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Meet Ayodele Kinchen

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ayodele Kinchen.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I grew up in a small revolutionary city in Northern California known to natives as East Palo Africa and/or Nairobi. On the map, it reads East Palo Alto, CA located in what many perceive as Silicon Valley. Yet I didn’t live the silicon or valley lifestyle. The town I remember, however, was rich in other ways – of grassroots, progressive change and hope that would set the stage for me and countless others of color in my community to have a better chance, opportunities for advancement, and a seat at the table. My mother and father were both teachers, yet my mother, who primarily raised my siblings and me, had the vision to create an incomparable, elevated, cultural, educational experience and joined a small community collective to start an independent Black school and a rite of passage program for girls. This is where I learned the power of excellence, how to lead and teach with compassion, pride in my ancestral roots, respect of all people and living things, and the importance of self love and care. Through all of this, I was a kid who loved to create and design any and everything. I never liked settling for what was normal or average, and thus always adventuring out of my way to be different I loved to craft, draw, write poetry, sing, dance, sew, and braid hair. My first taste of entrepreneurialism began braiding hair at age 11 and cemented my desire to work for myself one day. I went on to attend Howard University (Washington DC) and receive a BA in Business Administration/Management (Class of 98-99).

Post-grad, I was led back to my grassroots base and directed a leadership training program for middle and high school students. I ran for city council, sat on numerous community boards, created youth initiatives and programs. I was still in artistry dancing professionally in an African dance troupe and singing background vocals, yet I longed to make and create with my hands. I began making my own accessories and continued my usual of remixing clothing and head wraps until friends began to ask me to make goods for them. In no time, the year 2004, Duafe Designs was born – parent company to Waist Beads by Ayodele. I began spending countless after work late night/early morning hours, sewing handbags, clothing, making accessories, and beading. All of these were creative, meaningful and therapeutic outlets for me. in 2013, I was working full time, hustling my business on the side, married, with two kids and a baby on the way. I was exhausted and needed a positive change. I was overwhelmed and needed a change. So I quit my job and decided to work my business full-time. It was the best decision I could ever make. It gave me more ownership of my time and energy, allowing me to be a more visible and connected parent and wife, and providing a way to become more disciplined in my craft.

Please tell us about your art.
I am a Creator, A Maker, A Healer. I make Artwear by way of jewelry and cultural body adornments and offer consultations, workshops, and classes. Making waist beads, in particular, has a soft place in my heart and spirit, having been introduced to them through the African-centered rite of passage program that my mother help start. I wore them as a teen with pride, and they inspired a greater sense of self-awareness throughout my transition into and throughout womanhood. Waist Beads are aligned with a young girls’ and woman’s beauty, lifelong rites of passage, and protection. I create unique handmade, colorful, and signature designs incorporating seed beads, healing gemstones, and charms. I offer cultural color history, elements of chromotherapy, and chakra knowledge for added context. This allows one to be more intentional and introspective when determining which colors or gems to align themselves with. Traditionally, waist beads are fixed on the body for permanent wear as long as they last, and mostly worn under clothing for private wear between the high and low waistline. Waist Beads are a medium to secure sister-sister connections, allowing women space to be acknowledged, to relate and release, to celebrate their femininity and womb space, to heal from pain, trauma and loss, and to holistically embrace their beautiful self and bodies. It is my hope for women to embrace what it means to self-love, to live in a state of happiness and good health, mind, body, and spirit.

What do you think about conditions for artists today? Has life become easier or harder for artists in recent years? What can cities like ours do to encourage and help art and artists thrive?
The survival of artists is threatened by increased costs of living, gentrification, and lack of civic support. Many artists struggles with maintaining their craft and businesses with the constant of rent increases, being pushed out of their communities during the process of redevelopment, and the lack of cultural community preservation, Many artist struggle juggling multiple hustles to make ends meet lacking the ability to be more disciplined. Artists would benefit from community, city, government initiatives to preserve art culture and businesses by creating rent control agreements, reserving historical art and cultural spaces for artists, and providing free business classes on how to survive the market and environmental change.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
My websites to peruse, learn, and the shop is www.waistbeadsbyayodele.com and www.duafedesigns.com. I can also be found on IG under @waistbeadsbyayodele, @duafedesigns, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/WaistBead, and on twitter under @wasitbeadsbyayo. I am über excited to open my first storefront located in Downtown Oakland, CA, in April 2020, hosting onsite events, parties, classes, and pop-ups. I currently travel monthly between Northern California and the Los Angeles area for private parties, pop-ups, festivals and personal appointments. Support comes by way of following on social media networks, sharing posts, referrals, and access to grants/funding for my teen internship program.

Contact Info:


Image Credit:
Personal profile photo only – @deemolly or by Damali Ankoanda-King
All photos of product images captured by me, Ayodele Kinchen

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