Tiara Donald is also known as Hazel of The Hazel Designs is a studio artist from Atlanta Georgia currently residing in Richmond Virginia. Growing up she was often inspired by the artsy things surrounding her from her mother’s Jean Paul Gautier perfume bottles, to the comic illustrations in the Sunday newspaper she would read with her grandfather. Her creative endeavors have always been the leading path to her entrepreneurial spirit. While Journalism was her major studies in college, her minor studies in studio art gave her an opportunity to explore different mediums and create a diverse portfolio.
Contemporary art has always inspired her. In some of her works, she uses familiar images or techniques from her favorite artist and inserts objects and ideas that highlight African American culture and lifestyle. She uses this technique to grab the attention of those who may not be knowledgeable of these artists and helps them find a parallel to something they wouldn’t normally be interested in or feel was relatable. Her personal style displays her love for pattern and color across all forms of design. While living in Atlanta she taught K-5 visual arts classes through Public School programs and volunteer work. After Relocating to Richmond Tiara aims to focus more on surface pattern designs, spatial and interior designs, and creative director at her studio The Haus on Market with life and business partner Kristopher Russell.
The Haus on Market is a historic home located in Petersburg, Virginia that the two partnered together and turned into a creative studio for set design and photography. Haus is set to open in the fall of 2020.
Hi, Hazel! Tell us a few words about yourself. What does a typical day look like for Hazel? Do you just do art, or is art just part of the picture?
Hazel: I am a multidisciplinary artist, so art for me comes in many different forms. Studying studio art in college gave me an opportunity to experience several mediums. On my own, I’ve practiced painting and photography, and since 2014. Once I decided to tap into digital art, digital illustrations, and surface patterns helped me in printing and selling my art on clothing. Once I purchased my studio earlier this year, interior, set, and spatial design has become a part of my everyday duties. A typical day for me usually includes an idea, an era, a color palette, a theme, a mood board, and a budget. This process could be used for any project I’m working on. I do a lot of research, watching old movies and scavenging my local thrift shop for inspiration. After studying studio art I realized that I had a love for design as a whole, and I knew I didn’t want to limit myself to just one medium.
What is the message you are trying to give with your art?
Hazel: I’d like to think the message in my work is a reversed form of appropriation if you will. I insert black culture into Western and Contemporary Art. The development of Western Art does not illustrate or narrate the lives of black and brown people outside of slave and service roles. This was a crucial time that visual arts were being practiced and documented, and makes it difficult for the young aspiring artists to see where they fit into art history. As for the modern world, most contemporary work that represents people of color, are created by artists of color. All other artists that have a connection to African American and pop culture usually make that connection through the music industry. The Murakami’s and Condos of the world end up on the covers of our new Kanye West albums, and a lot of us have no idea who these artists are. There is a disconnect somewhere in art history and African American culture, and I just want to play my role in bridging that gap as a representative from our community.
How do you choose which medium to use?
Hazel: I choose my medium based on what design project I am working on. If it’s painting, I use acrylic. If it’s textiles, I’m working with my upholsterer on some upcycled furniture. I’ve created photo collages from Polaroid pictures. I’ve printed my digital illustrations on acid-washed tees to create a vintage t-shirt collection. No matter what the medium I use, I want my style and designs to remain nostalgic.
How much of your art is influenced by the time you were studying Journalism?
Hazel: I like to think that all of my work is influenced by the time I studied Journalism. After losing a parent to a terminal illness in the middle of my college career, I stopped writing; I no longer had an interest in it. I stopped speaking as frequently. I felt like I’d lost my voice, and art was the only way I could express myself.
Can you give us some examples of your artworks that are influenced by your favorite artists, that highlight African American culture and lifestyle? And tell us a bit more about that.
Hazel: In my personal work, what I have done to highlight other artists is considered some of my favorite artist’s styles and notorious illustrations, and merged them with subtle references to African American culture. For example, where primary-colored paisley bandanas are usually recognized in my community as flags to let others know what borough or neighborhood one is from, I’ve taken and arranged them on a canvas to look like a painting by famous French artist Piet Mondrian. By using that cultural reference, I not only open up the floor for art education conversations but also give people of color an opportunity to feel like they can relate to the art world in their own way. Like most positions in America, we have to insert ourselves into the conversations we want to be a part of.
Can you tell us a bit more about The Haus on Market studio? How important is it to have something like that for the inspiration and good vibes?
Hazel: The Haus on Market is a historical home in the heart of Petersburg, VA that my partner Kristopher and I have turned into a creative studio for photography and design. Our goal is to open this space to photographers, developing artists, and creatives that need space to create. We provide furniture, props, backdrops, lighting, etc for people looking to rent the space. Art is taking a turn into a more interactive realm, and we believe that designing out these spaces with props, themes, and interactive elements not only provides our clients and visitors with the resources they need to build out their visions, but also gives the local community an opportunity to be a part of something fun that central Virginia has never seen before.
How has your art evolved over the years?
Hazel: Over the years my art has evolved in concept and skill. As I stated, I wasn’t a BFA student, art was only my minor studies so I had to use those 18 credit hrs I did get and expand my knowledge of each medium on my own. Looking back at some of my earlier works I have definitely grown in technique and elements of art. My style has become more consistent, which has helped me to gain a following that recognizes my work. There is still so much work to be done, but I am so grateful for where I am in my work today.
Share some interesting facts about your art with us.
Hazel: One interesting thing about my work, especially my paintings…I don’t use the most expensive materials. I have literally created some of my best pieces from inexpensive paints. Don’t get me wrong quality materials are great to have, but the beauty is in the actual work.
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
Hazel: The most memorable response I’ve had to my work is selling out my first solo art exhibit. It was my first time showcasing my work to the public and I was very nervous. Needless to say, I’ve curated 2 more solo exhibits since then and each featured more guest than the last. It feels good to see that growth.
What is the best way to reach people that are interested in your art?
Hazel: I try my best to interact with people on my social media pages as well as in public spaces to get them interested in my work. I believe that my content is relatable so when people see it they usually are drawn in from there. You can find me on Instagram @thehazeldesigns, Facebook www.facebook.com/thehazeldesigns and email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Are there any upcoming shows or workshops we should know about (or canceled due to the Covid-19 situation)?
Hazel: I don’t have any upcoming shows in the works as of now. As unfortunate as Covid has been, this downtime has really helped my partner and I focus on renovations to our studio and building our portfolio for when the world opens back up.
What’s next for you?
Hazel: For me, the future looks rather promising. I believe that the ideas I have and the space I’ve been blessed with to carry out those ideas can help so many artists just like myself that need the space and the platform.