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by Frank Bach

Tell us a little bit about yourself – what’s your story?

I am Kamra Sadia Hakim, a Black American transgender artist supported by Munsee Lenape land (Brooklyn). I am the author of Care Manual, musician behind Kamra, and CEO/Founder of Activation Residency. Virgo sun, Leo Rising, Cancer moon, Libra venus meaning, I get beautiful shit done in the deep, and look good while doing it. I was born to two Muslim teenagers in Wahpekute (Minneapolis) metropolis. I have been bold/shy, fake/real, and firm/soft my entire life. I got into the work of caring as a teenager relentlessly devoted to extracurriculars and excellence. I am governed by self respect, loving interrogation, laughing until my guts fall out, and leaving when it is time. My experience on earth is  about the depth of being alive. 

How did Activation Residency come to be?

Activation Residency is one of the first post-festival experiences. I spent my early 20’s deep in the culture of places like FORM Arcosanti, Bonnaroo, and Okeechobee. I was excited by the collective warmth, the relentless hum of live music, and what happens to the energy when we pull back status quo reality and bathe in the fringes of utopian gestures, even if only for a weekend. I was attending these festivals during the heightened rise of social justice activism, made festival organizers make public declarations of solidarity, and began to dream of an intimate space for artists struggling to find a sense of belonging. Activation Residency was born out of a desire to tackle the lack of creative opportunities available to working artists. Artists like Basit, Van Newman, Annika Hansteen-Izora, Julie Byrne, and Qween Jean frequent the residency.  

What led you into the world of wellness?

The desire to be the best lover I can be, acknowledging my disabilities, and discovering I can and do cause harm led me to wellness. As my relationships hardened and chronic pain worsened, I sought out reiki, past life regression, family constellation, massage, akashic records, consent and boundaries education, and codependency recovery. 

I no longer believe that our feelings belong solely to us. We are each other’s business and we ought to cultivate the capacity to be in our feelings together.

You’re based in Brooklyn. Have you always lived there?

I moved to Brooklyn from Shouguang the year Trump got elected. I had previously been working summers in Upstate, NY counseling at Odyssey Teen Camp and felt a connection to the land there. I then got a prestigious fellowship, and chose NYU as my graduate school home. A year into my program, I got a call from the FBI saying my fellowship was being revoked because of past due medical bills, traffic tickets, and psilocybin ingestion. This meant I lost my scholarship, got billed for the scholarship, took out loans to finish my program, and left NYU with a violent amount of student loan debt. 

I feel held by Brooklyn’s culture. Seeing Black people everyday makes me feel safer. I love being trans in New York. I hate street violence, police, social climbing, expensive rent, and sensory overload. I am in the process of transitioning to the Upstate, NY countryside.

What does a typical day look like for you?

My dog and I have our morning walk in the park and then eat breakfast side by side in my small but stylish Brooklyn kitchen. The afternoons are for making, which often ends up looking like me playing and fooling around in the living room. I take an afternoon nap, and then prepare for an evening outing with friends or go on a date. 😉  

What projects or work are you most proud of?

The ‘Hear My No’ official music video gently slaps, and my Deem Journal and Creative Independent interviews feel generative. 

How do you make space for creativity in your work?

I make space for creativity in my work by making all my work creative work. My recording studio is in my living room, so I get to make music whenever inspiration strikes. 

Can you talk about some of the common themes, symbols and meanings found in your work?

Common themes in my work are value-building, care-making, making not creating, play, dreamy pallets, nature, rivers and bodies of water, kingliness, gardens and farms, tenderness, the Universe, fire, earth matter, and language as a tool.

Where do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration in lived experience, which I write about in Care Manual as informing life’s philosophy. Everything we need to navigate the world happens for us. It is about tuning in, brushing off the gems you find, and assigning meaning and value to them based on the kind of life you choose to live. 

How do you balance being an artist and making a living?

