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Conversations with Adia Jamille

Today we’d like to introduce you to Adia Jamille.

Hi Adia, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
For me, it’s been a long and windy road to get to where I am. Art was always my first love. Ever since I could hold a crayon, I was trying to create. As a child, my mother made sure to foster all my interests by taking me to places like art museums, and the planetarium. She bought me all the kits to do all the things. I had plastic pottery wheel, a plastic screen printing kit, legos, art supplies the works. And our home always had tons of plants.

As an adult, I kept trying to make the “responsible” choices, first planning to study interior design because it was creative, but it paid well. And as life kept coming at me, and my family, I’ve had to course correct. I eventually switched my major to fiber arts, which I didn’t know was a thing until I took it as an elective on a whim. The plan was simply to learn about textile processes so I could be a better designer. But I loved it and never looked back. Given that my mother is a quilter, I should’ve known.

After graduation, our family moved to Pennsylvania (from Tempe), because we figured I’d be able to find a textile design-related job. Instead, I had a super difficult pregnancy, which ended up with a baby in the NICU. During that time I was stressed and decided to build something of my own. So between NICU visits, I would work in our basement designing and printing textiles. After our son transitioned, we decided to move back to AZ.

I started working towards building up a business again, only for my husband to become the victim of a horrible bike accident. His recovery was extensive, and we still had our eldest to care for, so my time to work was limited. So between driving back and forth to the hospital for him and taking care of my son during the day and evenings, I was able to do some commissioned textile work. It wasn’t a lot, but it was just enough to keep us going.

Eventually, we moved to Tucson. I volunteered to teach art at my son’s school and at the library (part time). I eventually became pregnant with our third child. It was during this time that I learned what a doula was and realized this was something I’d been doing for years, and decided to pursue it.

When the pandemic hit, I was able to do numerous trainings because of everything moving online. Our family also started growing at a local community garden. In the garden, we focused on ancestral foods, medicinal plants, and fiber/ dye plants.

In 2022, I was able to see the art, the plants, and the doulas come together, because of gardening. Now my art and business leaning more into natural dyes and techniques, and I’m able to use plants to support clients. 2023 will bring another shift as I lean more into my art as I’ve been the recent recipient of multiple grants that will allow me to work on my art, and not need to run a business to fund my art. I’ll be able to focus more on my support work and my art.

We all face challenges, but looking back, would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Definitely not. As I’ve mentioned, it’s been a long, hard road for me. When you experience so many hardships in such quick succession and for such an extended period of time, it weighs on your confidence. Because I haven’t had the opportunity to really sit and focus, it feels like I’m never able to find my footing before life comes along. Which makes you doubt whether or not you’re on the right path. But I have learned to start looking for what lessons I’m learning and whether or not those lessons are being repeated. Each lesson was something I needed to learn in order to become who I am becoming and do what I’m going to be doing. They opened my heart and my mind to new ways of thinking and seeing, and have allowed me to learn how to trust my own intuition and decisions. I realized I made the right choices, but there were other things I had to learn as well.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
While I’m a multidisciplinary artist, I’m primarily a fiber artist. I never imagined I’d become a person whose start to finish involves growing their own materials. And I think that’s so amazing. I experimented with growing cotton on a whim, because we found the seeds at the library. But it was a catalyst for me learning about all the medicinal uses for the plant, as well as being able to use the parts for dyes. It’s an amazing plant with innumerable uses. Reconnecting with cotton reconnected me to my heritage and was a gateway into learning how I can use other plants that I grow for my art practice. This year I was able to grow my own indigo even! So I think that’s what makes me different. I don’t just read a book or two and then buy plants to make dyes or medicine. I grow the plants, study the plants, build a relationship with the plants, and then all of that goes into all the work I do. It goes into my art and it goes into my support work.

If we knew you growing up, how would we have described you?
As a kid I was kind of a floater. I was ok being alone, but I was also friends with lots of people from lots of different groups. I was raised as an only child and my parents were states apart. So I would go back and forth a lot which meant that I was meeting new people a lot. I was also a big reader and pretty curious. (Hence my mother buying me all the art and science kits.) I was always, and still am, pretty shy, but I was open. I would try new things, even when I was nervous about them.

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