We had the good fortune of connecting with Elaine Almeida and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Elaine, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I’m really joyful and grateful that I started my business as a response to demand, instead of rushing and creating buzz/demand myself. After the first summer of posting my illustrations on Instagram, my DMs were starting to fill up with both light hearted and serious requests for prints. It got to a place where I needed a more organized, professional system than simply running a business through DMs. During my undergrad I had the opportunity to work for a phenomenal photographer, so I learnt how to handle ordering and shipping prints there. Once I started selling prints, I was very conscious to stay away from Society6 and other sites where the profit margins go almost completely to a third party, and the artist has low control over price. My goal has always been to create affordable, accessible art. My shipping is free across the United States, and all of my prints are under $30. I’m not interested in creating an unsustainable empire—I want to bring tenderness into folks’ lives, and I believe my business should reflect that as well.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
The heart of my work is this metaphysical desire for tenderness. What does it mean and how do we practice tenderness with ourselves and others? For folks who have been marginalized or made minorities, how can tenderness help us not only imagine, but generate new futures? How can tenderness help us honor and kiss our pasts with a love we long thought gone? How can I be tender? Self taught as an artist, my axiom ‘“strength in tenderness” guides both the practice and presentation of my work. I engage in light, minimalist sketches using a digital canvas. Here, the use of as few lines as possible—oftentimes leaning on my mindful practice of creating one-line sketches—serves as commentary on the sense of wholeness those seemingly perceived as ‘work in projects’ can imbue. On my best days, I hope my art is read as tender, ephemeral, queer. I am in love with healing touch, with slow pleasure, with something that lasts a moment but can linger a lifetime—I love goosebumps. And so in this way, I am interested in queer moments that aren’t just sexy or romantic or boldly true; but simply about being touched, and loved in that touch. There is a quote by David Howes: “the soul is to be found where the body touches itself.” How we touch, how we are touched— for me this is a generative space for healing, caring and thriving. Am I allowed to share that some days, a lot of days, I feel deep guilt and embarrassment as an artist? I wish I was better, in like every sense of the word; more public, more likable; producing better bodies, producing more bodies; more overtly political; is it political enough?; and all together that I was a better kind of queer scholar— more queer, more smart. You know? And I think, normally, I would like to force myself to write a positive spin on this narrative— to use my advertising degree and sell you a Cinderella story. But truly, right now, I just want to honor the spirit of transparency, and just share that sometimes, a lot of the times, I just feel bad as an artist, as a person of color, and as a queer person of color. And I keep creating because I know I am able to share this with other QPOC artists. In being vulnerable, they hear me. They are living some or all of this with me, they are juggling creating and sustaining energy, and through it all, I feel a little less lonely, a little less bad. And it keeps me going. Not necessarily running or spinning with joy, but it keeps me shimmying forward, and we could all use a little more shimmying. So huh, I guess I did find a way to put a small positive spin on this… Sometimes things work out. I am, as always, learning to be tender with myself.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Houston’s greatest assets are its museums to hide from the humidity in. I’ll be honest, my perfect weekend is waking up early and sneaking some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or small rice balls in my bag. Then, you do as many museums as possible in a day—a lot of them are in walking distance. Snacking on your cheap little snacks, getting an over priced coffee at museum shops (they’re never good but it’s about the experience.) and maybe an ice cream. You deserve it after secretly eating the snacks you brought from home all day. You leave filled with ideas and gossip and all of things to chat about before you go drink in your friend’s apartment, getting ready to do it all over again the next day. That is the perfect Houston tourist trip for me. Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Wow, this is a phenomenal question that makes me ecstatic—I am truly the cumulation of the love and joy I’ve received over the years. My queer community oriented business icons are Homoco and their founder Daniel DuGoff (I have a hand written letter from him in my office; that was the letter that pushed me to open up my Etsy,) along with Mazahir Hussein of @girthofvenus on Instagram. For two years Maz has been this lightning rod of inspiration, and seeing the impact of his art on our little digital corner of the global queer community is just, wow. A treasure. I will also always love Brunch Club Mag’s Colby Anderson for always emailing me, and the Umlauf Museum in Austin, Texas for my first paid speaking gig. You know, Adrienne Marie Brown in “Emergent Strategies,” along with the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective, and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha in “Care Work”, all these authors talk about pods, care webs, caring relationships—ways of forming transformative avenues for care and support and joy in our lives. Not just being there for each other, but working to transform each other’s lives for the better. And I’ve found that in my digital queer community. (Also, I highly recommend all those readings, especially Care Work!) I am also a product of all the love I have received while in school on various campuses. Lexi Perez Allison, Lucy Atkinson, Erica Ciszek, Steph Cree, Martha Gill, Anna Gebarski, Maya Hughley, Eric Hunt, Kruthika Kamath, Ian Kpachavi, Jennifer Lawrence, Gryffin Loya, Jo Lukito, Lyric Mandell, Grace Mattern, Elyas Mercardo, Peter Northfelt, Riley Blanks Reed, Sue Robinson, Ivan Vazquez, Steven Wang, Xinyi Wang—the list goes on and on. These people loved me as I worked through what I wanted to do about nearly every variable of my life. Most importantly, they helped me decipher between wants and needs, between destiny and manifestation. College campuses, not matter the level you attend or its prestige or your major, will always have traces of toxicity. You choose the people who will be the antidote to it all. I am loved, I am loved, I am loved. Finally, always, my mom.
B+W photo of Elaine Almeida: courtesy of Maya D. Hughley