By Leslie Fandrich // Themes: Women of Color, Collage // Category: Creative People
Andrea Pippins is an artist, designer and educator in Baltimore, Maryland. She is creating the art and imagery that she wants to see, in the hopes of inspiring others to do the same. What she creates is something that is often lacking in the media landscape and art world: beautiful, powerful and fierce imagery of women of color.
Her collage work, shown above, is inspired by the way the Quilts of Gee's Bend were made. Women would work with materials they had at hand, like left over fabric scraps and old clothing and Andrea has limited herself to using materials that she already had in her studio, like fashion magazines and paper. In this way, like the women of Gee's Bend, she is also creating something from nothing, a consistent thread in the legacy of people of the African Diaspora.
"One of my life goals/ missions is to inspire and encourage young women of color to take charge of their image and to tell their own stories. There aren't enough of us in the visual arts and what we see happening today in terms of lack of diversity in the media is a direct reflection of that truth (lack of broader stories, perspectives and representations of us). In order to change the lack, more of us need to be the creators of our stories and images, therefore I wanted to use a form of media (fashion magazines) to present this idea. I wanted to see if I could create at least 30 mini-collages using the fashion magazines I already own."
Growing up she says she did not see enough women in creative industries that look like her. (I would venture to say that is still true. I've been looking for artists who are women of color to feature here on my site since this series began and it has been a challenge.) This lack of representation motivates Andrea and guides the topics and imagery she chooses to explore. She is filling in a huge gap and I hope in the years to come there are many more artist and designers like her.
Andrea's background is in graphic design. She attended Temple University’s Tyler School of Art where she graduated with a BFA and then returned five years later and graduated with an MFA in design. Starting in December of last year though, she began to really think of herself as an artist. It was an "aha moment" when she realized that she wasn't fully embracing what she was meant to do. She wasn't living her purpose. Stepping into the role of Artist has been amazing for her. Since then, a number of opportunities, ideas and thoughts have begun to fall into place and make more sense.
Andrea's mom, originally from Brazil, is very creative. She worked as a seamstress in the 80s and 90s making and altering clothing for socialites and fashionistas at Cody Couture, a French clothing house in Washington DC owned by Solange Cody. Andrea spent a lot of time in the sewing studio as a child soaking up the creativity and style of these amazing women. She was greatly influenced by her time watching her mother create and with her relationship with Solange and considers them both her teachers and mentors. She has also learned a great deal from her Dad, her friends, her students, other artists and business people. Basically, she is inspired by everyone!
"Visually, I am inspired by color, textures and pattern. Those are the consistent elements in my work, not necessarily all three at once but I’m always looking to those areas for inspiration. I’m also inspired by the stories of contemporary women navigating new worlds (starting a new job, moving to a new country, exploring the role of motherhood, etc.). There are so many stories and I can get lost in them for hours!"
Andrea keeps her creativity flowing by reading and listening to NPR. She loves stories centered in social change, business, science, fashion and art. Being curious about those topics helps her to generate new ideas for her art and designs or for projects for her design students. She also loves going to lectures and gallery exhibitions.
Andrea also loves being in her studio, which is a second bedroom in her apartment. She describes it as cozy and bright, with three big windows, high ceilings and lots of space. One her favorite things in the room is a striped yellow and cream rug that she uses as a surface to make work on, or to spread out on when she reads. Other key elements are a bookcase overflowing with books, she says she is obsessed with books and loves her library, and she recently added an inspiration board. The walls are covered in art and the most special object in the room is a vintage dress form from the sewing studio her mother worked at. I love that item too, what an incredible piece of personal history.
She admits that her studio is often a mess. Why put something away when you are just going to need it again soon?! Especially with her collage work, it's hard to collect all the little pieces and stash them away, only to have to take it out again the next day. She could also use more storage space and another table for production work. (You and me both, Andrea.)
Her favorite tools are a Uniball pen and a piece of paper, or the pen tool in Adobe Illustrator. She always starts a project with research, whether is a new idea or new materials that she using. Understanding both the visual language and the context of a project is very important to her. Once she has a solid grasp on that, she begins sketching. She will experiment in her sketches until she feels like she has something that she wants to play with on the computer or draw with a more focused intention. She also needs music if she is creating, silence if she is writing and always a cup of green or vanilla almond tea.
"When I’m done with a project, I feel excited. When I’m done, say for the evening, I usually feel exhausted — oftentimes not really wanting to stop but knowing I have to get some kind of rest, or do something else. I need to step away from projects I’ve been working on for hours endlessly. If I don’t, then I’m just making mindless decisions that won’t help the creative process."
Andrea needs to create to be happy. It's a common refrain I hear from artists! Somehow we have to get this creative energy out of us. Andrea knows when a piece is done when she starts adding things for the sake of adding them, or if it starts to feel busy. Mostly she is guided by her feelings that say, "no more" or "stop here". Even then, it might still need work, but stepping away can give perspective about what might be missing.
Andrea says it's hard to pick what her best work is, but that she really enjoyed working on the Afro Blue series because of the process. The series began when she revisited some old material, found a doodle that she liked and once it began to take shape she found herself staying up very late to work on it. Once the work was released, there was a great response. It really resonated with people and the 60 piece run of Afro Blue is now sold out. (Check out the video on the left to see Andrea screen printing it at Baltimore Print Studios.)
She hopes that her work is beautiful, smart and inspiring, and that it makes people feel so great inside that they want to share her work with others, or make their own work. It's all about that amazing moment when there is a connection between what she conjures up in her busy mind and the viewer.
I know for me personally, I am thrilled to be sharing Andrea's work with you and I am inspired to make exactly what I want to see in the world. I hope you are too. A huge thank you to Andrea for sharing her work and process with us! I am always so honored to be let into an artist's creative process and to try to pull out wisdom for us all to see.
- Andrea Pippins' Portfolio
- Andrea's Blog Fly
- Andrea on Twitter and Instagram
- How to Fix the Homogeneity Issue
- Design Gets More Diverse on the NY Times
- Diaspora: The Art of Blackness Show in Chicago
- Station North CSA (Community Supported Art)
- Andrea on the HGTV blog
- What Does Diversity in the Art World Look Like?