“Our name? we knew we wanted something that embodied Blackness and we wanted to be Afrocentric” Addis Alemu of Amo Collective explains. “What does Amo mean and where does it come from”? I ask. “Amo is Yoruba that means clay, but we were intentional with using Amo/Yoruba in that we didn’t want people to mispronounce or butcher our name.” chimed in Kemi Schleicher, the other half of Amo Collective Studio Space located in South Minneapolis.
Addis and Kemi are both accomplished individually as artists which makes their collective even more serendipitous.
Addis (they/them) in their time in the ceramics community, has programmed multiple class series that provide intro-level clay classes at a sliding scale to Trans and Queer (T/Q) Black and BIPOC folks. Addis also sells their personal work in various shops around Minneapolis.
After spending time in London ceramic studios, Kemi (she/her) relocated back to Minneapolis after starting her ceramic business (ikokomi). She currently runs the Ceramics studio at Juxtaposition Arts, a Black-owned arts organization that educates and employs youth apprentices to work in a variety of art and design disciplines.
The “Dynamic Duo of Clay” assembled from Instagram messages that started out as sharing similar experiences they both shared while working in the art and clay community in Minneapolis. “Ceramics is a tremendously white dominant space. I was tired of feeling degraded and talked down to along with the general straight up racism of thinking I didn’t belong because of how I looked,” voiced Kemi.
“Especially as someone who is neurodivergent and Black – I was always made to believe that something was wrong with me and I couldn’t learn when in actuality I just needed to be met where I was at,” Addis shared. She continued, “being part of a class and an art space where people looked like me and encouraged my art which led me to push and pursue it more.”
Through their mutual experiences and passion of clay, Addis and Kemi took it upon themselves to create and cultivate a space for their own; Black ceramic artists in Minneapolis. A space and cohort that produces a community space where Black ceramacists can meet, create, and support without White folk having a hand in what they’re doing – “giving ourselves autonomy and truly owning,” grinned Addis.
Prior to Amo Collective, Addis and Kemi hadn’t worked alongside another Black ceramicist and now that’s all they see when they are working in their space. Amo Collective’s next step is to be able to support younger Trans/Queer Black ceramic artists by providing affordable space and materials. The intent is to provide opportunities for selling work, gaining knowledge, and experience – as well as mentorship they would have hoped to have during developmental times in our careers.
Amo Collective is originated in the image of two young Black ceramic artists and what they wanted to see in their community, more representation. “Us being here and holding space for people that look like us will only naturally automatically increase Black representation in Minneapolis ceramics,” quipped Kemi. “I couldn’t find any Black ceramic artists here, so why don’t we make some?” Addis said with conviction.