Shai Ford is an artist, jewelry designer, and handmade artist/artisan business coach. When she’s not playing with metal or helping other artists turn their art into a sustainable business, she’s chasing her two kids or working as a peace activist.
Carrie: Welcome to Artist Strong Shai, how did you discover your interest in the arts?
My step-dad was a wonderful artist but never did anything with it. He had an art scholarship but went to work straight out of high school. However, at least once a week, he sat down at the kitchen table and just started drawing.
That quickly became our weekly bonding time: staying up late and learning about shading, contour, etc. When my (biological) dad realized I loved art, he started keeping me in stock with art supplies and buying me new things to try. Between the two of them, I was sort of destined to stay creative.
I actually went to college for Fine Arts but after awhile, I realized that I can create without a degree. So I continued creating and finished my degree in Social and Political Philosophy with a minor in Peace Studies. My studies in philosophy and peace only enhanced and influenced my work.
Carrie: Can you describe your artistic process to readers? For example, do you follow the same pattern and track when you develop an artwork from idea to product?
When it comes to working with metal and making jewelry, it’s pretty much the same process. I get an idea for a piece, so I sit down with a bunch of scrap pieces of metal and hammer or oxidize away until I’m holding what I saw in my head.
For drawing and painting, it’s a little more tortured. I can never get on paper what I have in my head. The piece normally turns out great, but rarely how I envisioned it. That may be why I work with metal for a living!
Carrie: How do you know when an artwork is finished?
It just feels finished. I’m not even sure how to describe it. There’s just this point where you look at what you’re creating and either realize it’s done, or realize that you wouldn’t be ‘adding’ anything to the piece by doing more to it. For me, it’s often the latter one – I realize adding to it won’t make it better, so I stop.
Carrie: What do you wish you knew that you now know about your creative process?
I wish I knew, years ago, how to get started and stay productive. I always tried to force myself to start and force myself through the piece, but I learned that I work much better if I start with a brainstorm, and take a 5-10 minute break every 20-30 minutes.
Carrie: How has social media and the internet helped you as an artist?
Social media is THE reason that I am successful at what I do. I mean, yes, I have a shop and a website, but the majority of my following and clients come from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Social Media has become such a visual world that it’s almost impossible to not be seen in some fashion and, when people see and love, they share.
Carrie: What does your workspace look like?
I live in an apartment, so my workspace is a small corner confined to my living room space. I have my drafting table from high school set up next to a window, with a bookshelf next to it for supplies, and a pegboard mounted to the wall for tools. I painted everything teal, red, and mustard yellow to spice it up a bit. It’s small but it works for me: everything is within reach.
Carrie: How do your interests outside of art fuel your artwork?
Music and sci-fi, for sure! I love music and lyrics, and I’m obsessed with all things space and space ships, so those themes run throughout both my artwork and my metalwork. My favorite and best-selling jewelry pieces are covered in stars and moons. I keep up with what’s going on in our galaxy and that often inspires me to create.
Carrie: What is one creative resource you can’t live without?
I couldn’t live without nature. I mean, that’s obvious considering humans exist because of nature but, creatively, I have to have nature around me. Despite living in an apartment in a city, I have a creek and woods right off of my balcony. I love opening the door next to my workspace and listening to the birds, crickets, and frogs in the creek as I work. When I have a creative block, I love to go walk some trails and just ‘reset’ and clear my head.
Carrie: Who/what inspires you?
It used to be that nature was my biggest inspiration but I would have to say that my clients and customers are now. I keep a list of ideas in Evernote on my phone, and I almost never get to my own creative list because they spawn so many ideas during conversations. I don’t even mind so much, as long as I’m creating.
Carrie: How do you define Creativity?
Creativity is, to me, simply using your hands and/or mind to create something. I am not a part of the camp that thinks people are either ‘creative’ or ‘logical.’ I am a ridiculously logical person. People just have to be taught how to be creative or have that side of them nurtured. If you’re creating something: you’re being creative.
BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: Do you build breaks into your creative process? Let’s talk about it in the comments below.
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