Profile: Xenobia Bailey (1955-)

Xenobia Bailey is an African-American fine artist, designer, Supernaturalist, cultural activist, and fiber artist best known for her eclectic crochet African-inspired hats and her large scale crochet pieces and mandalas. She has said that her specialty is crochet and needlecraft.

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Early life

Born Sherilyn Bailey in Seattle in 1955, in the 80s she changed her name to Xenobia for the warrior queen of ancient Palmyra and made her way to New York. She began her professional life as a costume designer for the now-defunct Black Arts/West and earned a BFA in Industrial Design from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn in 1977. Affirmative action took her to the University of Washington where, she says, “the whole world opened up to me.” She discovered ethnomusicology, the study of music and culture from around the world. She followed it with courses in tailoring and millinery at Seattle Central Community College.

In the late 80s, she worked for the CETA program as an art instructor, which led her to meet master needleworker Bernadette Sonona. It is here that Xenobia advanced her skills and learned how to create needleworks without the use of a pattern or template.

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