Creative Expression, Symbolism and Culture: Exploring the Art of Kamanchi

KM10Born in 1974 into a multicultural heritage of Japanese, German, Irish and American Indian; Kamanchi was crafted for creativity. As a child growing up his beloved grandmother Yoko, who was full Japanese, became his conduit into the world of understanding. She attached him —in a unique way— to the cultural sensibilities of Japan; through American eyes. His grandfather, (who died before he was born) was a Naval Airplane Mechanic who met his grandmother right after the end of World War II. During that time, his grandfather had asked his grandmother out and been denied, for four months straight (without missing a day); until finally, she said “Yes”. These two people have greatly inspired him, not only as an artist but as a person of pride; character and strength. They have shaped him to this day and motivate him to work hard.

We delved into the “Art of Kamanchi” and explored the depths and meanings behind this L.A. based artist’s creative expressions, check it out below:

Tell us how you were first introduced to Art; is there a moment that stands out in your mind? 

K: When I was three years old, I was in New York for a year and its memory, sounds and visuals imprinted me.

My father pushed me into art at a very early age and film was the best value I got out of our relationship. Initially, I didn’t want a career in art due to him. I simply moved onto being an athlete and from 1991 to 2000 that is what I was committed to. The creativity pushed its way out in the form of Industrial Design and I’ve been doing that for the last 14 years. I realized how slow and defeating product design became and a year ago I decided to get stuff out of my system by posting on Instagram, only as a start; just to practice and have fun. But it has been the best thing simply because of who you get to meet, inspire or get inspired by.

Explain the significance of your name (Kamanchi) and the # sign. 

K: Kamanchi is the amalgamation of my heritage. The hashtag (or pound sign) is beautiful and I love that it’s our modern symbol. It is quite the tool these days to connect with but what many people do not know is that it is also a common pattern design in old Japanese textiles.

In your work, we predominantly see the use of skull and bones imagery, what influences this?  

K: They are very beautiful to me and probably the best subjects to practice with but they’ve run their course and I’m ready to move onto everything else. 

You infuse a lot of layers into your work to create captivating optical illusions, do you ever find it challenging when creating these illusions?

K: It’s so much fun to me that the word “challenge” loses its meaning. It is more time based as a “challenge” because of how much work irrationally needs to get out. In examining my art, there isn’t a medium I don’t want to learn and do for the rest of my life. I enjoy the process of connecting with people whom I may never meet, in trade for the blood, sweat and execution of the second best version of what’s in my head.


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| Artist Bonus Piece |

These are a few ballpoint drawings the artist did as a teen. They were his first and last drawings he ever did and are mostly unfinished. He had never drawn surrealism before that point and has never drawn since, up until about a year ago.

Kamanchi’s Street Intell:

“These are kind of a message in a bottle now and it has been super fun to create like that again, especially after 20+ years. Two of the drawings were ripped up because of an argument with my pops. He ended up keeping them, putting them back together and taking pictures of them. The two yellow paper drawings are my personal favorites. The fisheye elevator one (with the fly on the light) was my second surreal drawing I ever did and the first time I’d ever used a ballpoint.”

Make sure you support this artist’s creativity and view more of his work on Instagram: @Kamanchi

Meet this week’s featured business owner: 9 year old CEO of Brett’s Trove

brett's trove

This week’s featured business owner is 9 year-old entrepreneur, Brett Burch. In between playing and school Brett runs an online boutique that displays his artistic abilities on mugs, ties and other accessories. He first started his boutique back in 2011 when he was coming home with tons of artwork from school. His family initially began putting Brett’s art on the refrigerator, taping some to his bedroom wall, framing them, and stuffing the rest in drawers.

brett 2

After having so much art than they knew what to do with they decided to use and feature his original pieces on t-shirts, buttons, posters, doggie shirts, mugs and ties. All proceeds of Brett Trove’s boutique go directly towards his college fund. He also donates a portion to the Stephen Joel Trachtenberg Scholarship which provides selected DC students a full scholarship to attend George Washington University in Washington, DC.

It is truly inspiring to see what an impact this young man is having in his community. He has been featured in numerous publications including the kids post section of the Washington Post. We are overjoyed to see the passion for enterprise blossoming in this young man as he continues to encourage other kids to thrive and succeed. Brett has been all over the DC metro area and New York showcasing his creativity. He was even a featured vendor at the 2013 DC Fashion week. The Brett’s Trove designer tie collection was featured in the H Street Festival Fashion Show on September 21, 2013, and Brett’s Trove made its DC Fashion Week debut at Dirty Martini during the 2013 Fashion Industry Networking Party. Mr. Ean Williams, the executive director of DC Fashion Week said that “out of 19 DC Fashion Weeks, Brett is the youngest vendor/designer to participate in DC Fashion Week”. Make sure you support Brett by purchasing something from his boutique and follow this young prince’s progress by liking his page on facebook.

