Friday, March 17, 2017

inkkas: Vegan Fair Trade + Handmade Sneakers

My Black Spectrum inkkas are made with authentic Peruvian textiles, high quality cotton shoe laces by local artists. Every shoe is cut, sewn, and stitched by hand.
Once upon an art gallery opening, I spied this tall, loc'ed curator wearing the most incredible shoes-- shoes that his wife had bought him. They were a wild lime green and heather grey with kente fabric patterns stitched in between. He showed them off, including the rounded logo attached to the bottom. I had put the inkkas brand in the back of my mind (for what seems like centuries) and at last treated myself to the fair trade made-to-order company. After all, boot season is almost drawing to a close (despite Tuesday's large puff of snow and ice). One needs to be super prepped for spring and spring means pep in the step.
Now inkkas are far more than lovely pair of shoes.
Some wonderful highlights:
In conjunction with Trees for the Future, inkkas is committed to retaining Earth's sustainability. With every purchase, a tree is planted.
"Each tree has multiple uses including - reforestation, improving soil condition, providing food for human and livestock consumption and eventually timber as well."
So far, the number has reached over 100,000.
Here's a link to The inkkas Vegan Collection. Find beautifully patterned low and high top sneakers, fancy espadrilles, and chic bazaar bags that set forth a conscious yet vibrant style statement.

My rainbow high top inkkas not only have an optimistic  and match a certain multifaceted jersey dress, they fit perfectly, are comfortable for walking, and add pizazz to any outfit.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Beyond Meat's The Beyond Burger

1/4 quarter pound of succulent awesomeness thanks to the power of beet satisfaction.
At long last, I finally tried Beyond Meat's The Beyond Burger. Funnily enough, it took a new art project to arrive here. I requested friends of mine to pose for a new pencil/watercolor series at their apartment and offered to bring these epically amazing burgers (according to word of mouth).
First of all, Beyond Meat's latest creation is not located with the other frozen veggie burgers. In fact, the meat aisle carries several facings. That alone is a terrifying prospect for a vegan-- venturing into a painful grocery area, holding in stomach, trying not to scream aloud or retch violently at sight of dead carcasses wrapped in cellophane. It is both solid (maybe meat eaters will be curious) and loathsome (why surround ourselves with body parts and ice) that Beyond Meat's would strategize placing their product here. Still, I grabbed a package and left as quickly as my body allowed.
At $5.99, I thought it quite reasonable. That is, until I entered my friend's establishment. They wondered why I only had one. I felt incredibly stupid for not reading the fine print. There were only two patties. Two. I had this crazy assumption that veggie burgers came in fours. These burgers are pretty pricey.
Overall, The Beyond Burger is quite enjoyable. It has plenty of flavor especially a believable meaty, grisly texture, a good fulfilling portion (20 grams of protein is nothing to sneeze at), and an aesthetical beauty with the gorgeous beet red and all.
Perfect for functions like barbecues, parties, and drawing gatherings, but one has to know to buy enough for everyone.

Pan seared in olive oil, smelling really burger fragrant.

Situated on a whole wheat bun, topped with melted Field Roast Coconut Herb Chao, lettuce, tomato, and Just Mayo with baked shoestring fries and a gravy smothered gardein turk'y cutlet (unseen) on the side.

This thick scrumptious burger has an irresistible exterior crunch, pliant juiciness, and seasoned flavor that captures all the essence of real meat without the cruelty.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Mild Vegan Chocolate Chili

Chili gets kicked up a notch when a spicy melted chocolate bar joins the pot.
As tail end whispers of winter season gives one last effortless breeze, it feels appropriate to share a new chili recipe to our spitfire spirits. The title may sound sweet and dessert-like. Plot twist-- this is not similar at all to an indulgent spice cookie or a black bean brownie. Although having a tasty addictive component such as chocolate comes as an eloquent surprise, beans, corn, tomatoes, and spices lap up the chocolate's spiciness factor quite brilliantly. Inside of a bowl lies irresistible satisfaction to warm up souls on the final cold days.
The idea to add chocolate in chili came after my Toronto friend sent me Galerie Au Chocolat's feu fire chocolate bar. I've had the bar for months, wrapping my head around exactly what to do with it. After all, this articular bar came with a red stickered fire warning. That meant this was not an average chocolate bar. Galerie Au Chocolat's cacao beans are produced by coops in Dominican Republic just like La Siembra Chocolate. However, La Siembra is on the Food Empowerment Project's recommended list whereas Galerie Au Chocolat is not. Luckily, various FEP approved brands craft spicy chocolate bars.
The flavor of hot hot liquid chocolate to the means is amazing-- like a tantalizing mole sauce taking a meaty bean dish out on a town. It's perfect. It's romantic. What more can one expect from chili?
For an even spicier delight (if you're not a mild fan), add chopped jalapenos, extra sliced bell peppers, or ample sprinkles of cayenne/paprika.

