We had the good fortune of connecting with Ren Riley and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ren, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I, Enheduanna began as a project to learn new skills; I’m a graphic artist and writer by trade, and I wanted to hone my magazine layout crafting abilities. What I never imagined at the time was how that project would become so much bigger than myself. Today, it’s a community of artists from varied backgrounds, places, and mediums working together to support each other. Through the zine, I have so much fun getting to know new creatives and finding ways to bring their work into the limelight.
When I started the magazine, I focused on women and non-binary people because I’m passionate about giving a platform to people whose artistic voices are often buried or cast aside, historically by explicit prejudice and today by implicit biases in ourselves and the algorithms that guide what we see online. I named the magazine after the first person in known history to sign their own name to a piece of written art—the Mesopotamian poet, priestess, and princess, Enheduanna. At a time when the pronoun “I” was practically unheard of, Enheduanna boldly used it to claim her hymns, poems, and devotions. Thus, I, Enheduanna was born. Through Covid isolation, the project became my personal lifeline–a connection to the creative friends I missed and a bridge to a new community of artists.
Today, I, Enheduanna is run by a team of artists working together to shine a light on feminine and non-binary creatives. The magazine is by artists, for artists. My favorite part is getting to know all of these independent creatives through a medium which allows our team to share what we love about them and their work with the world.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Sure! I, Enheduanna is a zine—an independent magazine—dedicated to shining a light on feminine and non-binary creators. We go in-depth for feature articles and interviews with independent artists who are creating things we love. We also publish visual art, photography, poetry, short stories, and novel excerpts by indie authors.
What sets I, Enheduanna apart from other contemporary art magazines is our focus first on feminine and non-binary creatives, and secondly, on up-and-coming artists. As a graphic artist and writer myself, I follow a lot of written media companies who are putting out outstanding publications highlighting the work of contemporary visual artists and writers (full disclosure: I also write for Australian contemporary arts magazine Beautiful Bizarre), but very little of the established space is dedicated to up-and-coming talent—especially in visual arts.
With I, Enheduanna, we’re working to create a platform for independent creatives whose work deserves to be seen. Gaining a following when you’re a newer artist or new to social media can be an arduous task—we’re experiencing that challenge ourselves! But our team is passionate about spotlighting creatives who are new to the space or just beginning to monetize their medium to create a career. We’re also passionate about putting out a publication that can rival much larger ones in quality of both the product and the content.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
My favorite place to explore in San Diego is without a doubt Balboa Park! I’m a history nerd so that alone would be enough of a draw for me but then the city went ahead and filled the park with museums. Museum displays touch every corner of my nerd brain—art, science, history. I mean come on. How do you not spend every free moment wandering around this space? The buildings themselves are works of art individually with ties to varied artistic movements and points in time but then the city filled them with art, artifacts, plants, and cultural institutions. It’s like a Doctor Who set—interactive exhibitions through space and time, all in one convenient and outstandingly beautiful location. I love it!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Running an indie zine is a really cool, uniquely communal experience. In the beginning, it became apparent very quickly that my areas of expertise only covered a fraction of the questions which arose and decisions that needed to be made, but fortunately, the community of artists around me were so gracious in offering their time and expertise. My first port of call for help was one of my dearest friends, author Rachel Robins, who also happens to be an outstanding professional editor. We also work with an Advisory Board made up of artists who have been featured in the magazine because we want the magazine’s leadership to be a true reflection of the community we hope to serve. I was immensely grateful when indie author Y.N. Bushehri agreed join and act as a Staff Writer on our most recent issue. We were also lucky to gain the insights of visual artists Symantha Vega and FairlyAudrey. More recently, we’ve also brought on crafter extraordinaire Julieta Gomez-Frittelli and the eminent mixed media artist Xhanthi.
And none of what we create would be possible without the artists featured in the zine. I’m overwhelmingly grateful for their faith in allowing us to get to know them and to feature their work. They are the reason for what we do.
Nominate Someone: ShoutoutSocal is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.