Monday, May 2, 2011

Artist Interview: Samia Shalabi

I first met Samia Shalabi in Mysore, India, when we both sang back-up kirtan for David Garrigues at a special performance at the Ashtanga Yoga Institute. I soon found out that in addition to singing and practicing yoga, Samia was an accomplished jewelery designer and goldsmith. In Mysore, when she wasn't busy rehearsing or practicing guitar, she was apprenticing with a master goldsmith. I caught up with Samia a bit after she returned home to Seattle.
Q: How and when did you start making jewelry?
SS:  In 1999 as part of a one year around the world journey, I flew to India The moment I stepped off the plane, I knew my life would be different. I spent 6 remarkable months traveling around the subcontinent, constantly being bombarded by the challenging experiences of traveling as a woman alone in a very different land. But at the same time realizing how extremely fortunate I was (and still am) to be there. India is full of dichotomies, and as I observed the extreme beauty and complete sadness I became enthralled with all of it. It made my mind go where it had never gone and I realized I could never go back to conforming to the way we do things in the West. I needed to figure out a way to get back to India and continue experiencing and creating relationships, learning from the deep cultures of the many people of India and the world. So, one day, I was in a small desert town on the border of Pakistan and India. A town called, Jaisalmer, I walked into a small shop selling silver jewelry. I went in the shop to buy a ring to remind myself to continue on trying to live my dreams and making it a mission in my life... I came out with the silver ring, along with many many other pieces of jewelry with the idea that I would sell it when I got back to the states and buy another plane ticket to India. Over the next several months my plans became more refined and after traveling to Nepal and Thailand, I arrived home. In a few short weeks, I sold most of the jewelry I had bought and shortly thereafter, in 2001, I started to make jewelry.
Now, over 12 years after my first visit to India, I am making jewelry full time, studying with two master goldsmiths in S. India and still living my dreams and traveling around the world...

Q: What other artists do you count as inspiration/listen to? Who are your important mentors or teachers?
SS: Inspiration… I am inspired by not one or two artists, I am inspired by artists in general, people who take risks to make the world a more beautiful place. People who speak out, who live their dreams, and create, inspire me infinitely. Specifically, my two goldsmith teachers, Krishna Balan and Jay Kumar in India give me so much inspiration. Their complete dedication and deep discipline is amazing to me. They have taught me so much, not only about how to make jewelry, but also about life.

Q: You live in Seattle but travel often; can you say how your home base and your travels, respectively, influence your work?
SS: Home is grounding, it is where I ‘make’ jewelry, it is where the business side of me is. Seattle is where I get it done and get it out there. Traveling is where I am inspired, it’s where I meet the beautiful, wonderful people of the world. My creative side flourishes when I am in new situations and in new places meeting new people. For me, this balance works.

Q: Along with yoga and jewelry design, you make music. How do your practices interact, intersect and or inform one another?

SS: It is all interwoven, and it all brings me to India, my favorite place on earth. I met my jewelry teachers while studying yoga in India and my music is mostly influenced by Indian Raga’s and Bhagan’s. I am so enthralled in all things India, but also like the modern take on it. So, that is what I do and that is how it has mixed in my life. The ancient knowledge and history of India with my own modern twists, and it flowing into my music, yoga and jewelry.

Q: What are you working on now [jewelry and/or music]?

SS: I am busy busy spending my days working on jewelry and evenings and weekends working on music. Hopefully sometime this year we (my husband and I, we make music together) will come out with an LP. We are hoping, for a mix of ancient bhajan’s and our own modern sound of folk with a bit of electronica. Keeping our fingers crossed it will happen!

For more information on Samia's work and her own blog, go to and

No comments: