Michele Curtis is a Bristol based artist who have recently created some serious waves within the South West. The former Bristol College student & founder of Iconic Black Bristolians has been recognised across the region for her creative artwork. Michele recently created 6 pieces of art for her the Seven Saints exhibition which focuses on and celebrates individual black icons that have made a positive influence on the City of Bristol. We at the Mogul Minded Group were blessed with the opportunity to interview the lovely and extremely talented Michele Curtis.
1)What inspired you to become an artist?
That’s an interesting question and one that I am unable to answer, simply because nothing or no one inspired me to become an artist. I believe I was born an artist, in fact I believe I was born a creative. It is engrained into the very essence of who and what I am. When I entered the world of employment as a youth, I would always become annoyed whenever I met someone for the first time and they would ask me what I did for a living, as a means of determining who I am. I like many others gained employment as a means of self sustainability, so that I was able to feed, house and clothes myself, back then my employment had nothing to do with who I am.
But what I do have are influences, people that inspired me to follow my heart. They vary in vocation and have inspired me through their work, vision and personal achievements. They are: My english teacher in secondary school, her name was Mrs Towers, I often think about her. I don’t think that teachers understand the power that they possess to influence and inspire children and young people. At school I was as good as gold, and I enjoyed most subjects. Mrs Towers was the only teacher that really spoke to me and treated me like a human being. When I look back I believe she saw something in me that I was yet to discover in myself. Mrs Towers ignited my love of literature. She introduced me to the works of Shakespeare and Maya Angelou and my love affair of poetry and performing artist truly began here. Maya Angelou is a great influence and inspiration for me in addition to; Marcus Garvey, Frida Kahlo, My Mother, My Brothers & Sisters, Shameless Maya (Maya Washington), Taren Guy, Melody Ehsani, The Seven Saints of St. Pauls, Roger Griffith, Lawrence Hoo amongst many others who all share the same passion and drive to go against the grain and use their gifts to change the world through inspiring others.
2) What advice do you have for young people wanting to get into the art industry?
Be true to yourself.
3) What would you say is your biggest success story to date?
Gosh, I really don’t know, this past year has been amazing! I guess I would probably have to say my first exhibition for Black History Month 2014. Because that was my ‘first step’, and the only reason why I am where I am today, and why Iconic Black Bristolians has been such a success to date. I was true to myself, trusted my vision and made it happen! a lot of people do not recognise how significant the first step is. It is by far the most difficult but also the most rewarding.
4) Where can you see your business in the next 5 years?
To be honest, I don’t know! I know that, that probably sounds absolutely crazy, as in business and entrepreneurship you must have a five year plan. But I believe that Iconic Black Bristolians has gained so much success in the past year because I didn’t have a plan. I am a very spiritual person, but I am also a bit of a control freak and a perfectionist when it comes to my work. When I began Iconic Black Bristolians, I had and ultimate vision or goal may be the better terminology. That goal encompasses every aspect of my life and where I envision I will be at the some point in the future. Along my spiritual journey and the development of Iconic Black Bristolians, I realised that I had to let go, let go of trying to control every aspect of the growth and development of myself and business. This is because I felt as though I was a road block in my own progress and success. I felt that by trying to control everything and wanting everything to be perfectly planned and laid out, I was unable to see opportunities as they arose and capitalise on them. I also stopped listening to my heart and started doubting myself because I started listening to everyone else, but me. Once I centred myself and let go, everything started to flow. There is a saying “God has a plan for you”, I truly believe that, and in life sometimes you just have to let go and let God, by allowing yourself to be guided by the divine. I believe that as long as you are doing what you are put on this earth to do and you are working with love and integrity, you will find success in all your endeavours. I am focused and simply take one day at a time, with my end goal always at the forefront of my mind, but how I get there is none of my business.
That said, I have a lot of projects in the pipeline for the foreseeable future. I have the Artival Project, which will be a further three exhibitions celebrating 50 years of the St. Pauls Carnival over the next three years concluding in 2018. The Artival, Seven Saints of St. Pauls Heritage Murals will be erected in the summer of 2018, following the second Artival Exhibition. I have lots of exciting collaborations on the horizon which I cannot discuss publicly as present, but they are very exciting so you will have to follow us on social media to stay updated. But what I can tell you is that there will be digital art work, and we are currently working on rebranding and building our new website.
