Afiya Augustine

Hailing from the tropical isle of Trinidad, Afiya Augustine is a writer, freelancer, podcaster, and creator of Pretty Poet Ink, an online handcrafted accessories boutique. Afiya finds tons of inspiration for her work from her love of pop culture, nostalgia, history, science fiction and fantasy. When she is not crafting, she spends time listening to music, tweeting, writing poetry and prose, posting photos of her family, catching a flick, or learning something new. We spoke to Afiya about being a creator, balancing creating with a nine to five, and who some of her favorite Black women creators are.

Black Girls Create: What do you create?

I create quite a few things, actually. First and foremost, I am a writer. I’ve been writing poetry, short stories, and novels since I was twelve and have been a professional entertainment writer/editor for well over five years.

Next, I am the creator and founder of Pretty Poet INK — an online boutique of handcrafted wonders. I both design and create a plethora of things, which (at the moment) includes wearable and useable art otherwise known as jewelry and accessories. With my jewelry,  I often use actual semi-precious stones, crystals, glass and wood beads, in addition to plated and precious metals. My accessories are mostly fabric-based items like bow ties, hair bows, and I’m slowly venturing into things like wallets and pouches. In addition to pieces that are of my own design, I also do custom pieces for others, usually for special occasions like weddings.

Lastly, I host a podcast, called ‘Adult-ish’, which is tackles the everyday trials and tribulations of transitioning into adulthood and all the responsibilities that comes with it no one ever really tells you about.

BGC: Why do you create?

I started creating because quite honestly, I liked it. I’ve always been a person interested in creating. I like to express the way I’m feeling through my various crafts. I use my writings to express my emotions, thoughts, daydreams, and wishes. I used my jewelry to convey a feeling, a connection to a certain aesthetic, imagery. I love the idea of bringing something from my imagination to life. It’s very calming and it’s also a feeling of accomplishment to see something start as just a few beads or a thought and watch it come together as a necklace or a poem.

The same kind of goes for my podcast. I record to connect; to share my experiences with others who may have gone through the same things I have.

BGC: Who is your audience?

I create for an audience of like-minded individuals, which at times is a very small group. As it pertains to anything I write or record, I’m reaching out to an open-minded audience, individuals who aren’t afraid to push their boundaries or ask silly questions. With regard to my jewelry, a lot of my pieces are for those who are OK and accepting of something “different,” who can find a deeper meaning in the baubles and connect to them on the level from their inspiration.

 Black Panther inspired pieces.
Black Panther inspired pieces.

For instance, I really love historical content so biographical films or movies set in different decades fascinate me and can be reflected in my work. I also love MCU and DCEU films and books, so you’ll find pieces dedicated to that. Science-fiction and fantasy are genres I’ve been reading since I was a child, so some of my pieces are emblematic of those worlds as well as countries and cultures I’ve never seen but wanted to.

Overall, everything I create is for the nerds, the historians, the world traveler, and those who can find themselves lost in fantasy and wonder.

BGC: Who or what inspired you to do what you do? Who or what continues to inspire you?

I can’t recall when I was first inspired to write. I just remember picking up a pencil and making a story. I can remember when I was about seven or eight years old, I was with my mom visiting my aunt in the hospital. She was dying of cancer and so my mom was there with her speaking to the doctors. I was moving around a lot, so my mom fashioned a little book out of medical tape and napkins. She gave me a pencil and so I wrote a little story with illustrations. I remember my aunt even peaking, asking my mom, “What is she doing?” and I just kept making my little story. Since then, I’ve just kept a pen and a piece of paper on my person at all times.

I was inspired to start making jewelry when I worked in the bead shop of a craft store. It was one of my first jobs out of college back when trying to get a job in editorial was a long shot thanks to the recession. I would glance in magazines like Beadstyle or Stringing and see all these beautiful pieces and think, “how can I inject a bit of myself into this?” I loved the color compositions, the textures, and I wanted to make them expressive of who I was and what I could do. It was about bringing something to life… even though it’s an inanimate object, proving to myself that yet again, there was something I could do. And I’m continually inspired by the idea of being able to make something new. Putting a new object into the world. A sense of pride and accomplishment washes over me with each piece. So much so that I often find it hard to sell them! It’s me saying to myself, “Yes. I made that. I can make it and I did make this.”

The podcast came out of a conversation with a friend who thought our random, off-the-wall chats would be fun to listen to and so, after meeting with a few people interested in our chatter about turning into adults, a podcast was born.

BGC: Why is it important as a black person to create?

