by Charlee Harris
Meet this month’s cover artist, Adana Tillman. She is a textile fabrication artist born and raised in Akron.
Adana, who currently lives in Atlanta, was awarded the TILA Garden Fellowship in 2019. She has exhibited locally at the Summit Artspace as well as the international Prizm Art Fair at Miami’s Art Basel.
Adana credits her mother for introducing her to quilting, and says that family has a big impact on her work.
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“My grandmother couldn’t sew for her life, but speaking with my grandfather, he was like, ‘My mother was a really big quilter.’ He would say, ‘she would have been so excited to know her great-great-granddaughter pick up on the quilting and sewing.’ He couldn’t believe it. So without realizing, it has been in my family for generations”
Quilting is one of the oldest ways to pass family stories down to the next generation. After having it passed to her, Adana is excited to keep the tradition going.
“Now I’m able to teach some of my cousins who have gotten interested in it, so it’s like, now I’m passing that tradition down. It’s really cool and I hope it continues,” Adana says.
Adana has many great memories of bike riding around the West side of Akron and attending school skating parties. She has long roots in the arts, having attended Miller South and Firestone. Although her creativity has always been nurtured, she speaks of a time when she seemingly lost her connection to creativity.
“When you go to school, you’re seeing, ‘how can I make money?’ Creative people, we are always told, ‘that’s a great hobby. that’s just something on the side you could never sustain yourself with.’ I wish I would have never let that happen, but outside influences kind of made me lose heart in it,” Adana says. “I started to look for other avenues that would give me the career that I felt like I was supposed to have.”
Adana spent several years in banking, but her heart was not in it. She admits to just going through the motions.
“I wanted something to look forward to every day. I would scrapbook family photos and I began sewing again. I started mixing those ideas together. I would create just for fun, and that’s when I got my creativity back,” Adana says. “I needed to get back to the arts. That’s when I felt like it was something I could pursue and wanted to give it a real try.”
After reentering the art world, Adana quickly learned that she would need to wear several hats and that there would be a learning curve.
“It’s natural for me to just want to create, but you still have to be a salesman and market yourself and do accounting,” Adana says. “I’ve been part of an artist fellowship that has helped me on the business side, with, like making calls to galleries and negotiating contracts. Learning industry standards and how to price my work. I try to get to the business first before I get to the creative stuff, so that it’s like a reward.”
Adana says that there has been a lot of trial and error, and she has learned to lean on her network of friends in the community. But most importantly, she’s learned to not be afraid to ask questions.
Adana hopes that when people look at her work, they can see how skilled she is at capturing figures, as well as the feelings and stories she’s able to convey through the design of her portraits.
In the future, Adana hopes to get into mural and installation work, she hopes to transition into public works and animation.
“I want to become a multimedia artist with different disciplines,” she says.
To learn more about Adana’s work, visit www.adanatillman.com or follow her on Instagram at @adanadeneice.
Charlee Harris was born and raised in Akron, Ohio. She loves her family, her community and has a passion for creative expression. As an avid arts advocate, she is the creative director for the East Ave. Flea Market and an AmeriCorps VISTA at the Kenmore Neighborhood Alliance.
Photos: Used with permission from Adana Tillman.