Editor's note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave's On the Ground Eastside series, This story is written by Community Correspondent and Eastside resident Anastasia Hennig.
Creating art is about having a constantly evolving perspective. And lifetime Eastside resident Eana Apple Agopian of Black Thread Studio has made a career of just that.
From her humble beginnings as a child scribbling shapes onto paper, to an adult arranging those same shapes into coherent images, Eana has always been a creative soul. And one constant thread in her art has been change. Whether that transformation comes in the form of style, medium or message, a broad evolution of emotions, ideas and techniques can be seen throughout her work.
Creating has always been in her DNA. Eana remembers the first time she made a picture that could be considered more than a mere scribble. She was two years old, the drawing was a rough interpretation of the human form (or was it a spider?) and her parents encouraged her in that artistic direction. But it didn’t take much of a push on their part; Eana comes from a creative family, with seven aunts and uncles on her mother's side, and all of them in the arts.
Her maternal grandmother was a multi-faceted artist who worked in “almost every medium imaginable”, Eana says, from painting murals to sewing costumes, and she was instrumental in planting the seeds of creative growth in her granddaughter at an early age.
Eana Apple Agopian credits her family, espeically her grandmother for her creative nature.
Eana fondly remembers summers spent pouring over endless books of wallpaper samples her grandma had amassed. Some children delight in video games or graphic novels; for Eana, the patterns and prints of her grandmother’s wallpaper samples were a place she could spend hours. And they had a profound and lasting effect on her creative mind.
In fact, to this day, paper is one of Eana’s favorite mediums to use in creating her artwork. It’s simply the way in which she uses it that changes. From tiny origami birds to giant flowers to collage, paper is a mainstay at Black Thread Studio. Eana can manipulate the medium in ways that make it nearly unrecognizable from its original form.
Her academic career began with delving into photograph and printmaking at Western Michigan University, where she studied art education and photography. This lead to experimenting with collage work, and culminated in “Mitosis and Meiosis”, her graduate thesis show for Kendall Design School, which are about “the stages and cycles of growth and development,” Eana says.
It was photography that took her to Africa. When she was 27, Eana traveled to Ghana to work with an organization called Global Mamas, where she photographed the batiking process and the organization's seamstresses and batik-makers for its catalog and website. She spent five months in all, working and learning alongside Ghanaian locals.
Though she’s been to some remote corners of the globe, Eana loves her Michigan home. “It was a good place to grow up,” she says. She describes the Eastside of that era as the “wild, wild west” of Kalamazoo, explaining, “we had neighbors (who owned) a pig, and somebody had a horse when I was a little kid and would walk it around the neighborhood. Chickens roam free over here.”
Initially, Eana wanted to convey the sea changes of life through her work: the metamorphosis of perspective and transmutation of personal development. She was able to express those ideas through her fine art pieces, but her creativity continued to evolve along with the ideals of what art meant to her.
These days, accessibility and affordability play a key role in Agopian’s current works, which focus on wearable art, such as headbands and jewelry, and screen printed images. To create the pieces, she combines elements she loves working with: collage, photography, vintage ephemera and images from the natural world. She has created a series of earrings made of a waterproof paper that feature her own designs; some of her other items include hand-drawn fabric leaves and fabric bunting bearing phases of the moon.
Her studio is a cozy nook located at Jericho Town next to Fido Motors in the Edison district, that features an original old bank vault, which Eana now uses as a closet. “It’s not always this tidy in here,” she explains, and notes that festival season is upon us, and a happy chaos replaces order as she creates inventory for weeks and months prior to hitting the road.
But Black Thread Studio is a little haven from the chaos of life, and a refuge to expel the cobwebs of stagnation that collect when creativity is dormant. Which, for Eana, is never very long.
Catch some of Eana’s collage work at Teal Jewelers this summer. Here’s a list of her upcoming art shows throughout Michigan:
Black Thread Studio Summer 2019 Art Fair Schedule
Sol of the Lost Tamarack, June 21-23, Wolverine
Cherry Fest, June 30, Traverse City
Kindleberger Fest, July 13, Parchment
Richland Art Fair, July 20, Richland
Bizarre Bazaar, July 28, Kalamazoo
Vintage in the Zoo, August 4, Kalamazoo Downtown
Art Fair, August 18, Traverse City
Photos by Eric Hennig, VAGUE photography, unless otherwise indicated.