mindful of the plant's needs—when to prune, re-pot, irrigation system, kind of soil, light—and then they will be totally creative with which plant goes with what pot and make the wildest and craziest juxtaposition. In this sense I believe every potted plant in the Crescent Collection is a work of art.

 

FOLLOW MARINA ON INSTAGRAM @MIXING_SOUP

 

 

 

MEET OUR ARTIST-IN-RESIDENCE ELLEN JULIA BROWN

Dear Loam,

My name is Ellen, and I am a visual artist and writer living in Portland, Oregon. Many months ago, a good friend of mine forwarded me a Loam newsletter, and I’ve been following along with this platform ever since, so inspired by all that is sprouting up here at the crossroads of art and environmentalism. In a sea of a doom and gloom news headlines, communities like this serve as liferafts, allowing us to pause and breathe for long enough to remember where we are going, what we are capable of, and who is there doing amazing work alongside us.

While not overtly political, my own work is rooted in awe, wonder, and appreciation for the natural world. When we let ourselves fall in love with the world, we can’t help but be moved to protect it. I believe in the power of attention and curiosity, in healing the divide between art and science, and looking to the earth for guidance on anything from cultivating resilience to elements of visual design, like patterns and color palettes. It’s from this place that I begin my month-long residency, full of gratitude for the opportunity to connect with all of you.   

Here in Portland, our winter color palette is basically two-toned. There is the gray blank of sky, swallowing our shadows along with our light, desaturating each day into a kind of monotonous drone. And then there is the green. I’ve been living here for two years and still can’t get over the green. It’s a surge of chlorophyll unlike anything I experienced growing up in New England. There’s something almost electric about it—tree trunks shaggy with moss, waist-high ferns, lime green buds at the end of each branch. Over the weekend, I saw an abandoned parking lot covered with what looked like a florescent green shag carpet.

These days, as the sun reappears for a few glorious hours at a time, nature’s color palette is expanding rapidly. Pink Camellias are everywhere, blossoms bigger than my fist litter the ground like confetti. The magnolias are unfurling, the forsythia flaming yellow, the rosemary bushes thick with periwinkle blossoms. The flowers in Portland are unparalleled. It’s like they’re on steroids. This proliferation of color is our gift. It’s what we get for having made it, chilled and muddy-booted, through the gray.   

There’s a YouTube video I saw a while back, where an older man who was born with severe color blindness puts on special glasses and is able to see true color for the first time in his life. He stands on the front porch of his house, turning in slow circles, taking in the trees, his garden, a bunch of colorful balloons his family got for the occasion. “Look at the flowers!” his wife exclaims. “Look at my hair! It’s red!” And then he is weeping. And his family is weeping. And I, from behind my screen, am tearing up with them. The world in color. Impossible. Miraculous. Utterly ordinary.

For those of us fortunate enough to be blessed with normal sight, color is fundamental to our experience of the world. We’re so immersed in it that we may rarely stop to consider how insanely bizarre and beautiful the phenomenon really is.

Electromagnetic radiation, experienced by humans as visible light, is emitted from a massive burning star millions of miles away from earth. It’s made up of waves that resonate at different frequencies across a vast spectrum, only a very narrow portion of which is visible to the human eye. Specialized cells in our eyes receive these lightwaves from our environment and pass them off to our brains, which have learned to categorize things that emit long waves as “red” and short waves as “violet.” At essence, light is a spectrum of colors. We can tease it apart with a prism, separating pure white light into a perfect rainbow.

Thinking about color in this way makes me feel like I’m somewhere between a middle school science class and a psychedelic experience. It’s this place where scientific truths mingle with mermaid hair and rainbow cake pops. I love that it pushes up against the outer limits of my logical, left-brained capabilities while simultaneously reducing me to a human heart eyes emoji. Truth be told, I just really love rainbows. I have a solar-powered rainbow maker on my kitchen window, and it brings me infinite joy. Me and this guy? We understand each other.

The lenses through which we can see and think about color are endless. There’s the lens of evolutionary biology—how color presents and functions in the plant and animal kingdoms. There are cultural lenses—the way groups of people express themselves collectively, via their clothes, buildings, design aesthetics, etc. There’s linguistics—in Japanese, the same character refers to both blue and green(!). There’s psychology—yellow makes us happy, and red makes us hungry.