I take risks each day to live the life I want backdropped by the fragrance of being an artist and making a living. Requiring larger checks for commissions, securing a fiscal sponsor for Activation Residency, investing in my making, and prioritizing financial literacy are ways I balance art making and paying bills. 

Care Manual by Kamra Sadia Hakim

What’s been your most profound spiritual experience?

Ayahuasca ceremony was a birthing of sorts, and an invitation to process and excavate the generational harm living in my body.

What’s an opinion you used to have that you’ve changed your mind about?

I no longer believe that our feelings belong solely to us. We are each other’s business and we ought to cultivate the capacity to be in our feelings together.

What does the sun represent to you?

The sun represents a symbol of self worth.

If you could change one thing about the world we live in, what would that be?

This question makes me emotional. I would abolition prisons, defund police, and dismantle the money to freedom pipeline. 

Anything you want to promote or plug?

Buy the digital edition of Care Manual.

Leave a comment
 

by Frank Bach
TW // This post has mention of suicide and self-harm

Tell us a little bit about yourself – what’s your story?

My name is Jesiah Atkinson. I was born in Worcester, Massachusetts but I’m based in Virginia. I’ve always been really into things related to how things look. Movie posters, ad campaigns, fashion, reading, music, language, interior design, among a million other things, are all sectors of creative exploration that I’ve always been drawn to.

What led you into the world of art and design?

Art for Kim Petras

I was 19 years old and didn’t know what I should do with my life. The only solid thing I landed on was that I wanted my career to be creative and have the ability to branch off into other creative endeavors seamlessly. I randomly fell upon an app called Adobe Photoshop mix one night and just started remixing photos I’d saved from Tumblr out of pure boredom. I loved how it made me feel. I loved the feeling of endless possibilities. I had enrolled in a local community college for accounting within that time, because, well I had to do something. During my period of suffering at school, I came to realize and accept that school just wasn’t for me and wouldn’t get me to the career and life I’d been fantasizing about for as long as I could remember. So I dropped out and decided graphic design was just going to have to work out.

All of the evil that runs rampant in this world is tied to greed, hatred and a myriad of other unsavory traits. If those things were replaced with love and respect, we’d all be better off.

Have you always lived in Virginia? How do you like it?

I’ve been here for quite some time but I was born in New England (I say New England instead of “Massachusetts” most of the time because it sounds cooler). I’ve been in VA for over a decade now. I plan on leaving as soon as possible.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Sometimes I wake up around 8 or 9 am. Sometimes I wake up around noon. It all depends on how I feel (and the weather). From that point of awakening I do the normal things like brushing my teeth, showering blah blah. Then I go on to satisfy my caffeine addiction with coffee. Black with two sugars and two shots of espresso. From there I open my laptop and get straight to work. I work until the sun goes down, only stopping to drink water or eat something. This isn’t exactly ideal but it works for where I’m at right now. Everything I choose to give my time to regarding work is actively putting me in a better position and setting the stage for my and my families’ future. The way I see it, what better time to work my ass off and grow my network than now when I’m just a 20 something with no kids?

What projects or work are you most proud of?

In no particular order:

  • I designed three shirts for a brand called TWOARABMINDS
  • I designed a cover for Kim Petras (she’s lovely)
  • I designed merch for Megan THEE Stallion (shoutout to Sam Riddle, he’s awesome)
  • I got to help out with laying out Volume 0: Seen by Black Fashion Fair.

Probably one of the most important projects I’ve ever done in my entire life. (shoutout to Antoine Gregory, the boys of the AB+DM studio, Brandon and Nubian for welcoming me so warmly into that extremely impactful project)

TWOARABMINDS

How do you make space for creativity in your work?

