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art and craft


What is your background?

My name is Sally Atieno. I was born in Nairobi to a family of 5 children and raised in Mombasa. I am a crotchet artist, an actress, a model, and an entrepreneur. I majored in Automotive engineering in college and graduated in 2019. Currently, I am pursuing a course in software engineering while running a florist business: Sallyzgarden.

When did you begin making art?

I began making art at the age of 7 years from watching what my mom was doing. My mom spotted my interest in crocheting and taught me other techniques like the loom and latch hook but it wasn’t until the year 2018 that I took up art, at first as a form of therapy, which later on progressed into a business.

Who are your biggest influences?

It has to be Mauro Frazao. He has a way of turning a mere ball of yarn into fine art, which I find fascinating. He is the epitome of creativity.

Which current art world trends are you following?

None. Simply because I am currently combing all the techniques that deal with yarns. Mixed media I guess.

Where do you find inspiration?

Nature. It certainly has to be natural and most of the time in architecture, especially indoors and mosque designs. The intricate and carefully put-together designs in places of worship like mosques fascinate me a lot, for instance, the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. 

When is your favourite time of day to create?

I create best at night when it’s quiet and the world is sleeping. I think it has something to do with my middle name: Atieno which means night.

artists working at a park

How has your style changed over time?

 Over time, My style has changed from making crotchet tops/ clothes to making framed art pieces that combine different techniques. 

What are your favourite and the least favourite parts of professional art?

The least has to be the pressure, pressure on deadlines, and the pressure to keep up with the current trends. It is exhausting, but the best part is finding a community that understands and appreciates your art. You can find a market to advertise and sell your work.

Describe your ideal working environment.

My ideal working environment is anywhere close to the beach, the forest, or an enclosed place with few to no people around, preferably at night.

I am a crotchet artist

Describe how we can encourage your career growth.

Organizing artists meet up or exhibitions or pointing to a direction where artists gather and share their work. Networking boosts confidence and encourages one to put their work out there for the world to see.

Describe your dream project.

My dream project is the “wandering but hanging chains”. It is a crotchet sculpture made purely of copper wires inspired by the great Ruth Asawa. I would love my pieces to hang in museums one day. 

Describe the best piece of art that you have created.

The piece that I am currently working on. It depicts the coastal beaches in their glorious self with little more crotchet pieces to symbolize the sea bed. I have always loved the water as it carries life, it carries beauty, and it also carries a dark side but the beauty always stands out and I want to show all these in a single piece of art. 

What is your most embarrassing moment?

Embarrassing moment? (laughs) walking down Nairobi’s CBD in a torn dress, later on, I had to give a speech on national TV in the same dress. I had to act like I was unaware of it. 

artists in mombasa
My name is Sally Atieno

What is the best piece of advice you have received so far? What advice do you have for others starting out

The best piece of advice you have received so far is: ” Be your authentic self and show up like you”

My advice for others starting has to be in a book ( Steal Like an Artist ). It has everything an artist needs to know.

What item wouldn’t you do without?

I definitely cannot do without my journal. I am always writing, and the more I write, the more the ideas keep popping in my head. 

How do you balance your time in the studio with other commitments such as a part-time job, family, admin?

Since I work best at night, I use the day to run my flower business and always rest on Sunday, and spend time with my family. 

What is your normal workday like?


Crazy! No sleep, especially on paid commission when the time is limited. I work throughout the day and night with a minimum of 2-3 hours of sleep with lots of coffee to keep me going. But they are usually the best moments in life.

How do you know when a piece is finished?

I’d say my instincts play a major role in this, they always guide me. When I step back, and I like a piece, then it’s done! But if it is a paid commission, whenever the client is satisfied and happy, then the work is done. 

Where can I get prints of your paintings or find you?

I hardly share my works online I am working towards fighting the imposter syndrome that has been with me for years now. This year I purpose to share my work more on-online. From this year on, my work will be on Instagram and Twitter. 

Instagram: @b.khalees 

Twitter : @saliqbella.

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What’s your background?

Ethnically, I am Indian. Born and bred in Kenya, I moved to the USA to study. Later, I completed my undergrad degree in Toronto, Canada. I majored in Design/Illustration.

When did you begin making art?

