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WIP Artist Highlight: Nathasha Brooks-Harris

I met Nathasha Brooks-Harris in her studio at TAC to learn more about her identity as an artist and to hear about what she is currently working on. 

Nathasha shared with me that she began making art in the 90s when she took a class with a famous doll maker. It was her first serious foray into art, as previously she had just done what was taught in school. She described her childhood art experience as “everyone making the same drawings with the same sun in the same corner of the sky.” But this class was different, even though she did not realize at the time that it was anything more than an enjoyable pastime. She took more courses in dollmaking and quilting, and even joined some quilt guilds. Eventually, life got in the way, as it often does, and Nathasha took an 11-year hiatus from artmaking and completed two master's degrees, a PhD, and several other certifications. She expressed her creativity by singing with her church’s choir. In 2020, she returned to artmaking when she studied with Helen Layfield, a dollmaking teacher with whom Nathasha has been studying ever since. 

Photo Credit: Alejandra Mejía

Nathasha shared with me a story in which her father, on an outing, came across a textile factory that was throwing away scraps of beautiful fabric. These “scraps” were perfect squares of colorful designs and patterns. He immediately thought of Nathasha’s grandmother and brought the fabric to her. She made a quilt with them which is still in the family. Stories like this, and experiences of seeing her mother and grandmother sewing, influence Nathasha’s art practice. She enjoys the beauty of color and technique, and the function of storytelling in textile art. She finds herself inspired by many different sources, including jazz, the blues, other textile artists, and YouTube tutorials. Nathasha is also drawn to storytelling, which is practiced in her own family as well as throughout the African diaspora.

During this WIP residency, Nathasha is working to complete as many pieces as she can. She has most recently been inspired by African movies and Cameroonian doll gifting traditions. 

I always like to ask interviewees why they think textile art is important right now, whether it is personal or societal importance. Nathasha shared that she feels the value is rooted in storytelling. Some people are not good with words and can show a story better than they can tell it. This reminded both of us of Chilean Arpilerras, which are documentations of oppression and protest through fabric artmaking. Nathasha noted the possibilities of protest through textile art, and how valuable this mode of communication can be if you can’t get your story out any other way. Another value she noted was the skill involved. Sewing, for example, is something that one could do to make money; “it can make the difference between starving and eating.” Last but not least, Nathasha sees the value in beauty. Adding beautiful textiles to one’s home can change the entire feeling of the space, turning any room into a sanctuary of peace. 

We discussed Nathasha’s plans for her upcoming workshop at TAC. She is going to teach participants how to make African Namji dolls, which are traditionally given to Cameroonian girls as they grow up or when they become engaged. She was inspired to develop a workshop for making Namji dolls because they are associated with fertility, in the sense of abundant creativity and the flow of artistic ideas. Nathasha also recognizes their aesthetic beauty and hopes others will display their creations in their homes. The workshop will be Sunday, April 28th, from 3 to 7pm. 

Photo Credit: Alejandra Mejía


Nathasha Brooks-Harris enjoys telling stories in fabric and words. Her training in the Elder Craftsmen program and studying with an array of dollmaking and quilting teachers, including Helen Layfield, Elinor Peace Bailey, Susanna Oroyan, Sherry Goshon, Lesley O’Leary and others, prepared her for this artistic journey.

Brooks-Harris is the author of several romance novels and hundreds of short stories, as well as was formerly a magazine editor and entertainment journalist. She is currently an Adjunct Professor of Writing, Art Appreciation, and Human Services classes.

Brooks-Harris holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University, a Master of Science in Urban Studies from Queens College, and a PhD in Public Administration from Walden University.

In her spare time, she attends art programs for older adults, as well as teaches various fiber arts classes to senior citizens.

Brooks-Harris lives and works in Brooklyn, New York and is an avid traveler.


Artist Highlights Work In Progress