2020 Speaker Spotlights! It’s a series dedicated to the OG Black Igniters who spoke at our inaugural event in August. Amidst a pandemic, unemployment, racial upheaval and a critical election, 30 brilliant people shared stories of transitions and triumphs as Black designers in America. Hear what the event meant to them and what everybody is up to now.
Aniqua W. decided to specialize in creating dolls when she opted to challenge herself a little. Because she had become so skilled in creating without needing blueprints, she decided to take a look at what designs were already around. She was surprised to find that she only came across two designers who were creating Black/African/African American dolls. What surprised her even more was that neither of the designers were Black/ African/African American.
It was at this point that Aniqua had officially found her thing. Aniqua’s collection of Black/Brown dolls (Beautifully Brown Doll Collection) is about more than just doll making. It’s about representation through positive imagery. It’s about creating designs in a rainbow of brown skin tones and hairstyles/textures that realistically depict children of color.
The mission of this wonderfully unique doll collection is to promote pride and confidence in children of color, particularly girls in efforts to combat self hate. Her dolls have been a teaching tools created with love and purpose much like the individuals who purchase them. In April 2017 Aniqua started what she has called the “My Kinda Thing University” a virtual handmade school comprised of over 30 courses geared towards teaching other crocheters how to create dolls of color.
It has become her mission to not only contribute to the store of positive imagery for children of color, but to encourage others to do the same. She has shared some of her most sought after techniques through teaching these courses and makes it clear that “in order to truly create diverse doll designs you will need to do more than just use brown yarn.
I was so grateful to see Aniqua sign up to speak in August! In the weeks leading up I ended up finding the Instagram feeds of several other great doll designers, most of them creating dolls of color, Aniqua’s tribe of course 🙂 She has truly built a community around inclusive doll-making. Her virtual workshops help fellow doll designers master the craft of crocheting cornrows, beading braids and coils as well as making their own patterns. It’s a beautiful thing @my_kinda_thing!
Enjoy her ignite talk below.
Aniqua’s positivity is contagious! From making dolls to making a point is damn right!
I’m so inspired. After spending hours scrolling her feeds my kids can’t wait for me to order theirs and my custom Black Ignite doll 🙂 We hope you’ll commission her too! Here’s her Etsy shop.
So I knew all about her brand and loved that our missions align 💯 promoting black excellence, self-love and representation.. I wanted to get to know her on a personal level..
You said August’s event was inspirational and exciting. What were the highlights for you?
“I loved how there was a very apparent vibe of diversity. Even amongst ourselves (Black People) we are very diverse and have a wide range of talents and perspectives. It was beautiful to experience and see!“
If you did a spin off event for Black Designers Ignite, what would the theme be or what design challenge would you throw out there for folks to dig into?
“Oooh, you know what would be cool? Teams/Partnering projects. Meaning mixing two different designers with different design mediums to create a whole visual project! But only in pairs because i think more than that might result in overstimulation for team members. I would love to see the cool things mixing two mediums would create.
Or maybe even a color based design challenge, where everyone has to use the same color!“
What’s something you nerd out on?
“I totally nerd out on science fiction! I’m a huge Harry Potter fanatic, Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings geek! Fantasy creativity is just so fun and exciting!“
What is a movie you love that you’re embarrassed to admit?
“Labyrinth is a movie that I freaking love but don’t often share because it’s just not a typical movie.“
What brand or item would you redesign?
“I would love to redesign the Cabbage Patch Kids! I would expand on them and maybe make them more distinctive from one another. Maybe even go beyond the cabbage concept. Okay.. I’d be the first to place my order. That would be awesome! My Kinda Thing has so many things ahead! Since Aniqua has designed hundreds of custom dolls, I wondered if any projects really stood out for her.
“There are so many, but one in particular that always stands out was a design I created and named Justice back in 2016. I named her Justice because I knew what I was asked to create wouldn’t be understood or respected the way it should. I knew that where she was going and who I was creating her for meant a great deal. I put so much effort and thought into the design that I got a bit emotional when I was taking photos of her all finished. I hand wrote a 3 page letter that I sent with her explaining how much time and care was put into creating her. She meant a great deal to me as a doll maker.“
Love that! These are such powerful moments as creators. What a gift to not only be able to produce meaningful art but to express what the process meant. I wonder if we do this enough as designers?
It’s one of the things I truly admire about Etsy sellers like Aniqua, that commitment to the craft and personal touch. She’s building a tribe of doll designers rather than trying to sell her designs at major stores. She collaborates with other crochet designers. They commission each other and build each other up. It’s not about being the best or only, it’s about unity. She lovingly makes each doll one of a kind, and that’s so my kinda thing!
Are there any projects you want to highlight?
“I wish i could share them all!But one of my current favorites (it changes so frequently) is my Black Mermaids. Because imagery is so important, I created some mermaids that reflect our little girls. It was important for them/us to have some fun imagery that we could be excited about, but also see ourselves in.“
Any transitions since we last saw you in August?
“I am currently working on some new patterns, designing for an independent yarn dyer and a major yarn company. There are quite a few new phases that My Kinda Thing is currently entering into! Most of which I can’t quite elaborate on at this time, but all of which are FREAKING DOPE!“
What would be the perfect scenario or project for you come 2021? “I am usually in my own world, tryna find time to execute every whimsical idea I can dream up. I used to dream of collaborating with crayola, but now I kinda wanna do My own Kinda Thing in a similar or greater fashion!
I’m already working with the individuals I wanna work with. I’m also working with some big companies trying not to get swallowed up or have my ideas jacked which is very hard work! But I meet so many dope folks as I go so its hard to narrow down who I’d specifically work with.
A My Kinda Thing Crochet Book is my dream project that I feel like, everything I’ve been doing to date will be a part of that project. I’m simply gathering the right ingredients (content) for it!“
My Kinda Thing is a company that uses imagery, usually in the form of crochet hand made doll designs, to celebrate and highlight those physical attributes that have historically been made to seem less beautiful. Through doll making and now branching out to illustrations, it makes a noticeable difference in the self esteem of Black Children (and Adults) to see images that resemble them! Next will be beautiful and unique stories to accompany those images. They will serve as relative tales that are more about us and our culture in a way that can only be accurately told by us.
Catch me and Aniqua live on Instagram @Black.Ignite soon. I’m curious if there’s a doll or illustration that she created to represent herself.. AND continue our lil talk about a custom Black Ignite doll. Get your order in before the holidays and be sure your following!