It’s important for Black people and especially for Black women to create because there aren’t many of us who can have our voices heard. It’s very endearing to hear or see another Black person creating, whether it’s a book, a comic, a clothing line. I feel like we, as a community, have a super strong purchasing power and are always hungry to consume new things and as such, we should be investing in one another. Why not lift up those who can relate to you? Who can create items for you — that not only speak to who you are, but what you are? As a Black female entrepreneur, I’m trying to reach other Black people with similar interests to let them know 1. You are not alone and 2. Here’s a way that allows you to express yourself.

For me, I feel it’s important for us to create to connect to individuals like ourselves and to do so with our creations.

BGC: How do you balance creating with the rest of your life?

 Gotham David Mazouz With PPI Batman Bow Tie
Gotham David Mazouz With PPI Batman Bow Tie

Terribly. LOL. I work a full-time job that requires me to travel upwards of 4 hours a day (and 5 hours on a bad day). But I do my best to think of creating. During my commute, I might jot down an idea for a design, write down combinations of colors and shapes that I like, or brainstorm ideas on how to sell or pitch a product. I’ll spend my downtime at work scrolling through websites for ideas, tips, supplies, etc. Maybe put some in a shopping cart and save it for later.

In the past, I used to commit to writing at least one new piece of prose a week, usually about something I observed on my commute home. But that’s when I used to get a seat on the trains. Now, if I have a thought for a story or a line for a poem, I may either jot it down in the Notes section of my phone or post it on Twitter.

On the weekends, I try to record an episode with a co-host one day and craft the next day. The only thing that sucks is that I have to limit my time when the ball starts rolling because I can find myself creating well into the midnight hour. And Lord knows I need all the sleep I can get to have the energy for work.

BGC: How do you balance creating when you feel drained or exhausted?

It’s very trying to balance creating when I’m drained or exhausted because when I’m in that mood, I really want to do nothing but relax and recharge. Sometimes, I will give in, but when I realize I’ve done for too long, I will put music on and sit in front of my table. Often times, touching my supplies, organizing materials, and going through my bins with all the little goodies, brings me back.

BGC: Do you have advice for young creators or ones just starting?

The first bit of advice — learn more about your craft. Next, take your time getting into it. Find a good teacher or mentors who can help you through it. Take a class here and there and see if you really like it or not. It’s OK if you realize it’s not for you.

In the very beginning, I was so excited about jewelry crafting that I spent a ton of money on beads and didn’t know what to do with them. I was also self-taught and found myself constantly looking for tutorials on the web to guide me through. Several years in, I’m still asking the pros questions and learning new techniques as well as understanding there are just some aspects of crafting that aren’t for me.

My writing is OK, but it can always be better. To improve that, I do my best to read one of the many books I haven’t cracked open yet on my bookcase. In seeing some of the different styles, vocabulary, structure, etc. I can better find my own voice.

BGC: Who are some other Black Women creators you admire?

Well, one is definitely my mom. She’s a seamstress and has been working a sewing machine for as long as I can remember. She’s also pretty handy with a glue gun when she’s ready, though I’ve probably surpassed her in that area. Other women I know include Tandeka Fable of Fabl Design and Shirley Blanc of SincerelyMe Sweets, both of whom are crushing it with their startups.

Women I admire from afar include Lorraine West of Lorraine West Jewelry, a handmade luxury brand based in NYC, as well as actor/writer/director Issa Rae because she’s hella dope. I’ve been admiring this woman since Awkward Black Girl on YouTube, and she even gave the OK for me to send her some of my jewelry pieces! Who doesn’t love her, like seriously?!  (Holla at me if you want more pieces, Issa!)

BGC: What are your future projects?

My future projects include expanding Pretty Poet Ink into several brands. As I previously mentioned, I do custom work for special occasions and am looking to bridge that into a bridal brand where I will be making custom bridal pieces and accessories — veils, bouquets, brooms etc.  In the not-so-distant future, I’d like to venture into home decor. It’s my dream to have people not only wearing but living with Pretty Poet Ink around them.

Also, I would ultimately love to finish and publish at least one novel, and a chapbook of poetry. And when it comes to podcasting, I’m hoping to land a spot on HBO or Showtime like some other famous podcasts out there. If not that, at the very least a live recording at a little bar with our few faithful fans.

You can shop Pretty Poet Ink here and subscribe to the brand on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as well as find all her editorial work on her blog. You can also listen to the Adult-ish podcast on Google Play, iTunes, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Soundcloud, and Spreaker. Check out Adultish on Twitter as well.