But because I have just one month rather than many lifetimes to spend with you, Loamie friends, I will endeavor to boil down my focus for the following weeks to this: the relationship between color, earth, and self.

I’m not sure exactly what that will look like, but I know how I want it to feel. I want it to feel like waking up to the world. I want it to feel like I just put on my special glasses and am seeing color, really seeing it, for the first time. I’m going to make some paint and some paintings. I’m going to dip into the pile of books that has been accumulating on my nightstand. I’m going to spend time wondering and wandering, getting out into the natural world and letting it be my teacher. I can’t wait to see what will blossom.

Sending you all rainbows and healing light waves ;)

XO Ellen

@ellenjuliabrown

www.ellenjuliabrown.com

DEEP LISTENING

When Palmer Morse and Matthew Mikkelsen reached out to me to share the story of Spruce Tone Films, particularly their documentary Being Hear, I was inspired by their passion for the outdoors and commitment to telling stories that inspire deep listening. In our current chaotic climate, carving out the space to be still with silence is difficult. I'm always struck first thing in the morning at how quiet the early hours are. For many of us, our days filled with noise as we navigate work spaces, transportation, and cityscapes. To inhabit quiet is a real practice and one I hope to cultivate as I strive to become a better steward of this earth.

Finding quiet, however, is increasingly hard, and inequities in access to outdoor spaces mean that silence is a luxury that few can afford. As we fight for social justice and ecological regeneration, it's increasingly important to acknowledge that silent spaces indicate those places in desperate need of preservation. 

Herewith, Palmer and Matthew share what deep listening means to them. Tune in for their energizing thoughts on audio ecology, social resilience, and silence. 

How does silence support ecological, social, and spiritual resilience?

Seeking natural silence is something that we can all benefit from. When we’re in urban areas we are consumed by noise. The sounds of cars, airplanes, people, and music is all information that can often overload our brains, cause anxiety, and increase blood pressure, among other issues. When we seek to escape the city we flock to forests, mountains, or perhaps the ocean to clear our minds. Being in a quiet place is good for our mental health, can rejuvenate our soul, and ground us in place.

Unfortunately, the places we seek to escape are slowly becoming degraded. The forests we seek refuge in are under flight paths, the mountains we climb to are near resource extractions sites, and the oceans we swim in are host to motor boats. We and the wildlife that surrounds us are in the midsts of it all. Working to protect the natural soundscapes of an area protects our environment from pollution, extraction, and degradation, creating a resilient and healthy ecosystem.

 

What can we do to conserve natural soundscapes?

Anthropogenic noise pollution in designated conservation areas such as parks, wilderness areas, and coasts is a direct result of humans interacting with the land. Noise pollution is often a difficult environmental issue to be aware of as it’s not a eyesore, although many of the producers of loud noises such as construction, mining, and oil drilling are.

To preserve natural soundscapes is to preserve land in its entirety. If we get rid of the producers of loud and intrusive noises we are simultaneously riding protected lands and the airspace above of several forms of pollution.

That being said, it’s a difficult balance between conservation and accessibility. If people can’t access the lands, they might not see the purpose of preserving them. We believe that setting aside pieces of land that have soundscapes that are mostly unimpacted are most likely the best candidates for a soundscape conservation effort.

Additionally, it’s important to note the importance of accessibility. Many people who do not have the agency or opportunity seek quiet spaces often bear the brunt of noise pollution. It’s important that even in our urban environments noise pollution is controlled. How can we make our means of transportation quieter? How can the noise of construction be muffled?

 

What experiences compelled you to chronicle this story?

A few years ago, Matt became interested in Gordon’s work as a way to integrate two loves in his life: audio and the outdoors. After a short trip, he came back and was gushing with excitement about nature sound recording and the incredible philosophies related to such that Gordon had bestowed upon him in their short time together.

Acoustic ecology and sound recording more broadly often has a very valuable scientific and technological process. What really amazed us about Gordon’s work is his dedication and awareness of the importance of what he was recording. He wasn’t just setting up a few microphones to capture a beautiful sound, he was thinking about what that sound meant in the greater ecosystem of its place. After a few years of Matt continuing to record on his own, and the two of us working together to film documentaries, we decided to take on this idea of natural silence through Gordon’s perspective as a subject.

 

How can we better listen to our land?