My earliest memory of creating art is in nursery school. I got very serious about art after finishing my A levels in Mombasa. I didn’t know what I wanted to do for a career, so I took a few odd jobs and nothing satisfied me at the soul level. I would paint in the evenings and I used to fantasize about making it my ‘job’.

What does your work aim to say?

My work celebrates the mundane. I paint flowers, people and occasionally animals. I paint to create a 3D space on a 2D surface. Therein lies my challenge. I really love the idea of creating ‘space’ in a painting using just colour.

Who are your biggest influences?

A painting of a dog

My teachers, college professors, and colleagues have influenced me to paint. My parents have also always encouraged me to stay creative. They love my paintings. I used to paint with a friend in Toronto. His voice is often still in my head. He was an old man and he taught me a great deal about painting.
In Art History, I often refer to the work of Richard Diebenkorn and Paul Cezanne whenever I am stuck, so you can say they influence some of my work.

“Trends are for the anxious. I don’t follow trends…I make them!” Lord Maclean
I teach art at a high school. My students love to challenge me with their favourite trends. I find myself drawing superheroes!! That is something I never thought I would do. Anime is a huge deal with students, but I try to encourage them to draw in their own style rather than copying Anime. Having said that, I may have developed a new obsession with rather small works of art done with a biro pen.

Where do you find inspiration?

My favourite quote is “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” — Pablo Picasso. It may sound narcissistic, but I find encouragement and inspiration in my previous paintings-ones that I feel are successful. I study them to see how I made it work before, and I have to encourage myself to believe that if I did it before, I can do it again. Life around us is also inspiring. Nature is the greatest artist of all and I celebrate the same by painting natural forms.

When is your favourite time of day to create?

I am a morning person. I am most fresh, clearheaded, and motivated in the morning. But then again…anytime is creative time.

How has your style changed over time?

I used to think only super realistic work is art. I used to paint extremely blended and realistic paintings that took months to complete. Now I paint in a much looser style. I still struggle with letting go of control, but it’s getting there.

What are your favourite and least favourite parts of professional art?

My favourite parts are creating and teaching art. I love discussing art with other artists and designers. Least favourite has to be selling art and negotiating deals.

Describe your ideal working environment.

I like working alone in my studio. I have painted with others though. Having an artist residency where like-minded people can paint together would be really awesome.

Describe your dream project.

I would really love to be commissioned to create art for cafes and hospitals.


Describe the best piece of art you’ve created.

I think the best is yet to come!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given? What advice do you have for others starting out

The best advice I have been given…that would be to celebrate my own style and strokes. It is when you try to paint like someone else, using their style…that is when you begin to get into frustrations.
For others starting out: draw a lot of still life. Keep objects in front of you and draw. Learning colour theory early on is also essential.

What’s your most embarrassing moment in art?

I think flipping through art history textbooks with my students….sometimes we see nudes and I feel more embarrassed than they do. Even though I am not at all prudish, I am teaching kids, so I try to limit their exposure if I can help it.

What wouldn’t you do without?

The internet. Am I right? Everyone, everywhere depends on it for everything.


How do you balance your time in the studio with other commitments such as a part-time job, family ?

I work full time. these days I have adapted to painting small paintings and in watercolour, so they don’t take much time and I can still create daily.

Covid and the lockdown helped me focus a lot, so I spent a lot of quality time with family and did a lot of painting during that time.
I spend time with my family after work and on weekends.

How do you know when a work is finished?

It’s never that it is finished…At some point, I have to just stop because I feel like if I go back into it again, I will ruin what is there already. Other times, I have a deadline so I am forced to stop and call it ‘done’.

lilac-breasted roller

What’s your work-day like?

I am an early riser, so I am up by 5 am. I pray, meditate, shower, etc., then, I am at work by 7 am. I teach art so I prepare for my classes for the day. It involves a lot of research and it does not feel like work at all. I really enjoy teaching. I am

done teaching by about 3. Usually, I am home by 3.30 and then I paint or draw a little. I have to stay healthy, so I go to the gym for an hour or so. After dinner, I am with my family. We play card games or just talk for a while. Bedtime is around 10.

Where can I get prints of your paintings or find you?

I have not started making prints yet, but you can buy my work either directly from me (0737-800-594, or @millymamma on Instagram.) or from Diani Art Gallery.

Email: millymamma@yahoo.com

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