Ayshe-Mira Yashin: Hope, Sapphism, Feminism and Spirituality through Poetry and Art.
Ayshe-Mira Yashin is an artist and poet from Istanbul, Turkey and Nicosia, Cyprus. based in Cambridge. We had the privilege to talk to Ayshe-Mira about her work, her life and what inspires her. You can find her art and poems interspersed with her answers below, follow her on Instagram, and buy prints of her work along with tarot cards, zines & stickers from her shop.
Can you tell me a little about yourself and your work?
I’m a 17-year old lesbian Middle-Eastern artist, poetess and witch from Istanbul, Turkey and Nicosia, Cyprus. I’m based in Cambridge, England, and am hoping to do an art foundation course in London later this year. My art is largely tied to my identity as a Middle- Eastern lesbian, but it is also part of my spirituality and occult practice. I also write poetry exploring similar themes of sapphism, feminism, healing and spirituality, and am currently working on editing my first self-published illustrated poetry collection. I have an independently managed witchy art shop (https://www.ayshemira.com/the-illustration-witch-shop), where I sell a range of items, including my tarot deck, handmade bookmarks, illustrated poetry zines, signed art prints, handmade necklaces, and sun and moon stickers.
What inspires you? Do you have any influences?
In terms of influences, I am very instinctually driven and cannot always consciously trace my influences, but my spirituality is a huge source of inspiration, and I often consider the magical correspondences of plants, natural bodies or animals before drawing them or using them as metaphors in my poems. (E.g. jasmine corresponds with spirituality, love, and clarity of mind, so I might incorporate jasmine into a drawing in order to manifest these things.) My political views have also fed into my art at many points in my artistic journey, because I think that the artistic and creative mind can evoke empathy from people who might otherwise be apathetic.
Sapphic Lovers Series, Ayshe-Mira Yashin
How does your work reflect your lived experience?
My art is very emotionally driven, so I often use it as a vessel to explore or express struggles and experiences in my personal life. I use art as a coping mechanism at times, either as a method of escapism or distraction. I especially use my poetry to work through personal struggles in my life, beginning through automatic writing, free-verse “word vomiting” or shadow work, and turning these abstract, messy pieces of work into more resolved written pieces.
How does your written and visual work intersect?
My poetry-writing and art-making tend to take place separately, though both arts come from the same part of me. That being said, I often find parallels between my art and my poetry (not necessarily deliberately created). I find that my poetry often feels incomplete when not accompanied by an illustrative expression of the poem, which is why I always end up illustrating my poems. I have also recently experimented with a narrative structure, telling a story through my drawings, or combining imagery with words or extracts of poetry in an artist book.
What do you wish for viewers to take from your work?
I have found that there is very little representation of artists and poets who come from intersectional identities. I hope that my work can act as a small example of the experience of living as a Middle-Eastern lesbian. Also, I hope that my body-positive depictions of the female form can help women and non-binary people work through internalised misogyny by highlighting physical features that are often demonised in the media, as a statement against the mainstream symbolic violence that is wrought upon women through their representation in ways that would appeal to the male gaze, and ways that reduce them to only responding to that gaze. My representation of women aims to give them the power and self confidence with which to feel at home in their bodies, in the many shapes and sizes in which they exist, without the demonisation of natural and common (more so than not) features such as body fat, body hair, cellulite, stretch marks and scars.
What is your process?
For my illustrations, I often begin with an idea of symbolism or imagery that I want to incorporate into a piece, and then work around this by filling in the composition. I consider the connotations and implications of a range of sigils, archetypes and symbols that I might incorporate into a piece, and follow this with intuitive and personalised illustrative work in my own style. For my poems, I carry around a small handmade notebook with me everywhere I go, and write down phrases and ideas for poems that come to my mind throughout each day. When it feels right to me, I take some time to write out these phrases on my laptop or into another notebook, and combine a range of phrases and ideas with stylisation to transform them into more resolved poems.
The Star, Ayshe-Mira Yashin, A symbol of Hope.
How did you develop your style?
I developed my illustrative style through the inspiration of a wide range of tarot decks (namely the Pamela Coleman Smith deck), and through the study of illustrative artists such as Aubrey Beardsley. I used to do a lot of collage work using colourful paper, photographs and images from secondary sources, but this slowly transformed into the use of herbs and natural materials in collage, as part of my art magic pagan witchcraft practice. My poetry, on the other hand, is very instinctive (as opposed to stylised), and is often a collage of my thoughts and ideas and images that arise in my consciousness. I developed my writing style through years of practice and study of poetry by reading, my favourite poets being Leonard Cohen (guilty pleasure), Sappho, Sylvia Plath, Audre Lorde and Joy Harjo.
What’s next for you?
I’m still in the application process for art schools in London, and will hopefully start building a life for myself soon. I’m hoping to complete my 78-card Tarot deck over the summer, as well as working on my poetry more extensively and self-publishing my own collection of work. I am also trying to expand the range of media that I work with, hoping to explore papier mache, paper-making, ink-making and sewing. In terms of my shop, I am at the beginning stages of working on some new products, including ouija boards/spirit boards, poetry zines, handmade grimoires and sketchbooks, and handmade earrings!
Any advice for artists starting out on their creative journey?
I feel that I’m only just starting out my journey myself, since I’m very young and have only been a published artist for a few months. But some small words of advice (from a very unqualified artist!) might be to continuously seek out inspiration and surround yourself by inspiring people, and also not to monetize your entire creative practice!