January 30, 2019

WCW January 2019 - Amama Ekwere

Guess what feature is back on the blog!!! Well, if you're reading this, then you know already. I started a WCW Feature back in 2017 (see my posts featuring Freky Andy and Daboju). I wanted to feature women that inspire me on a monthly basis, and the posts were well-received. However, I was heavily pregnant when I started the series, and by the time June came around, Little Miss Cocoa also made her grand entrance! At that point, I was not only overwhelmed with being a new and first-time mum, but also started dealing with personal issues. It's taken almost 2 years to get back on this train, but BETTER LATE THAN NEVER!

This month's feature is on Amama Ekwere, the beautiful owner of Amama Design Atelier. I have known her for a few years now, and we worked in the same company during my stint in Nigeria. She was always striking to me - from her colored natural hair, to her artsy and creative abilities, while working in the Oil and Gas industry. I've followed her progress over the years and I'm thrilled that she's doing what she loves - SHE IS MIGHTY TALENTED. I hope you enjoy her feature today.

1. What is your name, and what do you do?
I’m Amama Ekwere (although I'm also known as Eddie, DeeDee or Didi, Edidiong ... I assure you, I am not a spy) and I’m currently exploring my visual/digital art and surface pattern designer side.
2. How did you get started in creating art/design? Did you have any formal training at first? 
I’ve always been a creative person. Right from when I could pick up a pencil, I have always sketched, doodled, drawn something … my notebooks always had a sketch or two somewhere within. You see, art runs in my family, on my father’s side. So I was born with it.
However, in 2016, I realised with a jolt, that I hadn’t drawn much in over 10 years. I had, been doing lots of other creative stuff. In that space of time, even though I hadn’t drawn or painted, I designed and owned a maternity clothing line, I also established and ran the first of its kind t-shirt line which incorporated ankara and embroidery and finally, an accessories line where I handmade folded fabric flowers using felt, leather, ankara and other fabrics to make headbands, fascinators and brooches. I did basic art up until Junior Secondary School, but being largely science inclined I wasn’t able to take Art in Senior Secondary. The alternative was to do Technical Drawing, it made a science out of art for me and I was totally in love. I wound up not doing any of this after school though. 
When I decided to take up art again, I signed up for an online course in Surface Pattern Design. You see, I was scared my art wasn’t good enough so I wanted something that would accept my scribbles and scrawls and let me pass off as a “real” artist. I was so scared I would be laughed at and called a fraud. However, what it wound up doing was to help me regain my confidence. I bought a sketchbook and started sketching again. Then I wanted to paint on canvas and see how the colours mixed. Then I wanted to explore digital and graphics art. I just wanted to make art. Visual. Digital, Surface Pattern Design … Art was back home to stay. I found it was freeing, it was therapeutic, I had truly missed it.
 I am mostly self-taught but I have done very brief courses in painting, drawing and a more in-depth course in the use of Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator for which I am now certified.

3. When I met you, you were working as an Engineer in the Oil and Gas industry. What made you decide to quit that career and go full-time with your design services?
So there’s the running battle between Engineers and Geologists, so I am going to defend my turf … I’m a Geologist, actually. So … why did I quit? I was burnt-out, I was frustrated … I wasn’t seeing growth for myself and I had to make the hard decision to take a career break. Luckily, I had picked up art in the past year and had already begun to explore Surface Pattern Designing and making a career of it. So when I left, I knew I didn’t want to work for at least a year so I decided to look in to making a business of my passion. I was also bolstered by the fact that my picking up art again had actually encouraged people around me. I had a lot of people walking up to me and telling me how they had picked up hobbies they had let go off for years. If that wasn’t inspiration enough to think that I could venture in to art and design, and actually make a go of it, then I don’t know what else is.
4. What measures have you taken to hone your skills and your business acumen, if any?
Skills-wise, I have studied and studied and studied some more. I found Skillshare, Coursera, Udemy and YouTube to be extremely useful. I also explored face-to-face courses for both skills and business acumen and dedicated a lot of 2018 to that. I attended literally everything I could find because I just wanted to soak up the knowledge and apply it to my business, I didn’t want it to be just a hobby anymore. I have attended workshops on business strategy, business structure, taxation, valuation and how to value your business, attracting investors, you name it … And I’m not done yet. On the skills end, more than anything I have practiced. And practice always makes perfect.

5. Who is your dream client and what would you design for him/her?
Gosh! I have quite a few dream clients that I would love to work with. I would absolutely love to work with Adidas (I just love the layout of their kicks, they were made for art) and design a handpainted art sneakers range. That’s top on my list. I would also love to work with Vlisco, and create a full on range of fabric.  Then I totally want to design product packaging for a celebrity, first would be Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty line. Now that would be all kinds of litty!
6. What would you say to the person who wants to transition from a 9-to-5 job to becoming a full-time entrepreneur?
You just have to do it afraid! Be smart about it … Understand how to work your financials (personal and business) because entrepreneurship is not a walk in the park. And also, if ever you want to go back to work, there is no shame in the game … Do you!
7. Finally, what and/who inspires you to keep going every day?
I’ll pull a Snoop on y’all and say myself. I am my first and foremost inspiration. Secondly, my daughter. I have to be a role model to her (although providing for her needs is a very strong motivation, I just cannot afford to be broke). I also want her to see that you don’t have to be boxed in … you can be that geeky, nerdy scientist with a crazy artsy-fartsy side. Every single facet is just a piece of who you totally are … We are kaleidoscope masterpieces.
Beyond that, I find that I am inspired by everyone I meet, everyone I see … There is always something in someone that makes me want to improve, that makes me want to grow, that makes me want to better myself, that makes me want to show up and slay!

Isn't she ultra uber talented???? I told you! I loved reading from her and seeing that she has invested time (and also money) in honing her craft, learning new avenues for creative expression, taking courses, and building her knowledge as an entrepreneur. I have a lot to learn and I'm even more inspired by Didi. 

Email: Edidiong.Ekwere@gmail.com
Instagram: @AmamaDesignAtelier

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