Five Minutes With Aminata Conteh

Five Minutes With Aminata Conteh

The Portland metalsmith and Indigo Arts Alliance marketing coordinator on art that honors family, supporting local makers, and good things in small gold packages.

Aminata Conteh

waxed-canvas tote from Loquat

I love my…

waxed-canvas tote from Loquat, in Portland. I met [co-owner] Jordan Carey at [the city’s] Maine College of Art & Design, where I graduated with a BFA in metalsmithing and jewelry. I love watching a friend grow a business making beautiful things while supporting the BIPOC community. $125. 

My work explores…

my family history. My family is from Sierra Leone and baskets are prevalent in my memories of visits there. I thought, What if I make them out of metal, which is sturdy and will last? Sitting between my mother’s knees while she braided my hair inspired Untitled Lap Song [above], which fits in my lap.

book titled "Your Name Is a Song"

Recently, I discovered…

this book through [Portland’s] Indigo Arts Alliance, where I work. A mother sings to her daughter about the beautiful names within the African diaspora. I feel like it’s speaking to a nine-year-old me. $16.99.

Courtesy of Herself Clothing

On my wishlist is…

a Tachee X Herself bandana. I like [Portland designer] Rachel Gloria Adams’s Tachee children’s stuff, and I was like, Maybe I’ll buy an extra large? Then these dropped, and I have to get one. $28.

“My grandmother blessed these beads when I was a baby and I’ve worn them ever since. I feel very cared for, knowing that someone went to the trouble of collecting and blessing them for me.”

French butter

When I go home I…

snap up this French butter at the food coop in Brooklyn, where I’m from. I’m not someone who likes a lot of butter, but this is rich, salty, and amazingly fresh. If I have it, I don’t save it. I’m going to eat it until it’s gone, then go back to my sad, gold-covered-butter-less existence.

jars of loose-leaf teas

In my kitchen are…

jars of loose-leaf teas. I usually start with hibiscus, lavender, or chamomile as a base, and I’ll add in some cinnamon or rose hip. In my family we drink hot tea 365 days a year, but as the weather gets colder it definitely hits differently. The warmth spreads through your body to your bones.

On special occasions, I…

treat myself to this wine. I’m not normally a red-wine person, but this has a robust, sultry flavor, if you can describe a drink as sultry. I just turned 24, so this bottle doesn’t exist anymore. $50.