I am Imani W. Russell, creator of Indigo's Friends Art Dolls and notions and owner of Indigo's Friends Studio in Brentwood, Maryland. I consider myself a maker, designer, and fiber artist. I am largely self-taught but my influences emanate from the talents of my creative mother and maternal grandma. Both created hand stitched utilitarian quilts and other wonderful things from worn clothing, found fabrics, and unusual objects.
I created Indigo's Friends cloth dolls in the early 1990's. The passing of a dear friend and the fascination with a character in an extraordinary novel I read in the late 1980s, "Sassafras, Cypress, and Indigo" was the inspiration for my creations. This fictional story still informs my work. Indigo was (and remains) my muse.
Ntozake Shange's fiction novel," Sassafras, Cypress, and Indigo", was my introduction to the Gullah culture. However, film maker Julie Dash's, "Daughters of the Dust," beckoned my travels to Beauford, South Carolina and the Georgia sea islands. Seriously magical. The history, beauty, and strength of the women engaged my spirit.
The Gullah are distinctive group of African Americans originally rooted in the southeastern United States during the 18th century. It is the story of slavery, of course; rice growers from Sierra Leone, primarily laboring over rice plantations. Their immunity to malaria often left them without the "masters or slave drivers" around so they were able to cultivate their own forms of communication such as hand signals and the language known as gee-chee. They were weavers and indigo dyers. To date gee-chee is still spoken amongst some in the region and many customs are still employed albeit in small measure. The Gullah culture is a national treasure.
The colors and textures of cloth, new and old, lures me then permits me to manipulate and recreate a thing of wonderfulness; often manifesting decorative art dolls and wall collages or cozy scarves and bed quilts. Hand stitch after stitch I endure until I achieve a rhythm that reveals the soul of the piece then I weave in found objects and contrasting textures.
With the support of the Arlington, VA Cultural Affairs Division, I was awarded a residency by the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation in 2006. The mission was to share my craft and to supply tools and materials to the Mayan natives in several regions of the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. This was the bench mark that encouraged me to articulate and honor my work. It was also the anchor that forced me to study others in the field, refine my techniques, and remain true to my style.
2018 - Present: Portico Gallery & Studios. 3807 RI Avenue, Brentwood, MD 20722
2009 - 2018: Gateway Artist Studios. 4303 RI Avenue, Brentwood, MD 20722
DelRay Artisans, Alexandria, VA 2013 - present
DelRay Artisans, Alexandria, VA 2013 -2014
Jan. 13 - Feb. 23, 2019: Group Exhibit, Fiber Arts. *You Are Here Gallery. Jeanette, PA
2017: Group Exhibit, Mixed Media. *Artomatic. Crystal City, VA
2015: Group Exhibit, Mixed Media. *Brentwood Arts Exchange. Brentwood, MD
Aug. 28 - Sept. 26, 2015: Group Exhibit, “Memory Flood.” *Anacostia Arts Center. Wash. DC
Feb. - Mar. 2014: Group Exhibit, “Fiber & More.” *Arlington Central Library, Arlington, VA
2014: Group Exhibit, Mixed Media. *Gallery 39, Gateway Arts District, Brentwood, MD
2013 - 2018: Bi-Annual Mixed Media Exhibit, *Francine Haskins Studio, Wash. DC
2013: Group Art Doll Exhibit, *Gallery Serengeti, Capital Heights, MD
2012: Group Exhibit, Mixed Media.*The Graham Collection, Wash. DC
2010: Group Exhibit, “The Art Doll In Cloth.” *Morrisana Doll Society, Harlem, NYC
Jan. 12 - Mar. 8, 2003: Group Exhibit, “All Dolled Up.” *The Cultural Arts Center, Glen Allen, VA
Mar. 8 - Apr. 7, 2001: Group Exhibit, “Folk and Traditional Arts in Arlington: Best Kept Secrets”
*The Ellipse Arts Center. Arlington, VA
May 11 - June 22, 2019 Co - curated “ASSEMBLAGES: fiber, thread, and found objects.” Portico Gallery. 3807 Rhode Island Avenue. Brentwood, MD 20722
June 30, 2018 “The Textile Collective” Marriott Residence Inn. Pentagon City. Arlington, VA
Feb. - Mar. 2007: Cloth Journals & Cloth Doll Making. Randolph Elementary School. After School Program, APS, Arlington, VA
Oct.- Dec. 2006: Basic Hand Stitching Techniques. Randolph Elementary School. After School Program, APS, Arlington, VA
Mar.- Apr. 2004: Cloth Doll Making and Basic Hand Stitching Techniques. Arlington Co. Parks & Rec., Fairlington Art Studios, Arlington, VA
Aug. 2003: Cloth Doll Making. Arlington County Fair. Arlington Cultural Affairs. Arlington, VA ***************
Indigo’s world is nuanced and full of all kinds of wonderful things. Her character inspirations are a constant for me. So if you are new to the world of "Indigo's Friends", Welcome! Now you too have become a friend. If you've been a friend of Indigo's or have selected an Indigo's Friends doll or notion in the past, then Welcome back! Either way, thank you all for joining us. We are glad to have you.
Imani W. Russell owns the rights to all creations, text, and photos posted on this site. 2006 - current. All rights are protected under the U.S. and international copyrights laws. Last update 2019
Indigo's Friends Studio
Art Dolls & Notions