I Create Birmingham: Miriam Omura

“You need the support of people around you – your family, friends, etc. That support gives you miles of advantage over people who are being told ‘you’re never going to make anything of yourself as an artist.'”

Miram Omura
Occupation: Artist

Your art is primarily textile focused. What is it about fabric that captivates you? 

Textile is something, across all time, that is universal to most of humanity. It often marks important life events. But it’s often something that we overlook because it is in our daily lives. You have your bed sheets, your jeans and clothes. You don’t think about them. You just expect to have sheets. You just put on your clothes every day. It’s something that’s overlooked, but yet, is important. When someone is born, or there is a Christening, or a bar mitzvah, there is a textile component. It is there in a wedding, or a shroud, or even the lining of a casket. There is something about all of that that fascinates me.

You can look at the stains on clothing, from clothes centuries old. You see the cuffs and the collar and you know they were working class. It takes in part of us. Unless it is considered high fashion, textile is often overlooked as an art form. But it is something that can be used as two-dimensional and three-dimensional.

Your woven portraits have a very interesting technique. Would you walk us through your process?

It’s a process of weaving and un-weaving. To do my portraits I like to have a shifted image that is focused, and at the same time, comes out of focus, or overlaying two different images. The way I do that is by weaving a plain cloth and then I dye paint an image. I break the image down into tones from light to dark. Once the dye has set, I un-weave the cloth and then re-weave it. The act of un-weaving and re-weaving is what gives the shift. It’s similar to ikat – the resist dye process. The process is meditative. Process and art form are important to me. It has to be structured and you have to do it a certain way.

As a recent CO.STARTERS graduate, how did the ten week program change you as an entrepreneur and an artist?

It makes you realize what goals are reachable and what goals are too big for you at the moment. It also gives you focus. It makes you realize what it is you actually want to do. For me, realizing how much I was actually paying myself using the break-even form was eye-opening. You want to pay yourself. And you may think you are. But when you break it down, and factor in your time, and not just the cost of materials, you may realize that you are actually losing money. There are so many tutorials online that tell you how to price your work. But the CO.STARTERS program makes you more comfortable with giving yourself a fair price. I think it gives you something to stand on. You feel more confident when you tell someone how much your art or product costs when you know that’s the price you deserve. They don’t teach you the business side of art in school. But CO.STARTERS was really supportive in developing those skills. It’s not dry. And you’re working with other people. And even though you are in different fields, you can see similar problems.

What advice do you have for those looking to make art a full time career? 

You need the support of people around you – your family, friends, etc. That support gives you miles of advantage over people who are being told “you’re never going to make anything of yourself as an artist.” It’s a lot of hours and a lot of work to be an artist, entrepreneur, or business owner. If you want to do what you love, you have to love what you do.

How can Birmingham better support local artists? 

Birmingham is a growing city, and it’s growing in the arts. It’s starting to come together. We have wonderful festivals. We have a number of galleries. But I would love to see more galleries, studio and communal spaces. I think interacting with other artists is important. If you work from home, you often close yourself off and put yourself in a little bubble. But communal space is a good thing for artists. We need more artist-run things. There are galleries run by people who know how to run galleries. But, I think it’s important to allow artists to be a part of those conversations.