This post is part of our portrait/interview series with Emily "Birdie" Busch. Birdie's challenge is to tease out candid responses from fellow artistic, industrious women. Painters, mothers, musicians, brewers, bakers, and more. What muses!
As I type this Angela Miles is out doing a small clean-up in Vernon Park, a community emerald gem situated directly in the middle of her Philadelphia neighborhood. She received the torch to become president of its volunteer stewardship group from an older resident in the past few years and oversees Friends of Vernon Park, a cohort of impassioned neighbors who tend to the park, organize activities like kids crafts and flea markets, and overall continue the efforts to make the park a destination for people of all ages to enjoy.
To know Angela is to bear witness to a person led by extreme generosity of spirit, juggled loves, and creative ingenuity. Graphic design being one of her channels of vision, many of us have long collaborated with her on visual artwork for everything from albums to show posters, to small businesses and social justice work. She works at Community College of Philadelphia and it is always refreshing to hear her wax on how much she believes in its mission of affordable education access for all. Graphic design has been such a social artform for her.
Stained glass for Angela has been a quieter but continuous journey. In fact, most of the pieces I am featuring here are part of Magnolia Cove, the nickname given to her home and yard for the specific reason in that in the middle of it stands a grander than grand Magnolia tree that they nicknamed “Dolly Parton” for its other-worldy pink blooming that occurs once a year. Behind said tree sits a studio she and her husband Carl Cheeseman built from the ground up for her to work in glass and he in wood. She created all the stained glass windows for the studio, inspired by everything from the site plan of the yard to the Wissahickon tributary. She is currently working on transoms to replace the old ones in their civil war era home’s front windows. There is a great deal of pride and peace that exudes from her as she works within this context. I feel like I’m getting a tour of someone’s journey into becoming even more themselves, a “window” into a world full of intention and awe at the beauty around us and our choices in how we celebrate it.
Recommended Angela Miles Rabbit-Holes:
Angela has a website that is the virtual home to all her work and a great place to see some of her graphic design alluded to above. https://www.carpediemconstruction.com/
If you are curious to more of what the Friends of Vernon Park do and are up to we recommend you visit their website. https://friendsofvernonpark.org/
What is a career/creative moment you are proud of?
When I was younger, I was lucky enough to have had the opportunity to apprentice with a really talented artist. It was a happenstance kind of thing—she frequented the café I was working in while in college, and my being a graphic design student was helpful in creating digital renderings for her work. Over the next year or so working in her studio once a week, she taught me the craft of designing, building and installing stained glass windows.
Years later, my good friend was commissioned to paint a mural in a restaurant and the owners were looking for a stained glass piece for an interior window. She recommended me and although I didn’t have a studio set up and hadn’t cut glass in years, I took the job, harnessed all that I had learned and built that window. Since then, I have transitioned my stained glass work to completely lead-free, taking a few commissions here and there but mostly making things as gifts for friends and family, and my own house.
Working with stained glass has always felt like home and uncharted waters at once...a cool intersection of light and movement, abstract shape & color experimentation and salt of the earth cutting, breaking, bending and melting metals. From that early experience with it, I recognized it as something I’ll be doing for the rest of my life, which is a cool feeling when you find that—a vocation.
What are you listening to now? What are you looking at? What recipe you feeling?
I really feel so much gratitude to Fiona Apple for releasing ‘Fetch the Bolt Cutters’ in April 2020 (many months ahead of her planned release). It’s an album that is so full and clear and intentional and sonically splendid. I’ve listened to her music for over half my life, and ‘The Idler Wheel…” has been a big part of my autumn/winter listening for many years (including this one). It’s rad to bear witness to the evolution of this person’s exceptional body of work and, from the limited view that I have, their way of making that work and engaging with the world about it.
I’m inconsistently reading a lot of 2019/2020 New Yorker magazines that have stacked up, unread, for months. It’s a quantum leap kind of thing, hopping around time. LoveisWise is an illustrator whose work I had seen around and then, here their work was on the cover of a New Yorker in my stack... Their use of color and form and tone is so beautiful and moving.
As far as recipes, I just made brookies (which is a name i’m still not 100% on). They’re a brownie + chocolate cookie hybrid and I am 100% on that notion and result. Also, tacos.
How do you define your own personal style or approach to clothes?
My style is pretty utilitarian, and I consider aesthetics an intrinsic and essential ‘utility’ in the human experience. So roughly that translates to comfortable, breathable, well made clothing that is interesting, at least to me, shoes that both look cool and support whatever it is that I’m doing and a pair of dangle earrings. Not sure how to describe it...skater + farmer + bohemian + 1987?
I like to put a look together and like that most of my stuff has some kind of story. It’s composition like any other design. I’m also someone who really gets into a seasonal groove with some kind of variation on the same getup. Minimalist uniform is always my aspiration but never my destination but it all works and keeps my interest.
What would be your advice to a teenage girl clothing and style wise that you wish you had received?
My advice to a girl or any young person is to consider where your clothing comes from, how it is made (and how it feels on your skin/washes/fades) and by whom, etc. and try to make decisions about where you put your money that align with your ethics and worldview.
There are a lot of layers of machinery and people making a lot of money alienating us from this process...how clothing is made. As a society our thinking about cost, value and worth is confused and misguided as a result. I spent a lot of money in high school on garbage clothes from the mall, and wish I had been more thoughtful. You hold a lot of power as a consumer, and when people organize to demand better quality (in both products and working conditions for laborers and environmental standards), smart companies listen or they lose out. Plus, there are a ton of independent designers doing cool stuff on their own who are more likely to operate in a more sustainable mindset.
Check out thrift stores, etsy, poshmark ect...clothing swap with your friends. Remix stuff to put your own spin on it. Allow yourself the coveted pieces once in a while but don’t feel like you have to jump on everything that is so specifically marketed to you. Hand wash silks and older/delicate fabrics.
Cultivate a style that works for you and let its spectrum be as vast as you desire. Notice what you respond to in the world, and weave it into your looks. It’s ongoing, this way of learning yourself and your style.