“Listening” can mean a few different things. Yes, there is the obvious meaning, to use one's ears to gather information. But in a more philosophical sense, listening can mean just taking in information, being aware, being alert, being present. It’s been really interesting screening this film all over the world for roughly the last year and a half. After watching the film, many people instantly get it. They seem to understand the idea of natural silence, why it’s important to experience and seek it out when you can, as well as to preserve it when possible. We think that this understanding comes so easily to people after they’ve watched the film because they’re already aware of it subconsciously. When you leave a busy urban area and step out into the woods for a walk there’s a weight off of your shoulders and part of the reduction of stress and anxiety is because of quiet. As Gordon puts it so eloquently in the film: “It becomes self-evident.”

 

What does deep listening really mean?

Gordon states in Being Hear that “Listening means taking in all sounds with equal importance, so instead of listening for a sound, I simply listen to the place." 

Too often we listen for a specific sound, and we end up missing a whole lot of valuable information along the way. Because after all, sound is information. This is a metaphor for life, and interpersonal relationships as well. Too often we are so focused on one thing, that we miss the big picture. 

Gordon says that listening is like meditation in some ways. The simple act of attempting to listen is valuable in itself, and it’s not really about doing it right. The attempt is what matters. Don’t think, just listen.

  FURTHER RESOURCES      One Square Inch of Silence     Gordon's organization is passionate about protecting the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park from noise pollution.      Hear Our Olympics      This   National Parks Conservation Association campaign is working to shed light on noise pollution and inspire people to protect their silent soundscapes.      Earth Is A Solar-Powered Jukebox     This field guide to recording nature sounds will inspire you to explore your corner of the universe. 

FURTHER RESOURCES

 One Square Inch of Silence

Gordon's organization is passionate about protecting the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park from noise pollution. 

Hear Our Olympics 

This National Parks Conservation Association campaign is working to shed light on noise pollution and inspire people to protect their silent soundscapes. 

Earth Is A Solar-Powered Jukebox

This field guide to recording nature sounds will inspire you to explore your corner of the universe. 

APOTERRA

WORDS: KATE WEINER

IMAGE: NAOMI HUOBER

Beauty rituals are so important to me. I love luxuriating in a face mask at the end of a long day and massaging soothing oils into my skin in the morning. These opportunities to take care of my self are a reminder that my wellbeing matters and that my beauty—the way I feel when I'm at peace in my body—is a gift that I give to others. I am a better educator, writer, and advocate when I am nourished. And for me, the everyday ritual of taking care of my skin is just that.

I've written before about navigating aesthetics and cultivating a sustainable self-care routine. When we nourish our body—through the food we eat, the spaces we inhabit, and the rituals we cultivate—we are growing our capacity to nourish others. So all of this is to say that if you, like me, love to lavish your skin, it doesn't have to be a superficial endeavor. With the right intention, it really is a ripe opportunity to give your sweet self some extra love.

That said, the mainstream skincare industry is toxic. From plastic packaging that pollutes our precious waterways to products clogged with chemicals, it can be difficult to find low-carbon options for feeding your skin. I'm particularly frustrated by the bevy of products that invent problems precisely to sell their solutions. You really don't need much to heal your skin (hell, everything I do is already extra) so keep it to a couple of self-care tools that bring you joy.

My own ritual comprises a facial oil for the morning, a mud mask for after sweaty treks, and a homemade calendula moisturizer for keeping my skin sane during these dry winter months. Although I love to make my own, I also relish in a select few plant-based products from rad makers whose sourcing and packaging I can get behind.

Enter Apoterra. I first discovered Apoterra when I lived in San Diego and was searching for a product that wasn't entirely packaged in plastic (not so easy). Their luscious hibiscus mud mask—bottled in a reusable amber jar— has been a healing staple of mine for the last year. But what particularly got me hooked was the Apoterra batch system that lets you look up the country of origin and certification for every one of their products. Inspired by Apoterra's commitment to transparency, environmental sustainability, and accountability, I connected with Founder Dominique Caron recently to talk about interweaving herbalism into her work and developing deeper relationships with her suppliers. My takeaway? That every company—big and small—needs to look at the whole cycle. 

KATE WEINER: What inspired you to create Apoterra? 

DOMINIQUE CARON: For a long time, I struggled to find products that worked for my skin. [I created Apoterra] when I was really starting to get into environmentalism and be health conscious. Curiosity about what was in my food transferred to a curiosity about what was in my skincare products. [I realized] that my standards of environmentalism and safety weren't being met. And there really wasn't anything out there that did meet those standards that wasn't extremely expensive. 

