Get to know Shamaka Thompson, creator of the jewelry line Ella Latay and our March Artist of the Month! Shamaka manipulates wood to create ribbon-like textures that she combines with bold colors to produce show-stopping jewelry. Learn more about Shamaka, her work, and her inspiration below.
There is not a thought that art does not portray in one form or another. Art is the medium of conversation. An artist starts the dialogue.
What is your artistic background?
I’ve been making jewelry since I was 11 years old. I would have dreams of pieces that I would sketch and wonder how to create it. My amateur drawings would take me on a journey of colors and patterns. After many years of simple beaded work, my focus shifted to wood, when a curator encouraged me to challenge my artistic expression.
What are your favorite materials to work with/types of items to make?
My preference is wood. I love the smell and strength of it. I strive to express the symbolism of trees in my work such as strength, power, growth, and beauty. In addition, I’m learning to appreciate metal. I’ve been watching other artist as well as taking classes and I’m learning how to marry the two materials.
From where do you draw your inspiration?
My inspiration started with my dreams, friends, and family. As I continue to learn and grow, I’m finding that the life cycle of a tree is fascinating. We benefit from a tree’s beauty, how it functions and even how it dies. Trees speak so loud in their silence.
What is your creative process like?
Sometimes i have an idea and other times I like to see what happens organically. I use paper to form a 3D replica of my work. It allows me to see the structure of my piece. I also try on the model or place it on a mannequin to experience how it may lay on the body. After making any adjustments, I begin the process of manipulating the wood to form the design.
What is the most rewarding thing about your practice?
When a person believes they are dressed well, they move differently. Their stance emulates confidence. The way they walk is intentional. Many people do not require the complement of others when they know they look good. It is in this space where i strive for my designs to coexist within the beauty of this expression. I love it! It is a breathtaking sight, when someone enters a room unapologetically themselves and they just so happen to be wearing my work.
And what challenges do you face as an artist?
I am not a formally trained artist. My methods started with what I thought would bring the outcome of what I saw in my head. I’ve lost a great deal of wood and changed finishing materials several times. My process from conception to completion continues to change as I learned more. This process has been an interesting one as it builds my confidence to keep going.
Outside of your practice, do you do any other creative activities/what are your interests?
I sing. I write poetry. I enjoy making collages and reading when time permits. I am also an educator. I’ve been fortunate to collaborate with other artists, who spend their time teaching the youth their craft. It is an amazing experience to be apart of a student’s artistic exploration.
What role does the artist have in society?
I believe through an artist’s expression they prove or challenge the thoughts of the person who is experiencing the work. There is not a thought that art does not portray in one form or another. Art is the medium of conversation. An artist starts the dialogue.
What is art/craft to you?
In its simplest explanation it is a method of internal exploration expressed outwardly. It is a silent demonstration of someone’s perspective through skill and creativity.
Tell us about your favorite artist or artists that inspires you.
Where do i begin? Gustav Reyes, his work is exquisite. The level of execution that this man has will forever inspire me. Art Smith is a modernist artist whose designs leave me speechless. Romare Bearden collages, Ernie Barnes, William Johnson and Tyrone Geter paintings speak to my experience when viewing the world through the lense of identifying as black. Sonia Gomes and Frida Kahlo speak to my self discovery as an artist.
Anything else you would like to add?
As I continue to explore the depth of myself, I’ve found that connecting to the life-cycle of trees has become an increasing exploration. Through my jewelry, I investigate the levels of flexibility, the strength and the versatility in wood. My goal is to inspire those who wear my work to see themselves in collaboration with nature and color to express beauty.