Angie Brutus is a 22-year-old jewelry maker, fashion designer, creative director and a student at Framingham State University majoring in fashion design and minoring in psychology. She recently got featured in New York Magazine for her jewelry design. Besides being an artist and a student, Angie works two jobs - she is a guest service representative at a Boston theater and serves at a family-owned restaurant in the area. I met up with Angie a few weeks ago in Jamaica Plain to learn how she manages so many projects at such an young age and how she stays positive and inspired.
What drew you to making art projects?
My dad was an engineer, and he taught me how to sew. I think that watching him build things and fix things inspired me to have that sort of fixing mentality. I was at work today and the doorstep kept falling and I told my boss, "I know how to fix it. Give me some pliers." And I just fixed it. I go around and fix things. I think this is where the seed was planted. I don't think my dad knew that just being an example, just me watching him, would inspire me to do all this.
How did you gravitate toward jewelry and fashion design?
What drew me to that is that I can take a whole bunch of different pieces and make something out of it. My teacher, people at school, they make fun of me because I will take scrap fabrics and they will be so amazed with what I can make. Not only have I found that working with old scraps is my niche, but people seem to recognize that you only need a little bit to do all this. I'm able to pay for stuff now and I don't feel the need to search for scraps which makes keeping my niche really hard because I still have to keep my anchor, my foundation that I started with.
What are the things you do today?
I just opened my Etsy store PavilionbyAngie, and I'm selling clothing there. I'll be selling home decor and jewelry. Pavilion is supposed to be an ornate tent, a secret place. I consider there to be a lot of different things in the tent, which is why it's a tent. The photography and the production management of it is probably where I will go into more. Although photography is all-encompassing because it captures a bigger picture, it's its own facet as well. The photography both represents Pavilion the best and is a facet itself.
You teach jewelry and clothing making workshops at the Computer Clubhouse. How do you usually structure them?
It's both cost-effective and I think it's cool for the girls because in a space like the Clubhouse you have so many different resources. I just tell the girls to explore the space, be safe, and collect their items (choose their weapons). They will come back with a whole bunch of cool things and then I tell them to make jewelry with it. I'll help them to think creatively on how to break it down and put it back together. Whatever their vision is, I try to get on their level so I can help them create it using the materials that they found. Which is what I do!
You just find random things and find a way to make it what you want it to look like. I think that concept alone can be applied in so many different areas of life. You are going to be given crap. You have to make it work, you know? So you will have to think creatively, break it down into its component parts, and think about how you can build it back into what you want it to look like.
You are going to be given crap. You have to make it work, you know? So you will have to think creatively, break it down into its component parts, and think about how you can build it back into what you want it to look like.
Where do you create your jewelry and clothing pieces?
When I sit on the floor, I'm most creative. I can just throw everything everywhere. My kitchen is like my studio right now. I just got a portable rack and hang stuff on it.
Who inspires you?
I just recently found someone who I was really inspired by. His name is Jidenna and he is a musician. African-Americans are sometimes portrayed as negative and aggressive and unintelligent, and all these things... And in his video he just gave us a whole different light. He had some secret society where young kids were doing science and chemistry, and the fashion... that woke something up in me.
Four things to describe me are Isabella Stewart Gartner, Harlem Renaissance, Rococo/Baroque, and surrealism. So in his video he touched on the surrealism, it was definitely Harlem Renaissance, the fashion wasn't too decadent, but the way it was done and the type of fabrics you can say it was like Baroque or Rococo, just hints of it.
How do you judge your own work? What questions do you ask yourself to know you are getting better?
It's pretty easy. I nit pick all the time. In general, my attention to detail has grown so much because I used to be a bigger picture kind of person. I've moved from jewelry, and makeup, and clothing to editorial photography. My teachers - I thank God for them - because they really stuck with me. Now I pay a lot more attention to detail and it shows in the pictures.
Having a team definitely helps the overall quality because instead of you having all the pressure on you to do every little thing and to do it well and to do it so completely passionately when you are more worried about the big picture makes things a lot easier. I consider my team people that I work with often even if they haven't agreed to be my team, they are my team. I also have a group of friends who I'd have never thought would be a part of my team. I have a friend who graduated, she went to Empire Beauty School and she does hair for a lot of my photo shoots. I have my friend who loves nail polish and does nails to go (called @motif nails) and for a photo shoot or for a quick anything, she brings the nails and boop, boop, boop, takes them off.
What is next for you?
I just want to build a community for editorial photography through fashion. I want to teach girls to do what I do. I want to be just like my dad - I want to be that seed that they don't know. My mom's friend had a box of jewelry tools that she gave me and I swear the stuff never ran out, I never ran out of supplies. I was just cleaning out and I got the feeling that it's time to let it go, but I gave it to a close friend of mine who does nail design so she could use all the beads and trinkets to design. And I said, "Please don't throw this away. Give it to a girl in need and just have it keep going because I swear it's a miracle box."
I'm actually going to be working with a store for their photography. I called the manager of a thrift store I visit and came up with a plan to offer some photographs. Technically I'd buy vintage things from them and style a photo shoot anyways but I'm only getting the dollar things. So if I had access to everything, we would have a shoot! They agreed and I have my favorite photographer who will be working on the project with me and my favorite models.
If you could give advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Losing my anxiety...I wouldn't say that to myself because that helped my process in a really weird way. I feel like I needed to do it they way I did it to be where I am right now. I'd say, "Don't be so fearful; do it anyways." This bravery came with a lot of prep - I had to learn it. I endured so much being bullied and stuff, it really made me a strong person. It made me a little rough on the edges.
Oh you know what? I'd tell myself to be more productive earlier. I have always been productive but I remember one summer in particular I was talking to my friend on the phone and it was in the middle of the summer and this is when my life started to shift, when Pavilion was born. And I said, "Why are we at home? What are we doing?" And I don't think he really got my drift. He said, "What do you mean? We are home because we are out of school..." And I said, "No, no, no - we are capable of things. We need to be doing things!" I wish I had that moment earlier. I know it had to happen in its time. That is what I tell my little sister. "I know TV is good, just do something, please." It hurts me to see her just sit and watch TV and Netflix all day. Just touching people's souls, getting to know people personally is my favorite part.