a positive fit

“I’m adventurous, affectionate and a little bit of a misfit,” Arrianne Williams, creator of Visionarri Creations, told me one morning in July, while sipping her second cup of coffee for the day. It was promising to rain, a calming cloud of incense was burning on her veranda, and we were sitting at her small, round dining table inside her airy apartment in Kingston, Jamaica. I began to object. I have met Arrianne on several occasions and misfit is not a word I would use to describe this well put-together petite person.

She clarified her meaning: “My views of life and existence are a little broader than people seem comfortable with, but I am okay with it. You see, I believe in magic and that there is something beautiful to be seen and experienced in all things, every day. Magic and magical are two words I use a lot, by the way.” Williams believes that she is able to will the occurrence of good things, because life is magical like that. Her photographs are beautifully un-staged and the hand-made bags upon which the photos are printed are splendidly functional. “I only take photographs of things in their natural state—light, environment and so on. Life as it happens,” she said.

Arrianne Williams became interested in photography from an early age, owing to her father’s love of this hobby, and she and her two younger siblings were brought up by parents who exposed them to the beautiful kaleidoscope of colour that is Jamaica. “from when I was little, before we got on a plane to go on holiday, my parents would take us on a trip to somewhere in Jamaica. I remember feeling a sense of enchantment and excitement. I was struck by the vibrancy of Jamaica,” she said. “We would then travel abroad and I would see just how special Jamaica was (and is).”

Fast forward to about a decade ago, when Williams was volunteering with Marvin Hall, of Halls of Learning, in downtown Kingston. “Walking through the community inspired me to pick up my camera. I had to show people what I was seeing, so that maybe they would believe that this kind of living happens here,” she reminisced, pausing for a brief moment.

“There was a world robotic competition coming up and we had no way of funding the six children who would be competing. Imagine, only one of them even had a passport. Anyway, we put together a slideshow of my photographs and pitched a presentation to Scotiabank. They donated J$750,000 and these kids were able to travel and participate in the competition. This made me realize what a powerful tool images could be.”

That said, it has taken some time for this University of the West Indies english and history graduate, who teaches children swimming for a living, to find the right fit for her photographs. In the latter part of 2015, her dream of showing off Jamaica to the world started to become a reality. She had not been very well that summer. “I knew there had to be a silver lining somewhere…there always is, and I had images that were pretty cool,” she proudly noted. “People talked about a coffeetable book, but I wanted something more tangible and usable.” She continued, “One day, I was going through my images in my catalogue and I thought, What if there was a way to put them on bags?”

So her research began. “I needed the images to have proper clarity and definition. I asked myself, How do I print on something to sew on?’ I went to my friend Kerry Clarke and told her my idea. She told me that Alpha Boys’ Home had a manufacturing department. Before going to them, I needed to have a canvas. I realised that I could not print on fabric that was bag canvas. It had to be photographic canvas—one that was durable, malleable and weatherproof.”

Williams found a special vinyl, upon which a photograph was printed by copy cat. To this day, she still uses copy cat to print on the vinyl, on her greeting cards and packing stickers. By the beginning of September that year, Alpha Boys’ Home had completed her sample and she was pleased. “Kerry encouraged me to come to Moda Market in november, so, after finding a factory in a huge manufacturing warehouse in the heart of the ghetto in Kingston, which literally ran on no running water and no electricity—though, in true Jamaican style, they threw up light and collected water in a bucket—my first production was ready.”

Visionarri creations sold almost everything at Moda Market. It was not long before Williams was into her second production. Christmas was coming and on the back of happenstance, Bahamians had seen her work and were anxious to acquire her creations. She was blown away by this initial success, mostly because she could see the potential positive effect it was going to have on Jamaica.

Williams had to find someone who could accommodate the perfectionist within herself and the volume she needed to produce. “I want my work to always fall into the category of a standard of excellence, but I also wanted to continue to support Alpha Boys’ Home in what they are very good at doing,” she explained. “They still screen print my logo onto the lining of my bags and on all of my gift bags, as well as the labels on the cushions.”

Williams has been having quite an adventure finding the right fit with people, but through her ability to always believe there is blue sky, things are developing well. She exudes an excitement that is infectious and she holds a heart of kindness. “Every (successful) step of this journey has been due to the kindness of other people, the support of other entrepreneurs and the encouragement of everyone.”

All her materials are purchased in Jamaica: fabric from LP Azar, and zips and tassels from Marc’s; and all aspects of her production are manufactured in Jamaica, including her notebooks that are made by Toppin designz. “I want my business to have an impact on other people, not just to be thriving for me. Team work makes a dream work,” she said.

Williams is focusing on perfecting and streamlining her products, getting her website running so she can accommodate foreign orders, and keeping up with the demand for her bags. Within three productions, she has gone from making 30 to 180 bags. “My goal is to have my own facility that can manufacture for other designers, but nothing before its time,” she warned.

But she is nurturing big dreams for the future of Visionarri creations. She believes in magic, remember? “Life is limitless,” she said. “So, I shall be looking towards doing backpacks of different sizes and flip-flops, supplying places like H & M, and seeing my products sell in London, because I think London is a really cool city and I like the fashion there.”

The images she captures—from sea life to urban living and colourful wall murals—resonate with the public. And her bags are profoundly practical—each design has a place in the lives of her clients. “When change Makes cents” is a change purse that will hold your keys and your lipstick. “Hands-free fun” is an over-shoulder holder of all essentials that you might need for a night out. “Inside Out” is a clutch that serves as a single unit or can be filled with make-up and such and thrown into a larger handbag. “Artful Movements” is an iPad case and “Totally Spacious” an oversized tote that will carry the kit and caboodle, along with sneakers and a couple changes of clothes.

Arrianne Williams’s joyfulness is embedded in every image and every seam of her bags. The real magic may lie in that spirit of kindness and thankfulness. She said, “My grandma, who is 90 years old, always says to me, My darling, the best thing you can do for yourself is to have an attitude of gratitude.’