Wessex Scene Editor Charlotte Colombo speaks with Avila Diana Chidume, the founder of Avila.Diana, about setting up her own card business and the importance of representation across all mediums.
What pushed you to make this transition from a hobby to a business?
It happened naturally; I was featured in an anthology on mental health which provided me with the opportunity to showcase my first design. The design sold out during the event and I received amazing feedback, with people sharing their interpretations on the design and how it made them feel. From there I decided to pursue it further by applying for showcasing events.
What communities do your cards cater towards?
I am a big advocate for human rights and inclusivity, so I try to make work for underrepresented groups – anyone who you generally wouldn’t usually be able to buy a card for. I focus on minority ethnicities (B.A.M.E) and different sexualities and genders (including those who are non-binary), in addition to people with disabilities, both visible and invisible. At the moment my collection doesn’t reflect all of these groups, but I am working on expanding it!
Who is your biggest inspiration?
Since launching I have grown to love and appreciate people, famous and not famous, who live fearlessly. Who are doing what they love and creating positive change in the process, I am always the first to share stories with headlines like ‘first black female to…’ etc. Just people who have been marginalised but haven’t allowed oppression to stop them pursuing their dreams.
What has been the most challenging part of your business so far?
Situations where I have been told by people that my business will not succeed because of how oversaturated the card market is. The criticism is legitimate for generic cards which are already widely available, but the main issue is that the basic concept of my designs are not widely available. I wouldn’t be doing this if I could walk into any generic card shop and buy a card which looked like a family member or friend who is not white.
What would you say has been the biggest highlight?
I’ve been lucky to have some amazing interviews and events, giving me the opportunity to share my work. Each has been special in its own way. However, the one thing I can never get over is how happy children get when they see cards with their faces, hair textures and skin colours. As a child I didn’t have that, and it was something I longed for, so I really empathise with these kids, and I’m happy to be the one providing them with this form of representation.
To what do you owe your success?
The people who are supporting me. Anyone who has shared my work online and offline, who has seen my work and told others about it, and who has purchased my cards for their friends and family members. Their support is unmatched. Also, the funding I have received from the Student Union and Student Enterprise team!
What does diversity mean to you?
For me it doesn’t have a special meaning, it’s my everyday life. If you have grown up as the majority, you may never have to consider the term if the world is catered to you. But for me, I’m constantly reminded that I have to fight for myself to be included in places I have as much a right to be in as another. No one should have to fight to prove their worth as a person – diversity is entering a space and not thinking about whether or not I belong there.
What do you think is the message that people should take away from Black History Month?
Black people are awesome. This month is an opportunity to celebrate that; it’s not an attempt to reduce any other ethnicity, but to highlight one which is often overlooked and neglected.
Where do you plan to go from here?
I have a lot of goals and dreams. My biggest aim is to have a team made up of artists from underrepresented groups who can share their stories through cards.
Do you have any more events coming up?
I have a few which I will be announcing in due time on my website, the biggest being my cards being stocked in SUSU!
To find out more about Avila’s business and to purchase some of her cards, please visit:
www.aviladiana.com, Instagram: avila.diana, Facebook and Twitter: aviladianacards.