I especially got curious about foraging and herbal medicine. I started studying herbal medicine and [eventually] became a certified herbal therapist. I was working in film at the time and thought maybe I can make a business out of this. Working in film was my dream, but the hours were incredibly long, I didn't get to pick what kind of projects I worked on, and I wanted to find something that not only gave me more control over my life but also helped give back by healing the environment and helping people. 

KW: What does sustainability look like in the context of your company?

DC: To me [sustainability] is about the whole cycle. We use natural ingredients rather than petroleum-based ingredients. We care about packaging and whether or not our ingredients are being sustainability sourced. There are many organic ingredients out there that are being cultivated in a way that's not sustainable, either because the plant won't be available in ten or twenty years [because of over harvesting] or because it's destroying a habitat and harming wildlife, such as palm oil in Malaysia.

It's also important to understand that [sustainability] isn't black and white. How ingredients are grown and where they are grown—that matters. How you package your products, and how that packaging is being disposed of—that matters, too. You have to pay attention to the whole cycle. 

It's also important to understand that sustainability isn't black and white. How ingredients are grown and where they are grown—that matters. How you package your products, and how that packaging is being disposed of—that matters, too. You have to pay attention to the whole cycle. 

It's very difficult to be totally green. We package in glass because it's easier to recycle glass and it doesn't harm the ocean the way plastic does [glass is inert]. And although there are some things I wish we could make out of a biodegradable material, that's not available to us yet [given the scale of our company]. Those are products that we hope to get custom made in the future, however. 

KW: How do your herbalist studies shape your work?

DC:  I love working with raw herbs! From my herbalism teaching, I learned to create my own infusions and extracts as well as to understand the best substrate for certain plants. There are a lot of poor quality extracts on the market that are put in products but don't actually have any effect. Through my teachings I learned to not only identify a good quality extract, but also how to make them.

KW: How do you hope to grow Apoterra?

DC: As we grow, I would love to definitely change our packaging to minimize our environmental footprint. I would love to foster more direct relationships with the farmers who grow our ingredients and be able to tell their stories. We have our batch number system which tells you where the ingredients were from and when they were harvested. Right now, you can learn where your coconut oil came from Brazil but we don't yet have an image of the farm so I'd love to be able to tell more of that story.

 

ARTS BOHEME

WORDS: KATE WEINER

IMAGES: COURTESY of ARTS BOHEME

I learned about Arts Boheme thanks to Dominique Drakeford of MelaninASS (you can read our interview with this trailblazing sustainable stylist here). And although Arts Boheme gorgeous pieces are stunning studies in color and craft, what I especially love about this budding brand is artist Cheryl Domenichelli's vibrant spirit and passion for giving back. A former high school arts and science teacher and current educator at UC Berkeley, Cheryl wants her company to support social justice and equity. I was fortunate enough to connect with Cheryl by phone last week. Tune in as we talk ethical craftsmanship, education, and the creative process. 

KW: What inspired your love for jewelry design? 

CD: As a little girl, I fell in love with gems and minerals for the sake of their inherent beauty. When I was in my thirties, I even discovered that I had a library book I had checked out at that age that I had never returned! 

Jewelry serves to show off the beauty of gems and minerals. In all of my work as an artist, it's about letting the design emerge from the components. It truly comes from the heart.

KW: What is your creative process like? 

CD: Color speaks to my soul and so part of my process really begins with [discovering] what beads complement each other. Especially in the morning, when my brain is clear, I will see a particular piece and just know what piece should go with it. I had this London blue sapphire for two years and it was just waiting, as it were, and one day I was in my studio and found its complement. My art really keys in on color and my passion for African jewelry. When people create African jewelry, it's always very tribal. But there's more to the culture than that. My passions are rooted in cultural identities and colors and so that's how my design process works. 

KW: What kind of transfer of energy do you hope your jewelry will bring to your customers?  

CD: I'm very aware of the traditional energies that people talk about in certain stones. [But] in my design work, I don't go to that space around energy. I go to a space that's aware of empowerment. When I speak to empowerment, I am talking about the way people feel about themselves shapes how they interact and walk through the world. 

My jewelry pieces are designed to empower people so that they can put out what it is that they want to put out into the world. When I originally started our company, our tagline was "Who do you want to be today?" I've changed the tagline since then but the essence is still the same: when you put on a piece of jewelry, it should speak to who you are and the kind of energy you want to put out. It should empower that spirit within you. 

