My family legacy is one of sensible, hard-working people who found a way to do useful work with an artist’s heart. They held on to their souls and spirits by creating possibilities from the ordinary stuff of life.
Many of my people were teachers, ministers, farmers and artisans who blurred the lines between occupations to insure survival. Whatever they created was infused with an earthy, serviceable beauty. Their work was assemblages of shared perspectives, values, beliefs that took care of daily tasks, needs and resilience. Some of these folks I did not know except through stories that I squirreled away in my mind as interesting, charismatic and quite memorable. Other family members I watched at their work. I was fascinated, intrigued and dazzled by what I now understand as their genius. The family and the community that surrounded them did not think of them as gifted, talented or amazing. They were doing what they had to do. As I felt the passion of artist/creator/innovator in my own spirit, I fully embraced them as treasures.
Creativity became my go-to-place as a growing girl making doll clothes and painting from tins of water color. In my early years my quest was to become distinct, different, and special. When I took my first college art class and saw my first fashion show given by senior design students, I was smitten and my heart’s desire was to become a fashion designer. I had learned to sew standing at the elbow of my mother, a nursery school teacher, as she made and mended our clothes, created curtains and upholstered worn furniture. I began to make my own clothes in high school. I could be one of those designers! When I excitedly told my father, a minster/inventor, of my choice, he made a simple direct statement that I could not refute, “A black woman has to be able to provide for herself. Become a teacher. You can always get a job as a teacher. Maybe you can sew on the side.” I was devastated, but at that time in my life I did not directly defy my father. Determined to be distinct and different, I studied sociology and social work. Daddy did not embrace this choice fully, but it seemed a bit more practical. I attended graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania and became a social worker and then a psychotherapist.
When I began to really grow myself up and step into my authentic passions, inspiration flowed from my deep connection with my legacy: I became a teacher, an advocate for spirit and an artist. Each one of my passions has been firmly linked to a different aspect of my work/life.
The therapist sees infinite possibilities. Together with my clients, we seek and find precious, rare, raw materials where none are apparent. There are always such wonderful variations in beauty. Each person holds richly textured and colorful treasures that are not easily accessible or obvious until we explore. My practice is now in a jewel of a place I call The Little House
The teacher develops innovate and dynamic group experiences which provide new perspectives, information, learning and the energy of support. These experiences are now known as BreakAways.
The artist designs and makes useful, beautiful objects with purpose and ingenuity to nourish body and soul. Ordinary “stuff” (scraps, discarded, much used, repurposed) is transformed into the magical and the sacred. Twelve years ago I gave this passion the name Zuri Designs-Useful Beauty.
As I continue to grow and embrace who I am – the therapist, the teacher and the artist are now one.