One Successful Female Entrepreneur’s Story in Girl in Paris
Salma Arastu Berkeley artist with Expanstion of the universe painting Meet Salma Arastu, a successful female entrepreneur who overcame adversity, challenged the norm and followed her dream of being a businesswoman in the United States. It is a pleasure to present our interview with the world-renowned Indian artist Salma Arastu.
1. Tell us a little bit about your background and what do you do?
I was born in Ajmer, Rajasthan, India and graduated with an MFA in painting from Maharaja Sayajirao University in Baroda, India, and for the last thirty years I have been exhibiting my paintings in India, Iran, Kuwait and the United states.
Born into the Hindu tradition in my native India, I later embraced Islam through my marriage. At birth, I was given the life-defining challenge of a left hand without fingers. Seeing the unity of an all-encompassing God,I was able to transcend the barriers often set-forth in the traditions of religion, culture and the cultural perceptions of handicaps. My personal triumphs have been defined and shaped by the simple principle of faith in The Divine, as the compelling force which has guided my life and work. As a woman, a Hindu, a Muslim and a multi-cultural artist, I see a unique opportunity to create harmony and world transformation through the expression of The Universal in her art.
2. Why did you choose this form of art?
Painting has been my need from the very beginning. I could draw and doodle with continuous lyrical lines moving on the rhythm of my own soul. My mother was a very spiritual person and she often told me that God has created me for a special reason and I have to find that. Thus art became a vehicle to find my own self since my childhood.
3. When did you start creating your pieces? How has your talent changed since then?
As I said that I was drawing and painting since I was very young. My family encouraged me and at school also I was called upon to do drawings at special events. Then I was fortunate enough to go to Art College as my family supported my decision to study art as my career. My art has evolved since last 40 years.
4. How has the devotion to your religion inspired your work? Which devotional pieces are your favorite?
My works are inspired by my faith. Islamic values are the most important to me and I am especially touched by two major principles of the faith.
Allah is One, abstract, formless and beyond imagination and secondly God has created such diversity among humans and He commands them to live together in harmony and turn towards Him with praises to establish unity. So through calligraphy I was trying to pay my gratitude to Allah and with the same lyrical line, I started doing these connected figures as if I wanted to bring the whole world together. As if I want to spread Allah’s love by bringing people together with this single line of positive energy. Allah wants us to live together and share together and thus I recreate these visions which show people in celebrations, visiting neighbors, and family reunions, celebration of life, glow of unity and the hope of the new earth.
I have several favorite pieces from recent series Celebration of Calligraphy- “ Increase me in knowledge” “ My Destiny” “Healing Prayer”.
5. With almost 40 solo shows and several awards to your name, do you feel there is still room for you to improve your work? Or do you feel you have found your niche?
Well there is always room for growth. Art is a living process and it should keep evolving. Though I have found my niche in “lyrical lines and layers” but in that also I have so much to discover! I am in the field of “ unknown” while I am painting and each attempt unveils treasures! I am compelled to go deeper and find more!! It is a never ending search..
6. Have you ever faced an obstacle in your work that you weren’t sure you could overcome?
Well by nature I believe in moving on so obstacles don’t worry me as I find my strength in my prayer. I will always choose the risk of failure over doing nothing. Generally I treat obstacles as opportunities that helps me to survive and find new channels.
7. After coming to the US, you created a company called Your True Greeting, a greeting card company centered around serving the needs of Muslim communities within many countries. What sparked this idea?
Your True Greetings was formed almost 25 years back in 1989 in the small town of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in the hope of earning a little income to help our family settle down in US after migrating from India in 1987. Being an artist, I did not want to take up a job and get tied down to an inescapable routine, and I wanted to be with my two children as well when they needed me.
My dream was to establish myself as a fine artist here in the US, however, to pay the bills, I started designing cards with the encouragement of a local printer, Mr. Robin Cook, who bartered my paintings and printed cards for me. With my first four card designs in the back of my old Volvo, I ran around town and sold all the cards and made some good money and thanked God for it! Gradually, as I started searching for a niche market, I made up my mind to serve Islamic communities here in the US. Using my education in Fine Arts and the design talents that I was blessed with, I started creating Islamic greeting cards. My husband and my children supported me.
We used to go to conventions and community fairs, make sales and generate mailing lists. Slowly but surely a mail order business was created. Those first four designs that I had created have grown now into more than 100 designs in the portfolio.
Due to the internet, a global market has opened up, and a small home based company is now completing its 25th year in business. We now have clients from as far away as Japan and Australia while Canada, the UK and USA remain our primary markets. At Your True Greetings we design, manufacture, fulfill mail orders and drop-ship all of our products
8. Did you face any difficulties bringing this company into fruition?
Well I refuse to accept defeat so I worked hard and my husband supported me.
I had a printer who bartered my art works for printing my cards initially so financially I was protected!
9. Being a female entrepreneur is rare; were there any special obstacles you had to overcome because of this?
I think for me things worked out just fine because of my strong faith in God. I remained firm with the idea that I want to work from home and I have to make it work to support my family, I was prepared to do the hard work and be patient to learn many skills on the job by keeping strict discipline of work ethics. I decided from the beginning that I am not going to take big loans to create this business. So my costs were always minimized. I did everything from designing to manufacturing to market and pack and ship the orders. That saved me a lot and I was engaged with the customer personally. I take it as a responsibility to do my best for the client as he has entrusted me with the job.
10. What sorts of cards does Your True Greeting produce? How can they be obtained?
I started with only Eid Festival cards and as I started going to different conventions people showed interest in getting all occasion cards with specific verses from Quran. Gradually I added wedding invitations and thank you cards etc. Blank cards line was developed along the way. I also added Islamic calendar with my original art with specific themes and it has become very popular item. From 2007 I have seen decline in sales of the greeting cards so I added ceramic tiles with the names of Allah, prints of my Arabic Calligraphy paintings, gift items like book marks and Calligraphy sculptures.
11. What are your plans for the future or the future of Your True Greeting?
I can’t deny that now my energies are flowing towards painting and establishing myself as a fine artist in US. I am applying for grants, public sculptures and museum shows. I have carried on Your True Greetings with equal energy and hard work for 25 years and now it is bringing me enough business to survive as an artist and pursue my passion. I may not put more efforts only for Islamic greeting cards. Now I am moving towards Salma Arastu Collection under which all my works as painter, sculptor and designer will co-exist.
We couldn’t be more proud of Salma and her impact on female entrepreneurs everywhere, as she has not only earned a spot for her work in the upcoming Rocky movie, “Creed” but has her work featured in museums around the globe including “State Museum of Art, Harrisburg, PA” and “Museum Of Modern Art, Hyderabad, India“. We encourage you to check out her official website, Salma Arastu’s Art Collection and her shop, Your True Greetings where you can purchase some of her designer cards and gifts. She is truly an inspiration for women and artists all over the world.
Source: Girl in Paris