KW: Why is ecologically sustainable and socially conscious craftsmanship particularly important to you?

CD: I'm 60 and I grew up in an era of environmental consciousness and social justice. I have the good fortune to have a science and arts background. As part of my journey, I taught science and art in high school. I love earth sciences! I love learning about and sharing the things that we get as gifts. Historically [however] we have abused those gifts. We have over harvested the land and torn it up. We cut down trees without thinking about regrowth rates. We're not thinking about what it means to put a pipeline through someone's drinking water. People just take what they want and don't care about how it affects other people and the environment. But there needs to be responsibility around what we need to sustain our society.

As a company, we build relationships [on the ground] so that we know, because we've been there, that this group of people is being served well. I'm working right now with a company in Ghana. We have bead from them that's granite. It wasn't made for the purpose of a bead, but when it no longer serves its purpose as a tumbling stone, they sell it as a bead. I think that kind of thing is absolutely fabulous! To takes and repurpose pieces...

KW: How have your travels shaped your work?

CD: I still do part-time work with UC Berkeley where I'm in charge of their program for visiting school leaders—we work for social justice and equity—so I just came back from a meeting in China with the education ministry. When I go to places, I always look for components for jewelry and so I brought back handcrafted jade and wood beads from there. 

I've been to Venice to get Venetian glass. Most of the glass is handblown but there are artists in Venice making things that we don't typically associate with Venetian glass. I found amazing beads that have been handmade with silver and gold lines.

I went to the Czech Republic where there are many glass and crystal makers. Those communities are bead makers and pig farmers and so when you visit the artists, many of them live on farms. That was absolutely amazing!

When I was in Cuba this summer, I was not only there on a people-to-people excursion but also to pick up things from street vendors and artist colonies that were representative of the community and culture. [Wherever I go] I'm not buying my products in mass quantity. I'm hand selecting for the quality, the source, and the uniqueness.

My sister has done work in Kenya with a small village to bring water to their community. She knows an artist who does glass blowing and she brought some of the beads back home. I'm trying to be in community and network with people I trust and know I share values.

KW: How do you envision Arts Boheme growing in the coming years? 

CD: I'm not particularly motivated by money. I never have been. I have this philosophy that if you are pursuing what's important to you, money will show up, because you will do excellent work, you'll be doing some good in the world, and the world will support that.

It's important to me that this venture supports my larger goal of creating social justice and equity. At the end of this year, we will make a contribution to an organization doing boots-on-the-ground work in their community. Right now, I'm working with a grassroots group that are guardians for education for predominantly African-American young men in high school and middle school. Their work is difficult and they are up again the sometimes immovable system of public education, but they continue to help kids tremendously. 

There are other organizations I've learned about that don't get a lot of serious funding but are a direct connect to individuals. In Kenya, my sister formed a non-profit that helped the village of Machakos build a reservoir and then a medical clinic. She was working with the government to create self-sustainable systems in Kenyan communities and it's those boots-on-the-ground people that I want this company to be known for supporting.

When you buy a piece of my jewelry, you're helping somebody. As my company develops, I want to keep in conversation with matters of social justice and equity. 

 

GOPI SHAH CERAMICS

WORDS: KATE WEINER

IMAGES: KATE PARRISH of LIFE ON PINE

A ceramic artist and advocate for the environment, Gopi Shah's ceramics are a vibrant study in color and craft. After stumbling on Gopi's Instagram feed, I swiftly fell for her carved hanging planters and "open hands." I love that Gopi uses her platform to not only support organizations such as the National Resources Defense Council and Planned Parenthood but also to invite us into deeper, delicious engagement with our surroundings. Through playful handmade wares, Gopi inspires us to reimagine our everyday. (That, and I break into a smile every time I catch sight of her "tittie tumblers" painted with a simple sketch of bare breasts—there's something so divine to me about a beautiful work of art that doesn't take itself too seriously!) 

I recently connected with Gopi to talk about cultivating creative community, building a business, and finding her flow. I hope you'll discover through Gopi's story the same fiery motivation I did to embrace my art with passion and with playfulness. Because life is short and sweet and ours to infuse with joy. 

KW: Your work is infused with a playful spirit and attention to craft. How do the ceramics you make reflect who you are?

GS: My pottery is obviously influenced by my surroundings. If you take a look at my home furnishings, there is a lot of folk art and decor from my travels or from friends who are artists. I am not much of a minimalist type that has neutrals everywhere, and that's reflected in my ceramic line— the tipis have a ton of color, the planters have texture and carvings, and the dolls have their own personalities. I bounce around a lot between ideas, techniques, and styles and have been told my ceramic line is not cohesive; however, I don't think that's a negative. I like exploring and learning, and each piece that I create has something new I learned and wanted to express in it. 

KW: You've lived everywhere from Austin to the Bay Area to Long Beach! How does place shape your work?

GS: Yes! I have moved a lot and wouldn't suggest moving a ceramic studio as many times as I have. Each place has shaped me as a person, which then influences my work. Austin was a great place to start my business—it was a supportive environment, easy to network with local shops and other artists, and was affordable. I learned a lot from my mentor there and was able to learn to do pottery in a non-academic setting. San Francisco helped grow my business—I got to work with some amazing shops in the Bay Area that really bolstered my name and my work professionally. And now I'm excited to be in Long Beach which feels as small and community-driven as Austin, but is also connected to an incredible art and small business scene. In each city, my line has grown and developed and I have learned more as a business person—which items sell better than others, what products may do well, how to expand professionally, etc. 

Pottery has taught me a lot about slowing down and enjoying life, being patient, and reflection. 

KW: What experiences brought you to your work as a ceramic artist?

GS: I learned pottery in high school under an incredibly kind and knowledgeable teacher. In college, I was able to take classes at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and then continued that education at Santa Monica College while working full time. Pottery has taught me a lot about slowing down and enjoying life, being patient, and reflection. It has also afforded me an opportunity to connect in a different way with my community and fellow women-owned businesses. 

KW: What kind of energy do you want your functional art to bring to its new owner?

GS: Ceramics is a meditative process—you end up falling into a rhythm while creating a piece and forget about everything around you, including time. I hope that this calming energy is what is transferred when someone uses one of my pieces and feels the ridges from my fingers that created each piece. 

I hope that this calming energy is what is transferred when someone uses one of my pieces and feels the ridges from my fingers that created each piece. 

KW: Can you share with us the creative process behind your hanging planters?

GS: Something I love about the hanging planters is they are constantly involving and no two are alike. I throw each on the wheel, paint the outside with a liquid white clay, and hand carve the designs onto each. The planters are also a great way for me to experiment with another medium— leather and rivets. 

I love the orange, black, and white fine line details of Acoma pottery. Though I am inept at this kind of pottery, I appreciate the geometry and accuracy of this work. The hanging planters are my way of expressing the colors and geometry found in this type of pottery. I started with experimentation in design but have found somewhat of an equation to go by for each planter—a top thin band, a middle thick ban, and some bottom rings that generally are sun-shaped. Carving these planters takes a lot of time and a steady hand, but I love that they are unique.

KW: At Loam, our work is centered on sharing strategies for "embodying hope." This means finding ways to bring our vision for a better world into practice through our everyday actions. What do you do to cultivate hope in your heart, home, and community?
GS: A better world to me would be one where citizens are safe, have access to basic rights including dignity, housing, food and water, and healthcare, and where there is a sense of pride for their community. I have been on the giving and receiving ends of hope and have appreciated every moment of building my own community through pottery. Moving around the US and getting to meet various types of people has broadened my sense of self, perspective and thankfulness for others. 

Community is very important to me, and I love getting to know my neighbors and small business owners in my community. I used to work at non-profits, and it's been tough not being on the front lines anymore. However, through collaborations, working with other small business owners, and donating pieces to causes I care about, I have found ways to work with my community and try to make it a better place for everyone. 

DOMINIQUE DRAKEFORD

WORDS: KATE WEINER

IMAGE: ADITI MAYER

I first learned about Dominique Drakeford through my friend Liv Lapierre of Zero Waste Habesha whose Representation Matters initiative illuminates women of color making waves in the sustainability sphere. As an advocate, sustainability stylist, and the founder of Melanin & Sustainable Style (MelaninASS)—a platform that celebrates communities of color in eco ethical style and beauty—Dominique is a passionate advocate for intersectional activism. I'm inspired by Dominique's intersectional and incisive embrace and exploration of sustainability. She doesn't shy away from harsh realities nor does she apologize for taking joy in beauty. The spaces she creates are truly energized, alive, and engaged

In this powerful interview, the trailblazing Dominique shares a sliver of her story. Tune in for her thoughts on tokenism, challenging mainstream narratives, and supporting sustainable style. 

