Representing Black Women through Art - Interview with Vicki Illustrations

Updated: Aug 21, 2021

Meet Vicki Illustrations, one of our vendors for the Summer Edition of City Inspired. Vicki is an illustrator who most recently began making face masks. We spoke to Victoria about starting her new business, finishing uni and representing Black women in her art.

How did Vicki Illustrations come to be?

Well it’s during my degree, during my second year of my illustration degree which was last summer, where I just thought that I wanted to create work that represented my family a bit more. I wanted to see images that were posted online of people that look like me and half of my family. So I just started creating images that I thought other people could relate to as well. Then I started looking at how I could share them widely. I started going to markets and it just kind of progressed from there really.

Art wasn’t that big of deal to me in school. I think it was when I went to college that it was the one thing that I really enjoy doing and that I wanted to do it for more than a couple of hours a week.

What does it mean to you to be Black owned business?

All my artwork tends to be about representation of Black women in the media. That’s what my whole uni project has been about this past year and I’m trying to bring that into my business side of things as well. It’s just thinking about how I can create things that Black women and mixed-raced women can relate to and can see themselves in my art. It’s to empower them and make them feel better about themselves.

What do you think is missing from representation of Black and mixed raced women in the UK media?

I think there is a better representation coming about not only on social media but in TV and films. But I think there is still a lack of creative representation in the arts whether it is images of Black and mixed race women or the recognition of the Black and mixed race artists. I don’t think there is one thing missing from the representation of these communities in the UK media, I believe it just needs to catch up with the brilliant women making changes across the industries.

Greatest accomplishments and challenges as a business so far?

Well I haven’t really had that much time to put into starting my own business. That is really happening now. I think my greatest accomplishment was just before the COVID lock down happened, I was due to go to a Black History open market fair in London. I think getting into that was one of the biggest achievements that I had. The fair was for Black business and they had some Black artists there. I was so looking forward to doing it!

How are you adapting your business to COVID-19 environment?

During lock down, I had been focusing on finishing my degree, it literally only finished a month ago. But since then I’ve been putting a lot more stuff onto my Etsy and trying to market myself on Instagram. That’s been really good and has helped me sell quite a bit of stuff. Its definitely affected my plans to travel for the next year and any markets that I was planning to go to over the summer has just been wiped out.

We noticed that sales from your face mask are going to BLM charities? Which charities and why?

I haven’t currently decided which charities it’s going to yet, because I’m still gathering money for it. There was going to be a protest in Birmingham and I was wondering whether I should go or not. I really wanted to be part of it. But it would have been wrong to go, to put me at risk and my mum at risk as well. So I was like, how else can I do something that is going to benefit the movement? I thought face masks are a thing that is going to be needed from now on really. Making face masks and having 50% of it [sales] going to charity is the best way that I can see myself helping at the minute.

How do you create the face masks?

I have a lot of material that my cousin has, from past trips to Africa. She brought over this material for me. I just cut out two pieces in the front and then two back panels as well. Then it’s just me and my sewing machine for a couple of hours, watching Netflix and sewing a lot! It takes a while. Because I’m making so many at the minute, it’s taking me a good five days just to cut everything out and sew them. It's going to take me probably a week and a half to create them fully.

When I first put them on my Etsy page and first started to push them, I had a few sales. I’ve got a decent amount of to go to charity [BLM funds]. But I still have so many leftover that I need to do another push for them. But it’s been going well!

Any advice for Black creatives or entrepreneurs?

Just create what you feel that you want to create and something that you can relate to. Just find ways to put it onto multiple things. I bought a heat press. When I have the room, I’m going to set that up and be able to create my own things.

I’d [also] say just try different things and just see how well they are responded to on Instagram and stuff. I’ve got an Etsy page which I’ve had a lot of good feedback from - so just try any way!

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