Black DIY: Black Women Who Design! Interview with Imani Bilal of Venus Visuals

As we wrap up Women’s History Month, I wanted to make sure I highlighted

Venus Visuals - Kosmik Swirl Earrings

another female designer of handmade crafts. Recently, I ran across this photo of a striking woman in a beautiful pair of earrings and I was so taken by the photo that I soon discovered that it is a model for a great jewelry designer, Imani Bilal, of Venus Visuals, Handcrafted Jewelry and Unique Imports.  I was immediately drawn to Venus Visuals because of the edgy, ethnic, and fashion forward designs, as well as the backstory.  And the fact that she has a connection to Cleveland, Ohio, my hometown was even more reason to feature her. 

An Interview with Imani Bilal of  Venus Visuals:

What inspired you to go into the craft business? Do you do this full-time or do you still have a day job? When I think back I realize I have always been surrounded by creative people. My mother sewed often, creating beautiful garments from scratch. She would do other little crafty things like recreate our Barbie’s clothing with gorgeous African print. My father is a poet, which is actually my first love. So, being involved in the Arts came very naturally. My step father who raised me was a very successful entrepreneur. He always worked for himself, built an enterprise and traveled the world via his trade and skill. I didn’t think about the business aspect of creating jewelry until much later. I would create pieces for myself, and people would ask where I purchased it. It happened so often, that I was inspired to start my own business with the help of my business partner (who is also my sister), Muslimah Bilal. Together, we founded Venus Visuals. I am committed to my business on a full time basis. I am fortunate to have a loving and supportive husband and team who help me in so many ways. It is a great feeling to be in business for yourself, challenging but definitely rewarding!

What’s behind the name of your craft business? How long have you been in business? We’ve been in business since Jan 2009.  I’ve always loved the name Venus, and everything it stood for. It represents a woman’s strength, her femininity, individuality, and beauty. I wanted our “visuals” to reflect that same passion we have for promoting those things. I create bold pieces for a reason. It takes courage to wear unique pieces, bright colors, unusual shapes. Nowadays, it takes courage to be yourself in a world where everyone is trying to make you other than that. I’m not really into trends, I’m just into being me. A lot of people are not comfortable with being seen. They hide. We encourage being comfortable in your own skin, and being courageous enough to stand out. That’s what VENUS is all about.

Describe your aesthetic/creative process when designing/making your product line. Is there a product in your line that you specialize in or are most proud of? What is your biggest seller? Hmm…every time is somewhat different for me. A lot of times I just sit down and begin…with absolutely no direction, and see what happens. I allow myself to be really free in my process because through that route I have created (what I consider) some of my best pieces. I despise restrictions, so I don’t place any on my Art. Other times, I will sketch an idea that’s in my mind, then execute it. I dream up ideas often. I’ll literally dream that I created something and can see it crystal clear. I’ll wake up and immediately get to work! I love it when that happens!

A product that I specialize in? Id say my Palettes (over sized studs), hand painted earrings and bold necklaces/shoulder chains have become the most sought after pieces. The more unique, the better they seem to sell!

Venus Visuals - Zaki Necklace

What’s the best thing about what you do? And the worst? The best thing about creating jewelry is that there are no limits! I give this response time and time again but it’s so true. The imagination has no boundaries so there’s always room to create and re create. I have fun doing what I love, being able to share my passion with others makes me so happy…and makes them happy. Everyone wins !

The worst part is recreating the same piece over and over again! Haha! This is part of the business, especially when dealing with stores. I get bored easily, so having to duplicate a piece is definitely the worst part. I will say though, duplication sharpens your skills. Like anything you do time and time again…eventually, it becomes like breathing, quick and easy.

What’s your opinion of the DIY Movement? What impact do you think this will have or has had on the Black Community? Why is knowing your DIY roots important to us? The movement is essential. It’s our life force…our people have always been creative and resourceful. No one can take that way from us but US. It is up to us to keep it and cultivate it, less it wither away. Platforms such as these are necessary to do just that. They serve as reminders. It is so important to have a trade, a skill. This is the way of our ancestors. This is the way love is fostered, by sharing & trading our gifts, and passing down our talents to our babies. I teach my daughter everything I know, on a creative level and from a business point of view. One day she will teach her children what she has learned and they will teach their children. This is how culture is cultivated, and how community life and economic sustainability within our communities are established and maintained. There really is no other way….

What’s the best advice you’ve been given about your business or craft practices? The best advice I’ve been given is from my mother who constantly reminds me that God already has a plan for me, and all of this…so why worry? Business can be overwhelming at times, and remembering those words keep me at peace and focused. Hakuna Matata .

Are there other crafters or businesses you follow and why? Yep, shout out to Cloud 9 Boutique in Cleveland Ohio, B By Aperire in W. Hollywood, CA, and Limpasse Limpasse out of NYC. ALL amazing businesses, go support them!!! Besides the fact that VENUS pieces are being carried in those stores…all three of the owners are also incredible designers! They are in business for themselves and making it happen! I admire them a lot!

Do you currently have any specials or sales going on right now? We just launched our Spring Line on March 19th, so definitely check out the LookBook (on our website) and the new pieces! This Monday (3/26) begins our Spring Sale -20% off everything in the store so check for that! There are always discounted items here and there throughout the online boutique.

Is there anything else you would like readers to know? I would like to thank lifestyle30 for featuring us, and creating a platform for creatives to share their talents. I’d also like to thank everyone for supporting VENUS thus far! We appreciate you all, and have even great things in store, God willing!

Business Name: Venus Visuals
Founder/Creative Director’s Name: Imani Bilal (Creative Designer) Imani & Muslimah Bilal (Founders)
Location: Washington DC/VA/MD
Business Phone (if applicable): (202) 704-2658

Thank you for reading and support Black DIY!

Follow me on twitter: @ivywriter

One thought on “Black DIY: Black Women Who Design! Interview with Imani Bilal of Venus Visuals

  1. Peace Imani

    This was a SERIOUS interview. I learned a lot and it showed how intelligent and focused you are. The part about cultivating culture and passing on a trade or skill on to our kids is vital. So proud of you and Muslimah and I thank this site for giving you another platform to speak on what inspires you and keeps you going. You both inspire me.

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