 

KW: As an environmental educator, stylist, and community advocate, you work in many different spheres to inspire ecological, cultural, and social change. What experiences shaped your multifaceted work as an activist?

DD: My experiences here in Brooklyn as well as my experiences growing up in Oakland have unequivocally shaped my perception of being a women of color and how that relates to inclusivity in sustainability, social change and activism. 


My experiences in Oakland were very much rooted in youth engagement and development. From being a soccer coach, swim coach, backpacking ambassador for underprivileged youth and a Pathway to College mentor for young black and Latino kids in the Bay Area—seeing kids as the progressive future has created a special place in my heart for needing to uplift and bring out the best in communities of color. Although I grew up more privileged than the average black girl, I connected with the youth [that I was working with]...Everyday I saw the struggle but paid most attention to their beauty and the potential they had to excel.


I received a BA in Environmental Management and immediately went to Grad School at NYU for Sustainable Entrepreneurship + Fashion. Once I moved to NY, I got more heavily into environmental justice through fashion. Outside of going to a Catholic high school, it was my first time really being immersed in white spaces. My experiences in NY slapped me in the face with the harsh realities of tokenism, lack of representation, white privilege, racism, singular notions of feminism—it was a clear reflection of the real world.


Some of these experiences included:
•    Getting told that my resume and cover letter sounded like an “angry black woman” to my face during an interview
•    Being the only black face in audiences and not seeing representation on stage for years in the sustainability space (with occasional sprinkles here and there)
•    Not seeing black magazines cover sustainability
•    Witnessing every single type of cultural appropriation imaginable: in person, on social media, and on media platforms
•    Micro aggressions all throughout grad school (and virtually everywhere) 
•    Getting asked to work on a project so that the platform can have “diversity”
•    Trying to touch my hair with and without permission

And that was just the start...


After spending a Summer in Ghana, Africa, I started piecing so many things together regarding the struggles of being black in America and where we needed to be sustainability-wise to thrive. We need a spiritual, emotional, and physical awakening. 

So my activism to empower communities of color in sustainability spaces has been largely shaped by my personal experiences. As I began to travel and speak to designers, artists, foodies, health gurus, and yogis, [I started to see] that everyone was singing the same tune, just not at all in harmony. 

 

The images that I create and promote as a tastemaker and content provider have power. I can affect racial disparities for the greater good of humans globally and build community.

 

I realized that I needed to create a platform that spoke not only to the conscious community but to communities who were unaware to really create a progressive movement.  And then it was easy to tap back to my youth engagement as a motivation for the work I’m doing as [youth] need to see people like me and know that there are folks fighting for their wellbeing in different capacities and that models of all shades exist. There are so many limiting narratives that need to be refreshed and I’m elated to do it! The images that I create and promote as a tastemaker and content provider have power. I can affect racial disparities for the greater good of humans globally and build community.

KW: Your blog, Melanin and Sustainable Style, is a rich exploration of people of color working in the realm of sustainable fashion, beauty, and living. How do you curate the content for this space?


DD: My content is derived from connections made through my lived experiences, researching brands within my realm of focus, getting recommendations, and staying in tune with what’s happening in pop culture. Although right now my platform is heavily interview based, I am looking to include more articles based on global news brining light to issues and accomplishments that aren’t highlighted in mainstream media.


KW: In so many ways, your work is about changing mainstream narratives on what sustainability looks like in practice. How can each one of us contribute to a fresh cultural narrative that welcomes, celebrates, and shares diverse stories?

DD: I’m going to give you the shortest version possible to tackle this question as there are many layers as I see it. 

In my first iteration of my blog tagline I had the following:
WAKE UP people of color - Sustainability is foundational to our Core Values, and it is inherent to our culture. 

WAKE UP Mainstream White America - High fashion “borrows” most of its inspiration from 1) nature 2) urban street culture and 3) traditional cultures of color. 

Although I no longer have this exact verbiage currently on my blog, I stand by this wholeheartedly.  

 

We commodify various illusions of America’s definition of success instead of getting back to our roots of holistic living and connectedness to self, family and the natural world.