Mild Vegan Chocolate Chili Ingredients and Preparation

1 15oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup frozen corn, cooked
1 15oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup Lightlife Soy Ground (or any other kind)
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped finely
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 Spicy Chocolate Bar (Theo Chocolate's Spicy Bar is a good suggestion)
avocado
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes

Bring beans, corn, soy ground, and spices to simmer, stirring often and putting a lid on. Let simmer for 35-40 minutes.
In a steel bowl over bowling water, melt chocolate.

Mix 3/4 of the melted chocolate bar into chili. Stir evenly.

Chili topped with avocado slices, extra hot chocolate, cilantro, and crushed red pepper flakes.

Pretty colorful bowl of yumminess.

Ready to be devoured.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Taji Magazine Vol. 10 Launch Party in Brooklyn

Taji Mag is a magazine dedicated to African culture and fashion.
Last Wednesday evening, I exited off the Brooklyn bound train and headed to Sehiii Gallery for Taji Mag's Volume 10 launch party. I have always wanted to attend one of their functions and being off on Wednesdays made it all the more convenient to finally show support.
In the dimly lit gallery space, smelling of divinely scented candles, a young loc'ed DJ named Cornelio pumped out vibrant music that reverberated off walls and into excited ear drums. Lovely fashionable clothed and hair styled people sat around small round tables chatting with each other. Up front, a quiet girl sat alone drawing with pens and markers in a fat sketchbook. Others grooved to the beats, while seated, their rhythmic bodies begging for more.

Past Taji Mag covers hang on the brick wall, some are featured cover models and others are digital artworks.
Before the features and open mics started, the host had the audience stand in a wide, intimate circle and introduce ourselves to strangers. It was a rather nice way to remove nervous edges, to find a friend among low lights and chill music.

To catch Akinyemi, a main feature, one had to be faster than a cheetah. As he rapped his rhymes over boom boom rustic beats reminiscent of old fashioned hip hop, he moved so swiftly, that my camera only caught flashing essences of his energetic tenacity. He had that afro box hair cut and a rainbow sports jacket, speaking about realness in the mic.

Nosuh Foster's booming, powerful, thought provoking poetry brought the atmosphere to whole new heights. He had a finesse that was charming yet refined and intelligent. Plus when he smiled, showing pearly white teeth, the world looked brand new, promising as he spoke of being happy to be alive, alive past 25.

Rapper in camouflage Lyle Omolayo who spoke about roots roots roots.

Nay Marie is the creator/founder of Taji Mag. She is also a New York based photographer, vegan (yay!), and uniquely stylish.

Future painting inspiration.

The open mic segment started off with this cool rapper.

Caught in mid-spit.

This man crooned old school R&B beautifully. He sang Shai's "If I Ever Love Again." Women hollered like crazy. Yes. That we did. *swoons*

Another cool rapper, celebrating hip hop over slick beats, making the crowd wild.

On the left is the latest model winner for Taji Magazine Volume 11. She is Queen Bosa Bosa on Instagram. Her page is beautiful moments of gorgeous shots and dancing to African beats.
Segments introduced vendors selling their wares including cupcakes. When Lo of Sweets on the Lo gave a rundown of her cupcakes, saving the vegan option for last, it was definitely one of the huge surprises of the evening. Her site has a galore of vegan options including Aphrodisiac (a chocolate cupcake with raspberry buttercream), Hallelujah (a lemon blueberry cupcake with blueberry buttercream), and a drool worthy Taye Diggs Deluxe (chocolate caramel cupcake with caramel buttercream).
I had to try the Go Nanaz! cupcake-- a banana cupcake with cinnamon buttercream. The cake was moist with yummy authentic banana flavor and the sweet, lusciously whipped frosting tasted divine. Overall, quite the scrumptious treat whilst listening to music and poetry.
One of several photographers capturing this marvelous event.
I meet the delightful Awesum and her partner in crime. Their act started off quite humorously. He strums his guitar, reciting a humble soliloquy about poverty and survival. She is in the audience, laughing and smiling over his pain. I see a few confused faces in the audience. For a moment, I too am a little shocked. Suddenly,  still smiling rather infectiously, she begins humming like a vibrant bee finding the sweetest nectar and singing. She gets up out of her seat and saunters over to him, harmonizing. The duet is fresh and funky containing all the classical ingredients of soulful love and affectionate tenderness. After their song, someone had stood and clapped, boasting, "best of the night!"

Miss Blue, a twenty-year-old songstress from New Jersey took the audience away with her rendition of Alicia Keys' "No One."
In the gallery, many items whispered pleasant secrets. These fabrics were especially attention getting-- bantu knot profiled woman whose yellowed face arrests a teal circle repeatedly. The other is black and white with lovers kissing. They're both beautiful depictions. I have rarely seen such images on cloth, having always seen bold, colorful patterns. 

Close ups.

Many connotations came from this Africa continent shaped piece. It has an elegant design yet also a figurative quality. The ebony black against patterned zig zags and squares appears to be a cropped body, a piece of action that might have escaped a Kerry James Marshall work.