Well it all starts at the workspace, and mine is fairly simple. It’s a regular beat up old desk. On it are post it notes, an Aimé Leon Dore lighter, some coasters Vogue sent out to all of their subscribers a few years ago, a plant my job sent me for my birthday and crumbled up pieces of paper containing ideas that I no longer like and to do lists that have been completed. I always make sure to have at least 3 books within arms reach and always have a candle burning. On the creative ideation front, it all begins with me assessing how I feel. What direction do I want to go in? Wondering what the final product could be, and how I want people to feel when they see or hear it. What sector of my frame of reference am I going to pull from? Things like that.

Can you talk about some of the common themes, symbols and meanings found in your work?

Megan Thee Stallion

I think the most common theme in my work is the pull from past eras of design. I can’t help but reference old things. I’m one of those people that likes to dig into the past and see the way things used to be done when it comes to the creative process. I try to emulate that.The quality of a design isn’t, in my opinion, just tied into the obvious. Things like font choice and good composition are no-brainers. For me it’s all about the subtlety. The magic, the feeling, the validity of something lies within the things that aren’t as obvious, because that’s where you, the artist, dwells. That’s what makes your stuff unique and inspiring. That’s the stuff you expound upon and build a name with. Another thing is texture. I love when things look like they’ve lived a life. I like things that look touched. There’s a richness to that.

Where do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration in many things. Films are huge for me. Music, literature, fashion, fine art, architecture, the idiosyncratic tendencies people and characters in films have that makes them an individual. The weather (cloudy, rainy weather to be specific). The tone of voice people use when they speak. Color. Space. Language, food, culture. Relationships. Everything.

How do you balance being an artist and making a living?

I try to merge being an artist and making a living together by way of freelance work. I’m currently working in advertising at an agency but have a plan to go back to freelance full time again. Freelance is where I’m able to make things that I genuinely like and still make money. I’d like to work for a company or brand where my natural inclinations relating to design and aesthetic align with theirs eventually.

What’s been your most profound spiritual experience?

When I was 17, a good friend of mine committed suicide and it changed my life. My mind broke in ways I didn’t know the mind could break. The only avenue I could take to heal enough to where I wouldn’t deteriorate and want to take steps to leave this life myself, was to get very close to God and pray that I made it out of that dark time alive. And I did. The pain of that tragedy, along with other tragedies I’ve experienced, reach far beyond this world. So the healing is only due to my relationship with God. Without that, I simply wouldn’t be here.

What’s an opinion you used to have that you’ve changed your mind about?

When I was a kid, I would hear a lot of the adults around me complain about life. About the “powers that be” and how they crap on everyone. How horrible it is. I thought they were just being dramatic. I know now that they weren’t being dramatic at all, they were right.

What does the sun represent to you?

For me, it represents growth, regeneration. Healing and warmth.

If you could change one thing about the world we live in, what would that be?

If I had it my way, as cheesy as it may sound, I’d inject the basic principle of love and respect into the spirits of everyone. All of the evil that runs rampant in this world is tied to greed, hatred and a myriad of other unsavory traits. If those things were replaced with love and respect, we’d all be better off.

Anything you want to promote or plug?

Here’s my portfolio! And here’s my Twitter and Instagram.

Leave a comment
 

by Frank Bach

Tell us a little bit about yourself – what’s your story?

I am Yumi Sakugawa, a second-generation Okinawan-Japanese-American interdisciplinary artist based in Tongva land (Los Angeles). I am the author of several books including I THINK I AM IN FRIEND-LOVE WITH YOU, YOUR ILLUSTRATED GUIDE TO BECOMING ONE WITH THE UNIVERSE, FASHION FORECASTS, and THE LITTLE BOOK OF LIFE HACKS. Sagittarius sun, Aquarius rising, Virgo moon. I’ve always been into drawing, reading, and creative writing since I was a child (and I was also a painfully shy introvert), and so it always made sense to me that I would eventually grow up and do something creative as a grown-up. 

What led you into the world of wellness?