 

Let me explain: Experiences in your life, such as the ones that I shared earlier, tell you to WAKE THE FUCK UP and figure out a new game plan that will help provide a platform that compliments your passion and speaks to your truth. So when I say, WAKE UP PEOPLE OF COLOR, [what I mean is that] most people of color realize that systems were put in place for the failure of their cultural digest and to stifle progression. Despite being cognizant of these manifestations that lead to the struggle, many POC fall victim to it by not understanding or knowing how to self heal, uplift community and live sustainably as a means to creating a stronger people. There are countless challenges preventing us from getting past the hurt and pain. Additionally, we commodify various illusions of America’s definition of success instead of getting back to our roots of holistic living and connectedness to self, family and the natural world. So for people of color, independently and collectively, we have to work on internal modifications to relearn how to celebrate ourselves, respect ourselves and uplift one another so that we can put more positivity into the atmosphere and share our AMAZING diverse stories. We have to mitigate things like drug abuse, crime, heart disease and distasteful competition despite the fact that it’s a direct result of racism in America. We have to wake up!

And when I say, WAKE UP WHITE AMERICA [what I mean is that] those that are white and actually want to change in America have a LOT to learn. Those outside of the diaspora need to do their research. Understand first what systematic racism is and how America, corporations, your family members and even you have contributed to it (remember that you play a very political role when you’re silent). Understand and I mean really understand the structures of oppression and race relations in America. Everything as extreme as Nazi hate groups to micro aggressions in the corporate work place. You have to understand that white supremacy doesn’t just look like the people in Charlottesville…it can very well look like the average white man or woman walking down the street.


This will be an untapped tunnel of exploration for MOST non-people of color in America. [It's important] that in tandem with this research of better understanding racism and privilege [that you also seek to] understand the significant and even monumental contributions that people of color play in creating America that were intentionally exempt from your grade school texts books. Take a reputable black history class, watch documentaries, read autobiographies and race related books, and learn about inventors of color, abolitionists outside of Malcolm and Martin, pioneers in film/fashion/science/television that never got credit—all of the greats that never received creative or economic payment or notoriety. And don’t be fooled by the white savior mentality or the brands that have token women of color and definitely not those that feel the need to fetishize black bodies. 

 

Have a voice for black women, Muslim women. Explain why ”All Lives Matter” is offensive and verbalize your support for Black Lives Matter—and don’t just talk about it, be about it. 


Then share this information with others who continue to devalue and disrespect people of color. Those especially who call themselves feminists without giving mention to intersectionality. Have a voice for black women, Muslim women. Explain why ”All Lives Matter” is offensive and verbalize your support for Black Lives Matter—and don’t just talk about it, be about it. 

 

Know and understand that you can’t really be part of the sustainability movement unless you’re fighting for the civil rights for all women, unless you’re pushing for inclusivity, unless you’re dismantling environmental racism, unless you’re working to bring representation and intersectionality to sustainable movements. 


Know and understand that you can’t really be part of the sustainability movement unless you’re fighting for the civil rights for all women, unless you’re pushing for inclusivity, unless you’re dismantling environmental racism, unless you’re working to bring representation and intersectionality to sustainable movements. 

I know very few white Americans who can grasp these concepts and have a genuine dialog with me about them. A genuine fresh cultural narrative can take place once authentic context is put into place. Because then, you will really appreciate our culture and the pride we have. You’ll better understand our contributions and the strength it took to persevere despite all racist agendas— it’s a cultural resilience. Sustainability is very much intertwined with civil rights, and once this notion is understood, a greater appreciation for the beauty of our melanin will arise. Then collectively we can continue to share perspective and fight injustice. Takes rebuilding! 

 

INSPIRATION

In this curated list, Dominique shares a few of the people and projects who are energizing the intersectional environment movement. 

@nikishabrunson - An all around dope public figure with amazing positive energy

@iam_samata - a person/ IG feed that constantly inspires me and is very supportive of my work

Lauren Ash  (@hellolaurenash) creates holistic and wellness spaces for WOC

CRW Magazine - focused on the beauty of WOC hair

Aditi (@aditimaer) - Photographer & Fashion Activism Blogger

Priscilla Amado - creating urban garden/farm in Brooklyn so that the community can be self sustaining

Voz- A clothing brand philosophy I greatly admire

Cindy Luquin (@greenvanillabean) - Latina representation for green beauty & living

@zerowastehabesha Representation Matters Series