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.
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.
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.
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.
Twitter : @saliqbella.