I’ve always been a lover of self-help books, advice columns, and pretty much most material relating to mental health. I think I’ve suspected since I was about 12 that I had symptoms of depression but I did not fully pursue mental health resources in the form of regular talk therapy and prescribed medication until I was a very depressed freshman in college. I think before that, I don’t think I had the space or the articulated language or the sense of self-advocacy to really seek out those resources while I was living at home with my parents. 

Then I really got into meditation my first year living abroad after college graduation when I was working as a (very terrible) conversational English language teacher at an afterschool program in Japan. All the valuable resources I had for my somewhat stabilized mental wellbeing (therapy, prescribed medication, support network, community) were suddenly gone, and I was in a very, very low place. Reading Eckhart Tolle’s book a NEW EARTH and listening to the audiobook version of David Lynch’s meditation creativity book CATCHING THE BIG FISH gave me the inspiration to start a meditation practice. Or rather, I really didn’t know what else to do with my abysmal horrible feeling of hating myself and hating my life and since I had never tried meditation before, it was like ok sure why not? 

I don’t want to prescribe meditation as a panacea for all your mental ills, but having meditation really helped me shift myself slowly out of that very dark place to a slightly less dark place. And then moving back to Los Angeles and away from the job that was not very well-matched for me and then reintegrating medication and therapy eventually–that definitely helped me, too. 

I read a lot of self-help books on money and healing subconscious, scarcity-based money stories inherited from family, society, cultural programming, and the daily messages received from living in capitalism.

Then in my early 30s, through a series of synchronicities (isn’t that always the case? lol) I got more into astrology, the occult, the witchy, and the divine feminine and I think that started to give me a sense of wholeness and community  that meditation practice alone couldn’t give me. After all, one single practice is not meant to be the cure-all for everything– I think most of us need multiple healing modalities and relational support all working together and always evolving, fluctuating in an ecosystem of healing to move towards wholeness and aliveness. 

You’re based in LA. Have you always lived there? What do you like about it? Dislike about it?

I was born and raised in Orange County, and then I started attending UCLA as a college student. Ever since then, I have more or less spent most of my adult life living in various neighbourhoods throughout Los Angeles. Though I have toyed with the idea of living in other cities, ultimately Los Angeles is the best city for me. I hate cold weather, and I need close proximity to delicious Asian food and Asian supermarkets in order to live. I also love the many incredible, diverse, creative communities that exist in Los Angeles that I am a part of or am inspired by. There is always something cool and new and weird and interesting going on to check out whether it is a live punk show or an art opening or a sound bath in someone’s backyard with goats or an interactive sound piece in Little Tokyo or what-have-you. Plus, if it all gets too overwhelming, a nature retreat is only an hour or two drive away. 

What does a typical day look like for you?

Most days, I start my day with a 20 minute morning meditation. I also do my morning pages, too–three pages of stream of conscious writing. Lately, taking advantage of this possibly brief window of time when businesses are open in this ongoing pandemic, I like to drive myself to a cafe and get a chunk of work done brainstorming on long term projects with a matcha latte. (I very sadly can no longer handle the caffeine of coffee). I usually eat lunch at home, and then will probably do a few more hours of work in the afternoon. Maybe I will go for a walk. Dinner at home (I like to eat mostly home cooked meals on weekdays), followed by watching streaming shows with my boyfriend. Some late mornings I work out. Some evenings I go out to meet with friends. Some days, taking advantage of the fact that I mostly work from home and myself, I indulge in a lazy weekday afternoon browsing a bookstore or walking around in a different neighborhood. 

What projects or work are you most proud of?

I am really proud of the many self-published comic zines I have made over the years during my early to late twenties. They were really a labour of love that gave me a lot of incredible experiences when I was just starting out as an artist – tabling at different zine conventions and indie comic festivals in different cities, making a lot of awesome friends, and really honing my practice as an artist and storyteller. 

How do you make space for creativity in your work?

