You know those rare, exciting experiences when you meet someone for the first time and feel an immediate connection? That, in short form, is what happened when I crossed paths withTeaunna Gray at a Holiday market; we each had a table, displaying our art, set-up across from one another. After just speaking for a few minutes, I felt instant gratitude to be learning more about this bad-ass & beautiful woman, with her numerous creative talents and vision to spark positive change in the world.
I had the pleasure of stopping by Teaunna's place to see her hone her crafts in-action – and chat more about her creative passions, advocacy for marginalized groups, the impact she aims to make through her art and more.
Can you introduce yourself and your creative profession? My name is Teaunna Gray and what I enjoy most is curating art shows. I also paint and have my own embroidery company called 'Stitch n Poke'. What is one of your earliest memories of expressing yourself creatively, as a child? When I was a child, I remember sketching and drawing a bunch in all of my fifteen journals. Art was my way of expressing myself.
Today, what stimulates your creative spirit? Recently, the biggest thing stimulating my creative spirit has been the history of myself as a person. I’m aware of what being both a young black and indigenous female means in our society as far as identity goes, and expression of sexuality. And I just want to take the beautiful and colourful parts, as well as the struggles from it, and put it out into my art.
What is it about the practices of stitching and painting that you feel so connected to? My grandmother taught my sister & I how to knit when we were very young and it was something we loved to do. Over time, that changed into embroidery and I think it's that same level of creating something from nothing that keeps me going.
How do you decide what to stitch onto garments? My most recognized work has been my Vagina Series. I started it in part as a way to normalize an destigmatize female sexuality, specifically, black female sexuality. It seemed that everywhere I turned in popular media or in movies, scripts and other narratives, black sexuality was either extremely offensive or fetishized. I want to portray vaginas in all shapes and shades and show the beauty that I feel largely lacks in today’s culture. Using the fabric as my canvas where the possibilities are endless sometimes makes it so hard to start a new project. I like provocative phrases and pictures, and one of my favourite stitches was a hand holding a bloody tampon that was used for National Menstrual Hygiene Day. It got quite the attention and is one of my favourites.
Do you have any favourite artists that you look up to or draw inspiration from, and why? I draw inspiration from anyone that has the courage to create pieces in any form that speak to a larger issue at hand. Over the last couple of years, I realized that through my work, I try to speak to, or in advocacy of marginalized groups.
Why do you think the freedom of creative expression is so essential? I feel that without creative expression I wouldn’t be inspired to create positive changes in my community. Through art, we are able to bring people together whether it’s to laugh, cry or think.
What do you aim to communicate through your work? I want to be inclusive. I want my art to reflect self-love, empowerment, and to embody sex positivity. Normalizing sexual stigmas especially in communities of colour is something that is very dear to my heart.
What’s a handy tip or trick you use to put you in your ‘creative zone’? When I’m feeling stuck creatively, I like to go in my studio, close the door and blast records. There’s nothing like The Drifters, Nancy Wilson, or Leon Bridges to get me in the creative zone.