5) If there was one celebrity you could do an exhibition on who would it be and why?
Marcus Garvey, without a doubt! I am currently working on a personal portrait of Marcus Garvey for my home, which will be an oil painting on canvas. I’m still searching for a canvas large enough! Why? Because I love him! No honestly, the only way I can describe my love for this great man is the same way you see pre-teen girls going hysterical for One Direction or Take That! Seriously I cannot verbalise how much I love him. He was a teacher, a philosopher, a leader, a visionary, and a do-er! He was extremely intelligent, he loved his people and made no apologies for being who he was. Knowledge of self is a very powerful and extremely attractive quality! If you are not familiar with the work of Marcus Garvey then I would recommend familiarising yourself with his work.
6) What’s the biggest risk you have ever taken and how did it turn out?
Trusting and believing in myself, and putting my needs first.
It turned out great! Now I am doing what I love and I am able to share my gifts and journey with others, and share and tell the stories of amazing people through art to inspire others.
“What you do today that is worthwhile, inspires others to act at some future time” – Marcus Garvey
7) Can you tell us funny story our audience may not know?
Erm, a funny story? There is a funny story that my 7-year-old son always tells everyone, amongst a string of other funny stories related to my hard of hearing. I am not sure if I am loosing my hearing, but my son has started to collect these stories and has started to illustrate them. Everyone he tells them to finds them hysterical, however I am a little concerned and think it is time to get my hearing checked.
One late evening I was at home working in bed and my son decided to join me for a snuggle before bedtime. He then said to me “sorry that I keep fidgeting in the bed” to which I replied “What? There’s a midget in the bed?” He then burst into laughter and said “no fidget” to which I replied “Whats a widget? Huh?” …
On another occasion, my son and I were getting into the car and I was just about to drive away when he asked,
“Mum do you have your iPhone in the car?” to which I replied “What? There’s a Ninja in the car?” He then burst into laughter and said “no mum, is your iPhone in the car?”
8) What can we expect from you over the next 2 years?
Definitely more art both fine and digital. Graphic Design services, Iconic Black Bristolians Merchandise, blogging, article writing, and collaborations. That is all I can say at this point without giving too much away at this stage 🙂
9) Who has been your biggest role model or inspiration so far and why?
In terms of a role model, I think I would have to thank everyone that has been there for me from the outset, that I approached and sought guidance and mentoring from at the beginning of Iconic Black Bristolians.
My first role model is definitely Lawrence Hoo, he was the first person I contacted when I decided to do Iconic Black Bristolians and he has been a huge supporter of my work and vision and continues to be a great friend and inspiration to me. His books of poetry and online films about life in Bristol are what inspired me the most about him and I highly recommend checking out his work by visiting www.innercitytales.com or purchasing either of his books, Innercity Tales and Hoostory.
Roy Hackett is another role model and is of course one of the Seven Saints Of St. Pauls. Roy had a huge influence on the growth and development of Iconic Black Bristolians. He was the first Elder that I met with. Roy told me that Iconic Black Bristolians was a great idea and that I needed to get sponsors and definitely needed to develop it into a business as it had great potential.
Roger Griffith is an amazing individual and has been a great source of strength and support for me on my journey this year, his story and journey is an inspirational one and can be read in his book, My American Odyssey. He is a true friend, confidant and inspiration.
Lisa-Marie Carter is an amazing woman, I have known Lisa for many years and she is a lovely, warm and approachable person. Lisa has a rich history in entrepreneurship, and she so graciously gave me some of her time, guidance and mentoring during the early stages of Iconic Black Bristolians. Lisa is a true inspiration and has been an inspiration to me throughout my journey. Lisa has recently launched her new luxury jewellery brand Nikao Jewels in 2015, and it is definitely worth checking out for beautiful statement jewellery.
Shameless Maya/Maya Washington, Youtube personality Shameless Maya has been a huge inspiration on my journey of the past 4 years. She is a fellow creative, she is passionate and surprisingly very approachable. I have emailed her a couple of times and she has responded personally. Her channel is an eclectic mix of talks, tutorials, hair and fashion. Maya is definitely one to check out. Her journey is so inspirational! If you do decide to visit her Youtube channel please watch her first ever video first.
Youtube: Iconic Black Bristolians