Photo Credit: Saab Photography Studio

Ignorance or Apathy? #Hallowood2013 CULTURE IS NOT A COSTUME!

It’s since been noted that the fashion industry hasn’t always been quite informed on the task of understanding Africans or their African descendants [African-American, Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Latino…]. Although residing in the age of information, we are not surprised by the lack of knowledge.

However, in any realm cultural sensitivity should be of great importance, especially in an industry where design inspiration is usually pulled from all types of traditional influences. It’s one thing to find inspiration in a specific culture’s garb and replicate it. But it is utterly disgusting to try  and embody another culture through mimicking what you’ve  perceived o be an accurate social characteristic.

The nonsense of distasteful representation of Africans continues; this time in the name of Halloween “fun”. Just this past Saturday noted Italian photographers, insiders, designers and the lot gathered in Milan for #DiscoAfrica.

At the event guest dressed in outfits that they presumed were fitting representations of the African. Although this party was thrown to pay homage and celebrate African influences in fashion such as veteran model, the unconquerable Grace Jones. It turned into a spectacle in which the blatant disrespect and unacceptable views of African people were made evident.

One might raise the argument that the nature of this event is based around sheer lack of knowledge. But this notion of parading around in black face “for fun” is no longer excusable.

Just a short 6 months ago, in the May 2013 editorial for Vogue Netherlands models appeared in black face stirring up these same issues. So what does that say about the state of the fashion industry? It appears that the community is uneducated, right? Wrong. If this type of incredulous behavior persists and people keep responding with disdain, why keep doing it? Why is this something that keeps being showcased time and time again?

There is a thin line between ignorance and apathy, it is evident that some of these individuals are aware but they choose not to acknowledge their distasteful behavior. You can’t constantly say ” forgive them because they know not what they do.” To be unaware that this type of racial profiling is wrong can no longer be a crutch to rest on, especially with the power of the internet, news and social media. This is an open slap in the face to African people and their descendants because it is a conscious and continuous disregard. What has to be done for more people to recognize that making fun of a culture through racist (yes, I said racist) associations whether purposeful or not is NOT flattering?!

To the international fashion community and anyone under informed:
CULTURE IS NOT A COSTUME!!! Get that thought in your heads and cut it out! Be inspired to create tasteful representations and if you are unsure of what is appropriate, consult someone that looks like what you want to represent. Apathy is a far uglier disease than cancer, get well soon.

Until next time… Street Intellectuals stay positive and progressive!

-Leta F

@ISSARAE Started from the Bottom of YouTube now She’s there *Points North*

Instagram evidence.. BOOM!

Where is there, you ask?
Up on HBO… (and let every awkward black girl scream: What??!!!!) Yes, Girlas!!! Issa done did it now. LOL

Instagram and the internet confirms (lol yes, that’s the new news, act like you know) that Issa is teaming up with Larry Wilmore to produce an HBO comedy series centered around all things Issa; black, awkward and a girl.
Gone are the days of emailing and calling your girlfriends to find out which day on eastern standard time or Cali clocks you were tuning in to see the next episode of ABG. Issa has been making ground breaking moves; starting with securing a network transition of the ABG series over to Pharrell Williams’ channel: I AM OTHER. She even landed a deal with Shonda [Shonda Rhimes] on ABC, she appeared on MSNBC,  the cover of Essence Mag and inside of Rolling Stone, Forbes and countless other publications.

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If you’re and avid fan of Issa and her antics you know just how big this is for not only her but every black or brown girl or guy with an ounce of quirkiness in them. Issa took our unforgiving thoughts and social missteps and parlayed it into a masterpiece of comic proportions. Giving us classic characters like her “bestie before testies” CeCe, her arch nemesis Nina and who can forget that baby ass voice *bleep* Darius LOL.  Issa’s ingenuity has afforded every brown skin girl another pass to be unapologetically brilliant and most importantly … Awkward. She’s a shining example of what a lot of creativity and courage can produce.  Excited to have a piece of comic relief that overshadows the stereotype of the angry, black, woman. After all, ‘bitches be trippin’ off jokes, too. LOL

Salute to Issa Rae and may her brand live long and prosper. Let’s take it back to where it all began: