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Rising Stars: Meet Jamal McCray

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jamal McCray.

Hi Jamal, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
Most people familiar with me are familiar with the clothing designs I create so I’ll go into detail about that. I really had no desire to sew, if you would have told me about seven or eight years ago that I would be designing clothes I would have looked at you like you told a corny joke. My mother came into my room about seven years ago with a pillow in her hand and said “I need you to sew this pillow back together for me, I will show you how,” I just went along with it and watched as she threaded the needle and made a knot by twisting two of her fingers together. She further went on to sew the part of the pillow that was falling apart back together, and I followed suit. One day I noticed my favorite sweater had a hole in it, this was before wearing clothes with holes in it was cool, but I used what I had learned from my mother and cut out some fabric from one of my old button ups. I took the square piece of fabric and sewed it by hand over the hole, and it looked quite nice. People kept complimenting me on it. I then found some green fabric and brown fabric and tried to make a tree with it, it looked terrible, but from there I kept on trying to make newer and newer concepts and now I’m here.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
My first ever vending event I sold so many clothes, it was fools gold, but for good reason. I soon got invited to set up at the Artswalk at Brookland station around 2017. I would go out there and set up, excited to showcase my work and…nothing. There would be days where I would not sell a single thing. A very demoralizing experience, but one I needed because It fueled me to create better and better designs able to capture the attention of everyone who walked by. Being complimented didn’t pay the bills, I wanted to capture moods, ideas, and scenes. The writer in me wanted to convey much, the opposite of a ‘picture says a thousand words’, I wanted to take a thousand words and create a picture. Not being heralded early on, made me hone my skills and continuously get better at my craft. There was a confidence birthed in my while still keeping me humbled.

Once winter hit the market, I stopped going, and then the sponsor who invited me out no longer had a least at their location so I wasn’t able to go out there when spring came rolling back around. I was heart broken because I absolutely loved that location. For a couple of years, I stopped making clothes to sell, I would do some personal things every now and then for friends and people who asked but I wasn’t vending anymore. Until I got a message from someone who remembered me from years ago, and invited me to come back to the Artswalk to set up, then the motor started running again.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
With my clothes I take upcycled fabrics or fabrics of any sort and create images out of them, sewing them onto clothes. I use many different types of fabrics and textures, pictures don’t do the work as must justice as it should. in person the clothes are absolutely beautiful because you can see the stitching and feel the textures, everything is carefully thought out.

I am also an author of seven books, the seventh one coming out soon. I have two poetry books, one novel, a trilogy of short stories, and the newest one really feels like a mixture of them all. I write about everything; nature, love, philosophy, theology, but in a unique way from what I’ve been told.
last but not least, I dabble into some mixed media canvas work, I want to eventually turn all of the designs I created on shirts onto canvases where I sew the fabric onto the canvas, I can create some really cool concepts with the larger surface space I don’t have the liberty of on clothing.

It’s really hard to say what sets me apart from anyone else, I just like creating the best way I know how and it takes on a signature look. I think the true essence of art is not in creating art, it’s just in creating. If you have an idea do it, not because you’re trying to make art but because you’re a creator and whatever you create will take on your unique attributes, and thus art is created.

So, before we go, how can our readers or others connect or collaborate with you? How can they support you?
I have met a lot of cool creative people through social media, I have mainly been using Instagram (J.a.mccray) but other than social media I go out and set up pop-up shops. I also have a website people can go to, they can contact me or shop my online store there.


  • The price of clothing varies but prices right now fluctuate between $75-$150
  • Books $10

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Jamal McCray

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