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Meet Corey Pemberton

Today we’d like to introduce you to Corey Pemberton.

So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I am a mixed media artist and director of Crafting the Future (CTF), a fledgling organization working to diversify the fields of art, craft and design by connecting BIPOC artists with opportunities that will help them thrive. I majored in Craft and Material Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University where I focused in glassblowing. Since graduating in 2012, I have been working as a production glassblower for various artists around the country. Though I still work for a glassblower several days a week, my personal practice has shifted away from decorative objects in recent years to focus on painting and mixed media collage. And when I’m not blowing glass or painting, I am doing administrative work for CTF. This project has been in the works for a couple of years now but has recently been picking up steam and requiring a greater deal of my time.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I have been pretty fortunate to have pathways laid out before me for the most part. This is not to say that I haven’t busted my ass and worked for every opportunity. But I can acknowledge that having supportive parents who could afford a college education for their son has been a privilege that I am still benefitting from to this day. I have had some struggles though. Working in Craft meant for years that I was living in tiny rural towns, the kind that are attractive to craftspeople for the low cost of living and loose regulations. So for eight years, I was busting my butt for measly wages without benefits in spaces where I was almost always the only black person, the only queer person. That was hard. It was hard to find my voice or rather to own my voice when I was fearful of not being accepted. And even after I came out and decided I would make work about my personal experience, it was still hard because it felt like now I was the sole representative of an entire demographic. The weight of that is immense. I have the same struggle now as I assume the position as the face of an organization that aims to bring diversity to our field. I am just one person with one voice but sometimes I feel like people expect me to speak for all people of color as if we share one mind and soul. And then there is the inevitable imposter syndrome that kicks in when having these types of big discussions. Who am I to speak on this? Who am I to organize masses to affect change? These struggles are real.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
What I do is multi-faceted, to say the least. I am known as a glassblower, a painter, an educator, and lately as an activist of sorts. I think that this diversity of interests and skillsets is what sets me apart from others. I am most proud of my work with Crafting the Future (CTF). My friend Annie Evelyn and I dreamt this organization up years ago and are seeing a dramatic increase in support as of late. I think what we do is unique in our approach. CTF is at its core, a collective of artists banding together to make the changes we want to see in our communities. We have acknowledged a problem and instead of pointing the finger and expecting someone else to do something about it, we are pooling our own resources and doing the work ourselves.

We have raised over $120,000 in the last seven weeks through donations from our community of makers and through the sale of artwork on social media. That money will go towards providing scholarships for students of youth arts organizations around the country to attend workshops at renowned craft schools and pre college programs. We want to increase awareness and accessibility to the pathways that we had into the field. One of the many things we (my studio mate Cedric Mitchell and I) are planning for next year is an event at our studio in El Segundo that will feature local entrepreneurs of color, technical demonstrations, and musical performances. This will be the second Better Together event in LA, offering makers a platform for exposure and sales as well as well deserved celebration.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
Many of my favorite memories from childhood are centered around food preparation and family meals. I love to cook and that is because my parents would always involve me in the cooking growing up. My father in particular was very creative in the kitchen. His thanksgiving turkey, for instance, involves a miso rub and is always cooked to perfection. And then he goes all out with the setting of the table with his “dead daddy’s” ornate china set and decorating the house from top to bottom to match the table setting. And I got to help with all that. One of my favorite meals was build-your-own-calzone night.

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Image Credit:

Sally Van Gorder, Simone Johnson

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