After learning about Isabella's work from the Thunderbird Salvage Market last year, we thought she would be great addition to our Visiting Artist series. Her vibrant figures exudes a summertime fun and we're so excited to have Akhtarshenas studios here for the month of July! Shop a collection of prints and ceramics in-shop and online now.
Q: Can you tell us about your background? How did your studio come to fruition?
I have been creating and selling my work for as long as I can remember! In first grade, I established several businesses on the playground to sell my crafts. Unfortunately, they all got shut down by the salty lunchtime monitors, but that never discouraged me! Over the years, I’ve really just operated on a trial and error basis, with plenty of errors along the way. One thing that has remained consistent: When I really invest and believe in myself, everything else naturally falls into place. It can be really hard to put yourself out there as a creative, but the love and support I’ve received from friends, family and especially strangers keeps me going. I’ve learned that I will always be growing and evolving as an artist and a businesswoman. Sometimes these two titles conflict with each other, but that’s another thing I’m learning to navigate.
Q: You work with different mediums - what is your favorite and why?
Working with all different mediums allows me to challenge myself creatively and avoid complacency. I can’t say that I have an overall favorite, because they are all so special in their own way. Right now, I’m gravitating towards ceramics because the process is teaching me patience. My patience is tested while waiting for the clay to dry out a bit before I continue to build up, and also when I’m faced with an unexpected outcome after two rounds of kiln firings. Hand-building with clay is quite a meditative experience, the tactile nature of this medium allows for play and experimentation while my mind may wonder. I also love that it’s accessible to me at all hours — I am a work-exchange member at Black Hound Clay Studio, which is minutes from both my home and personal studio. Honorable mentions go to screen printing and paper making, two more tactile processes that hold a special place in my heart.
Q: Your hand style is so beautiful - what inspires your figures in your drawings?
When I was initially trying to nail down my current style of figures in 2018, I had my partner, Kashta, modeling random poses for me while I drew them. It was like my own personal and self-directed figure drawing class. I also began to seek inspiration from other artists in Philadelphia, including Nate Harris and Love Is Wise. Then, I was able to refine my style by turning to one of my truest loves, plants, and identifying the fluidity of shapes in nature. Applying the whimsical shapes found in our natural environments to the limbs of people really nailed the tone that I was striving to achieve. My purpose as an artist is to inspire joy, so of course my figures are always playful and lively.
Q: What's exciting about being a small business owner in Philadelphia?
I love this city! The best thing is that there’s a strong sense of camaraderie among Philly’s artist community, and I think that is really unique. We all try to uplift one another by sharing opportunities, giving honest encouragement, and through collaboration. This city may be small, but it’s so mighty!! I’ve participated in a bunch of local markets which have enabled me to meet some really awesome shoppers, vendors and organizers. Not a day goes by where I don’t see a familiar face!
Q: What is next for you? Any dates, news, events?
I am always overwhelmed with gratitude when I have things to look forward to! I just completed my first mural for Gompers Elementary School in Wynnefield, which will be installed any day now. Designing and painting a mural has been a goal of mine since I moved to Philly in 2015, so it feels surreal to see that finally come to fruition. I’m also working on a really fun rebrand for Ginja Snap, and currently have a piece in HOT•BED’s group show: SUMMERHOUSE. On a personal note, I’m wildly excited to take a cross country road trip with Kashta and our dog, Basil, in August!
Awesome! What an exciting summer for you!
I’m patiently waiting to see how this summer’s trip will manifest in your art!!