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Meet our artists
Juanita Richardson grew up in a diverse neighborhood – African American, Caucasian, and Chinese families lived around her. Through this diversity she learned the importance of unity. She also learned to listen to her elders and respect others from her parents, grandparents and neighbors. Now, she is the oldest living person from both sides of her family. She has raised several of her grandkids.
These life experiences have shaped her as a Silk Creations artist. Juanita first heard of St. Margaret’s House and Silk Creations from two friends. They so adamantly wanted her to be involved in the art program that one friend drove her to St. Margaret’s House so she could take the classes for Silk Creations. When she first joined, Mary Fran handed her a bowl of Kelly green dye (Juanita specifically remembers it was Kelly green) and a scarf and said, “Work with this.” Juanita had no idea what she was doing! But she quickly learned.
Juanita loves to learn. “You’re never too old to learn!” she says. Even now, she is challenging herself to learn new techniques with the silk as well as reviewing and mastering old skills she learned as a beginning artist. She and the other artists have gone back to the basics; they have taken some drawing classes. “I haven’t drawn since high school,” Juanita confessed. But she has been excited to go back and renew her skills. She is very meticulous and methodical in all she does. Her intricate scarf designs showcase her dedication and thoughtfulness of her art work. She thanks Yah (another name for God) for His work in her life and in the lives of those around her and how He answers prayers. He is the one who guides her hands as she paints. Without Him, her art would be nothing, she recognizes.
Her meticulous efforts pay off in the quality of her work. She has practiced and perfected her favorite technique of overstamping. This involves stamping on the scarves over and over again, layering light and dark colors. “I’ve learned I can [paint on silk]. I can train other people what I’ve learned, but everyone has their own style,” she explained. As a master artist, Juanita is able to mentor younger artists, helping them learn techniques she has already mastered. But she keeps learning and challenging herself. Her favorite stamp is the peacock feather, and this has become her signature. She is able to work the stamp into different colors and techniques to make the same stamp very versatile. Something old has become something new!
No matter where she is, Juanita will always be thinking of new scarf ideas. “The ideas come from inside of me,” she shares, but she also discovers fresh ideas from the outside. People’s clothes serve as her inspiration! “People think I’m staring,” but she’s really picturing their outfit on a scarf. Clothes are as unique as the people themselves. Juanita draws on the uniqueness and diversity around and within her to create her masterpieces.
Juanita has a new dream to open her own business. Through Silk Creations, she is learning what it takes to run a business and to be responsible for products and supplies. This dream extends to the future, but in the meantime, Juanita enjoys the companionship of the other artists. Those artists who have been involved in Silk Creations the longest bounce ideas off of one another and consult the others to their scarf designs. Juanita will miss that when she makes her way on her own.
Who knows what Juanita will be doing in a few years, but whatever it is, you can be sure she will still be creating art!
Fannie Alford has experienced the joys and sorrows of life, but she doesn’t let the sadness take away her joy of living and her excitement for beauty.
Fannie has lived in South Bend most her life. She has owned three shops in South Bend and also one in Michigan City. This is home for her. But she wasn’t aware of St. Margaret’s House until the last decade or so. “St. Margaret’s House is such a good place to come, but I never knew it was here.” Now, she is a consistent presence at the house.
Family is very important to Fannie. She has 39 grandchildren and 28 great grandchildren and has had a hand in raising most of them. During the summers, she used to care for at least 10 grandkids and great grandkids at a time. But now she is slowing down and wants a peaceful place to live and work.
The art studio offers the peace Fannie desires. The studio is quieter than the other rooms in St. Margaret’s House. In that serenity, the creative juices flow. “I like to bring the creative energy out of myself.” Even outside the studio, she always is thinking of new ideas.
Fannie wasn’t even sure she wanted to be in the art program. She has always been a fashion guru. To this day, she is always well put together, with matching outfits and accessories. So cute! But when Mary Fran approached her about joining Silk Creations, Fannie turned her down. “I didn’t want to be a part of it.” That was four years ago. Now, she is in the art studio almost every day.
Even though Fannie is slowing down, she still is not one to sit around. “People think because of my age, I should be sitting around. No. I’m going to stop talking and start doing!” And does she have big plans! Fannie intends to open another shop to sell her creations. She will continue to come to St. Margaret’s House for the art, but she “needs to do something new.” Fannie is also writing an autobiography.
Fanny sees beauty in the uniqueness of people. “Everyone is so different. That’s the way God made them – unique.” Fannie reflects, each artist of Silk Creations brings her own God-given uniqueness to the table. As such, “no two scarves can be possibly alike.” Even two scarves made by the same person, no matter how similar they are made, will be different. God is also providing in miraculous ways, as she is trying to start her own business. “God always sends someone to help me out.” A few people have randomly dropped off art supplies she needs at her house, and she is so thankful.
Fannie is thankful to be at St. Margaret’s House and with Silk Creations. Fannie looks forward to the future and more opportunities to create beautiful art.