“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” African Proverb
In Buddhist tradition it is believed that it is the mind that creates the illusion of separateness, but once the state of enlightenment is reached within an individual, the fog of illusion lifts and one is able to recognise that we are all in fact one, in absolute togetherness; whatever harms one, will harm another, whatever enriches one, will benefit another, there is an invisible network of connections between all living organisms. Isn’t this a more poetic metaphor for what constitutes a community? In community there is power, and those who are able to recognise it are in a position to make changes not only within themselves but enable and empower others, and this, of course, is something very much needed in today’s climate of both opportunity and opposition. Today we have the pleasure to introduce Nikki Griffin, who has set up a number of sewing communities in her native Atlanta, GA and across several other cities and states.
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.
I’m Nikki Griffin, a veteran seamstress and sewing instructor giving back what my grandmother gave me years ago. My collaborative spirit drives me and everything I do, so in early 2019 I began Atlanta Sewing Style, the community of sewists and designers in metro Atlanta. We come together to inspire via social media, educate each other, fellowship through community events and showcase our makes with our signature photo shoots. It means a lot to me to share this gift that God gave each of us and I’m excited every time a young person sends me a direct message and asks to learn…(yes I will help you). I teach at Topstitch Studio in Ponce City Market Atlanta as well as privately. My community events include The Project Sew, monthly sewcials supporting our local community center – a sister partnership with Dallas TX. Today I share the model of community Sewing Style with Dallas TX, Philadelphia PA, Charlotte NC and Columbia/Lexington SC – and more to come. Sewing Style will become a national brand showcasing collaborative sewing.
Why do you sew?
I love the idea that if I’m standing in a room of 10 – 50 people, I’m the only one that can do what I do. It’s a lovely feeling of creative accomplishment to take a one dimensional piece of fabric and create a garment that flows with definition and beauty. Even better to start with lines on a piece of paper and create a beautiful dress that I’m wearing the next day. Its fun and self-gratifying and my sewing room is my comfy space to hang…anything can happen.
What do you like to listen to when you’re working (and why)?
Sometimes I don’t have to listen to anything, especially when I’m drafting I like to focus my energy into the paper/fabric.
But when I do listen to something:
Jazz music: Calming.
Gospel music: Inspiring to match my activity.
Podcasts: not too much because I have to listen intently so can be distracting.
Television: Must be an old movie that I don’t have to think about.
As a child, what was your first encounter and memory of beauty?
I was about 10 years old the first time I saw the black women in Essence Magazine wearing beautifully colored clothes. I loved how their hair and makeup were perfectly polished and the clothes were so exotic and fun. I still read Essence Magazine two generations later, the same beauty.
Where is home and how does it affect what you do?
Home is Atlanta GA, also home to big fashion and movies and art and entertainment. I was raised in Atlanta and one of my first jobs was in fashion retail. I sold clothes to some of Atlanta’s most prominent business women. My sewing and design skills helped me provide creative service to my customers and that is rewarding. Today Atlanta’s sewing community fuels how I continue to support others.
Name a book that you’ve recently read which inspired you and why?
The last book I’ve read completely was Michelle Obama’s ‘Becoming’. I think my sewing time is slowly eating up my book reading time. Reading ‘Becoming’ led me to a commitment to become the woman I am being asked to be each day in my craft.
What was the first thing you ever remember making on your own? Tell us about this memory.
Beginning with many halter tops my Grandmother taught me to make, I’m most proud of the denim skirts I would make from my mother’s old jeans during middle school. The idea that I made something the night before and wore it to school the next day was my personal secret and made me feel good inside. I love the memory of keeping my sewing skill a secret while in middle school.
How do you balance a full time job with setting up your own sewing business?
No such thing as balance!
Coming to this realization released the pressure and stress of balancing both. Because my sewing business is more who I am than my day job, it all just has to meld together and work out. I do a great job during the day dressed in my me-made clothing.
Who are your muses and inspiration?
Inspiration comes my way in so many ways and by different people – I can be inspired by the rich color of a piece of fruit.
Sewing/Instructor skill: Kenneth King, NYC FIT Professor.
Fashion trends: Women in the streets of Europe.
Womanhood: My mother.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Decide to anchor yourself in a place that will allow yourself and others to learn who you are, you then build from this anchor. This advice is very recent and relevant to my life today as my sewing business is about to make an important pivot and I have to keep my anchor in place.
How important is it to make something with your hands?
A creative needs to feed that engine by making something with his/her hands, or else there’s conflict – my personal belief. Whether making a cake or painting a picture. Your creative soul needs to be fed.
What does success mean to you?
Accomplishment: I did that and I have significance within myself.
Contribution: Success with connection and giving to others.
Love: The smile on your face during the process.
Growth: Making money to support yourself comfortably from your business/craft.
What have you chosen to make out of FS linen and why?
I have always loved linen fabric, from a men’s suit to the linen cloths on the dinner table. I will wear linen year round as along as the colors match my personal palette for the season. This Fall I selected a skirt from Vogue Patterns (#1639), a garment that’s deceiving on the package, but an easy make and FS CHOCOLATE Mid Weight linen is the perfect fabric to use. The skirt has definition and flow and the linen shows up rich in color and weight. The skirt has a nice yoke that compliments the waist and makes a pair of boots jealous.