We had the good fortune of connecting with Jas Mardis and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jas, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
My business is Art and Literature with the majority of that focus being Creating Fabric Art, Print and Leather Portraits that feature narratives. I am coming back to the fabric art creating after years of being a Writer, Editor and Storyteller in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area and being inducted to the 2014 class of The Texas Literary Hall of Fame. After that time I was invited to share a lot thru conferences, workshops and teaching opportunities that often included me bringing along quilting and art objects that carried the writing ideas to fruition. I’ve always done all of these practices simultaneously and speak of how they are all connected and intertwined. So, when I was offered the chance to bridge them all into a business model that presents me qualified and expert across the genres…I launched it. There have always been opportunities to monetize my art, but this time and place gives me clout; street credibility across these audiences.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Among the work that sets me apart is that I do pyrography on leather. My hope of bringing dignity to the subjects of my work, both the fabric and print genres, is to give these images permanence. Literally burning these faces into leather is a clear statement. I use leather, instead of wood, for my pyrography work because I can create the emotional and transformative nature of a subject that makes you pay attention. At my most basic, I am a Cultural Artist. Back in the old days they used the term, “race Man” to indicate the purpose of a life was to promote the African American Race. For me, I’m a race man with humanizing on his mind. I see leather as a way to invite the attention and imagination of the viewer, while conveying messages of Black Humanity in the stories that I’m telling. I used traditional and fabric art quilting techniques in the same way: heirloom linens mark a rising economic status, while polyester and higher grade cottons from old clothing hint at upward mobility or declarations. Early on I used different techniques to convey faces and emotions. Once I found the courage to use the pyrography as a drawing tool everything changed. I can now manipulate all fabrics to imprint images. My most important lesson as an Artist is GO FOR IT! Imagine and produce!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I’ve always enjoyed the City Parks, especially the ones in Oak Cliff that have water ways. I come from Arkansas, where the lakes are daily recreational area and used to the enjoyment of all. Places like Bachman Lake, by Love Field or The Bathhouse Cultural Center’s Lake and the one at Kidd Springs, where they stock it with trout and let the kids fish for free,; those are the best places. I live in Denton County now, so we have Lake Lewisville and Ray Roberts for fishing and outdoors play. Even during the pandemic, folks were able to do family gatherings, cookouts and picnics. I think those are my favorite spots because I get to observe people at their best. I used to review movies and enjoy theatre and modern dance before this last year. My Art fix is most satisfied by the only Street Front Gallery in Dallas at The Oak Cliff Cultural Center. It is next door to The Texas Theatre on Jefferson, but the large picture windows give you 24 access to the art exhibitions. When I have visitors and need a late night surprise, the OCCC is my spot. As for eating, I’m transitioning to a cleaner diet, so choosing a little spot in Oak Cliff called RECIPE. Its a Juice Bar with all the extras, run by Tisha Crear. Again, when cruising the old home front and enjoying the folks and culture that made me who I am and supported me, I choose Oak Cliff. There’s the Pan African Connection and Resource Center on Marsalis that is always a hit with or without guests. They are truly a resource for cultural awareness and enjoyment. Nearly every time I swing thru there is a market with vendors and creatives that blow me away. Friends enjoy the vast array of African Diaspora on display in clothing, music, imported masks and herbals. I get caught up in dynamic exchanges when I’m there and see some of the most amazing people from all walks of life and all corners of Texas.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My Poetry and Writing career was actually kicked off by being thrown out of Algebra in the 8th Grade. My Sister’s English Teacher, Mona Gedney heard the commotion and challenged the Algebra Teacher’s perspective on my attitude”. As a result I was introduced to a Counselor, Ms. Barbara Bostic, who engaged me in conversation and lead me straight to the Journalism. Later, she convinced the local Community newspaper, The Dallas Post Tribune, to publish my article, “One Man’s Opinion on Black Advancement”. I was thirteen and my ideas were discussed in the absence of my age being mentioned. It was a time when my older sister was bringing home her social studies and literature assignments and reading me the great Harlem Renaissance poets and Artists. Likewise, my Southern Arkansas oral traditions and Religious immersion was taking root. So, in a sense the recognition goes to the Oak Cliff, Dallas, TX and the family and folks of Homer, LA, El Dorado, AR and Little Rock, AR. My maternal Grandmother, Luvenia Fears-Porchia was the most dynamic storytelling person on earth. Likewise, my paternal Grandmother, Ms. Adla Phillips-Mardis was a traditional piece-quilter who used every stitch of fabric she could grab to make quilts that she sold all over the County. I sat at both their knees as they hosted family and friends and created. A whole host of characters invited themselves and their stories into my inquisitive and regurgitative mind. In Dallas, I lived amongst great Folk Artist, Williard “The Texas Kid” Watson and Alex Moore, International “Pianist” who told me stories of traveling on steam ships to Europe as we rode the Dallas Transit System 47 Moore/57 Thomas route on Saturdays to the Downtown Branch Library. The one PLACE that affected me to the largest degree was the old Commerce Street News Stand. It was 24 hour location with news and the written word from all over the World.
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