Other African continent shaped compositions continue along the wall sharing various stories of romantic love and self love, bold colors and stylized figures gifted gratifying dignity, grace, and beauty.
Giant wooden floor drum and smaller sculptures on white pedestal surrounded by plant life.
I not only have a gorgeous magazine to stare at forever and forever (and with future drawing inspirations along the way), I also won one of the raffles-- a beauty set from The Celestine Collection (Green Tea Body Souffle and body oil). I am super excited to review the products soon.
Inside the magazine are mesmerizing photographs of beautiful brown/ebony models (some discovered on Instagram), romantic advice, vegan recipes, and selected black owned businesses. I was happy to find this ad/article about Fruiggie, an eco friendly arts and crafts company that is fruit, vegetable, and plant based. They sell vegan paint, crayons, play dough, organic aprons, coloring books, and more. 
Tiffany Mack's 9oclockteeparty is a funky take on eyewear, featuring bedazzled sparkles on uniquely designed frames. 
Physical copies of Taji Mag's Volume 10 is $10 and digital print is $3. You can also purchase past issues, coffee/tea mugs, purses/totes, and even a photo session here.

A huge thanks to one of the photographers who caught me in action and shared this on the Taji Mag FB page. Behind me in giant pink Africa earrings with big poufy hair is a sweet woman named Babette-- whom I met and introduced myself to in the circle.
The party was killer fun. I wouldn't mind taking another escape from Philly back up to NYC for more vibing music, poetry, and art. There might be another vegan delight or two to sample.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Fumbling Towards Watercolor Ecstasy

Just in time for Women's Month, I am charting on a journey to self-discovery in art-- my identity as a woman, as an artist, as a writer, as a black body, as a vegan. The newest works have been brewing inside for a while. These aren't necessarily finished ideas. They're roots of something larger. I am hopeful that the ripened fruit is exceptional. 
I have always had an interest in combining writing and visual art making together. To weave these separate entities is dangling a hope for conversation between left and right sides of cerebral, to get creative counterparts to integrate on the same wavelength. This quest is still going through a maturing process right now like a breathing baby crawling into awkward adolescence phase before reaching the cusp of onerous adulthood.
For starters, I am enrolled in a continuing education class at PAFA taught by renowned watercolorist James Toogood-- whose last name speaks for itself. So far, I've been learning remarkable things about watercolor (like grisaille underpaintings can be achieved for example)-- unexpected treasures from a medium deemed "too difficult" or "not sophisticated enough" in varied art circles.
Watercolor on wood is beautiful. Thoughtfully engaging transparencies over the natural grain integrity makes for a more intriguing composition. Artist Audrey Kawasaki is well known for her sultry oil and ink paintings that show hints of the wood grain and notable degrees of light layering. Thus, I was invested in using her as another teacher next to Mr. Toogood.
I found reasonably priced fine wood panels at Artist & Craftsman. I also bought vegan friendly watercolors (brands like Windsor & Newton & Holbein have plentiful animal free colors) and synthetic brushes. Plus a classmate mentioned a great alternative to the sable brush. She, a vegetarian, too is against animal products in art making practice.

Before I began my drawings (self portrait renderings suspended on fragments), haunting words came to mind, awful sentences from childhood reformed in another kind of way in my life now. The upended phrase "if you didn't have those" pertains to an infinite amount of what could be negatives and what if attributes. I wrote this out in a uniformed repetition with a B pencil. I then drew the portrait over the text, making sure to leave the residue of mantra visible.
This is the full on graphite version-- second coating using only a 6B pencil. Progress similar to repeatedly writing the fragment, this took hours, but felt incredibly gratifying. I rarely slept. Once the roll started, to stop seemed to torment me. I would sleep dreaming about drawing/writing/finishing. Honestly, I spent more time sharpening pencils than anything else last week.
The finished version of "if you didn't have those." Also, I must admit to reminiscing about Johannesburg often. The patterns, the atmosphere, that world clings to me like a second skin, a secret weapon that comes out at wherever I choose to wield its power. I used distinguished colors in the design of this portrait fabric, having wanted to carve out my memories of South Africa in some manifested fashion.
"if you weren't so dark" is the second piece. This pertains specifically to flesh tone. Colorism is a huge martyr in black community. It can stain a fragile mind longing to find beauty and worth in themselves. Often times, the refusal hurts a million times worse when it's your own community performing the sacrificial ritual-- telling a person that their brown is too brown, too close to ebony, too close to "ugly."  In this portrait yields a tenderness and appreciation for design principles, a defiant determinedness. The fragment is in cursive, slanted at diagonal intervals, with the face again layered overtop and watercolor coated. 
They made their public debut in at PAFA's Insider III show in Gallery 128. These are the beginnings of an idea, an idea slowly gaining traction and picking up an ample amount of steam. For me, it's important to decipher meaning in what people have said or write about me, about people I know, about complete strangers. I'm also searching through this quiet, versatile medium for myself as an artist trying to survive without oils and acrylics. Can I make this work in my post-graduate school world?