I really love boring routine, habits, and predictable structure to give space to be wild and free in creative expression. Daily meditation helps. Carving out an hour or two in the morning at a cafe helps. Having specific windows of time in the day dedicated to creative work helps. Breaks help. Financial stability DEFINITELY helps. Living with someone who splits chores with you – gamechanger. Also, I think the only reason I get the majority of my work done is because I have an external deadline from an agent or a publisher and I don’t want to disappoint people. That is the real secret of my productivity. 

Can you talk about some of the common themes, symbols and meanings found in your work?

Bunnies, portals, the universe, the Milky Way, Earth, anthropomorphic blobs, tea with demons, shadow, nostalgia as time travel, ancestral trauma, ancestral joy, healing, silence, space, sacred space, divine feminine, the moon, lotus, roots, seeds, Japanese heritage, Okinwan heritage, animism, ecosystems, rituals, rest as radical resistance to capitalism, softness and tenderness, sparkles, gentleness, weird fashion. Basically, my art is my way of contributing to a vision for a collective future of healing and interconnected joy and abundance and beautiful possibilities which I truly believe is possible with all my heart the more I articulate it with my words and drawings. 

Where do you find inspiration?

My most uncomfortable emotions and deepest shame (lol), the incredible new art I experience in Los Angeles, childhood memories, the specific trials and tribulations of being a second-generation Asian American woman living in the 21st century, internet anxieties, an ongoing desire of wanting to give my younger self what I wish I could have had when I needed it the most, the mysterious pull of wanting to distill a specific, unnameable emotion into something tangible and real, things that annoy me or make me mad, anime, friendship magic, the ocean, mood lighting, expensive candles, sexy lipstick shades, amazing fashion and sick outfits, witchy rituals, alchemizing old wounds, divination decks. 

How do you balance being an artist and making a living?

I read a lot of self-help books on money and healing subconscious, scarcity-based money stories inherited from family, society, cultural programming, and the daily messages received from living in capitalism. (Some favorites are YOU ARE A BADASS AT MAKING MONEY BY JEN SINCERO and WE SHOULD ALL BE MILLIONAIRES by Rachel Rodgers and MONEY MAGIC by THE MONEY WITCH). Honestly, I was not really on top of my finances until my let’s-trust-the-universe-and-not-look-at-my-checking-account-too-hard approach to money finally and inevitably lead to a dead end, and I was cornered in a situation where I had to figure out how to make money and be responsible with money FAST. For me, reaching a low point with my finances was my best way to learn how to become responsible and abundant with money. I don’t necessarily recommend that path (ideally, you want to preemptively be good with money before you are in a dire place!), but that was really the only way I truly learned.  I also believe it is also important to have trusted artist friends where you can speak to one another candidly about money, share financial resources, and help each other generate ideas and be financially responsible while honoring your creative practice, since there is no clear roadmap for many artists who do not have a more traditional day job and likely work freelance, project by project. 

What’s been your most profound spiritual experience?

Learning how to meditate and commit to a daily meditation practice when I was deep in my depression was an incredibly humbling spiritual experience that really unfolded an incredible pathway of healing and creative empowerment. 

What’s an opinion you used to have that you’ve changed your mind about?

I used to think air fryers were overrated (like okay? Just use an oven?) until I was gifted one, and now I cannot imagine life without it and air fryer cooking has officially become my all-encompassing  identity and personality. 

What does the sun represent to you?

Vitality, courage, strength, creativity, unabashed joy, divine visibility, life source, abundance, power, unafraid to be seen. 

If you could change one thing about the world we live in, what would that be?

In my ideal world, everyone would know how to meditate and sit with their uncomfortable feelings and emotions. And therapy would be free for everyone. 

Anything you want to promote or plug?

Mindful Coloring Book by Yumi Sakugawa

I have a mindful coloring book that comes out in July 2022! Please buy them for yourself and all your stressed out friends and family, which will be available at Simon and Schuster.

Find Yumi on Instagram and check out their eBook Notes on Self-Care for Creative Humans as well as merch collection at Sunshine Shop.

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