By Manisha Dass
We know some of you are probably still reeling from your Raksha Bandhan celebrations. Earlier, if you wanted a Raksha Bandhan (or really any desi holiday) card, you had two choices, DIY or stock up from Archie’s Gallery on a trip home to the motherland.
Lucky for us in the diaspora, those days are ancient history thanks to talented desi artists who are reflecting on their traditions and roots to create artwork that matters. It’s with this view in mind that Simmi Patel, a copywriter based out of California, started Paper Samosa.
I can teach ya, but I have to charge…for a 3-pack of Rakhsha Bandhan cards. Each card is beautifully printed on 100lb textured paper and will be sure to add some extra lols this Rakhi Day! Only a *limited* number printed so get yours before they’re💨 #myrakhis #rakhshabandhan #rakshabandhanspecial #brother #bhai #brozone #kelis #browngirlsbrozone @paper.samosa
We spoke with Patel about the birth of her company, its evolvement to present day, and everything that inspires her to pursue and create her unique art.
The Teal Mango: I wanted to briefly dive into the background of Paper Samosa and how it was started.
Simmi Patel: Paper Samosa was something that started out as a fun creative outlet for myself. After writing for brands and learning their voices and styles, I had a deep craving to create without limits and reconnect with my own style uninterrupted. I leaned into Indian culture when I realized I wanted there to be more cool stuff for us; the generation that is a mixed blend of Indian and Western upbringing. With my background in writing and general love for word-play and humor, I challenged myself to create pieces that would twist and play with both cultures in a way that was unique, light-hearted, colorful and fun. I wanted to speak to our generation and celebrate our unique makeup of traditional and contemporary, Indian and Western, Bhangra and hip hop. I wanted to create pieces that would truly represent us.
TTM: Has art always been an interest of yours?
Patel: Words and ideas are my puzzle pieces and I can lose myself playing with them. However, I’ve always had a deep love for art. I’ve been drawn to colors, pencils, paint brushes, and anything I could mold since I could remember. In high school I was part of the art honor society and art class was my favorite part of school. However, I drifted away from all of it and only recently started to reconnect through Paper Samosa. I started really basic, just black and white illustrations on paper. As I kept going, I gained more confidence and simultaneously began to discover my style. It’s been so much fun and really empowering to know that if I really, really work at it, I can create whatever my mind thinks up.
TTM: Given that a career in arts is the not-so-typical desi path, what sort of a reaction have you gotten from your family?
Patel: I have to say, I am blessed with the most incredible family. My parents have always supported whatever I’ve wanted to do, valuing my happiness before anything else. They have so much blind faith in me. I make impulsive life decisions based on gut feeling, dropping majors, picking-up new ones, chasing dreams, moving across the country without a job, leaving jobs without a plan, and they roll with everything I hit them with. And honestly their support is what makes me feel invincible to taking the risks necessary to find each of my paths. My brothers and sister-in-laws are also huge fans. They constantly encourage me, support me, and tell me they’re proud of what I’m doing. I am aware that this is the best-case scenario, and not a very common one, so I am very, very fortunate and forever grateful for them.
TTM: Can you tell us about your first piece?
Patel: This is a tough one as I’m not quite sure what my first piece was. My first post on Instagram was just a simple message that said ‘Chal let’s do this’. I created it almost as a message to myself, but also as a piece of inspiration for anyone to just do whatever it was they wanted or needed to. A short and powerful motivational statement.
TTM: Your art seems to be timely and in tune with a lot of social messages. Is that your intention or is it just a coincidence?
Patel: I think there’s just naturally a piece of me in all of my posts. The way I think, feel, my sense of humor, I create things that resonate with me and since I generally try to keep up with what’s going on in the world and feel certain ways about issues, it’s not surprising that it shows up in my work. But for the most part, I think all of us are so angry, frustrated and just exhausted about a lot of the things going on in the world that I aim to make Paper Samosa a place for people to escape for a moment and enjoy a smile.
TTM: Your posts seem to have made quite a mark on the ‘gram. Was that your original hope when you started Paper Samosa?
Patel: It’s truly incredible to see. It was a hope to create something that would resonate with people and they would hopefully enjoy, but I wasn’t expecting anywhere close to the amount of love that I have received. It’s unreal. I’ve said it before but I truly mean it, it inspires me to keep on creating and making.
TTM: Besides samosas, what or who inspires you?
Patel: I get my inspiration from my life. I find it all around me, from being at home, from the conversations I have, from the things I see around me and from the experiences I have in my day-to-day.
TTM: How much time do you spend each dayor week dedicated to creating new Paper Samosa art?
Patel: I find and collect inspiration throughout the day and am continuously jotting them down. When I sit down to execute each idea, that’s when I’ll work out all the details (what it will look like, what it will say exactly). Most posts takes between 3-9 hours to execute once I have the idea.
TTM: Where do you aim to take Paper Samosa next?
Patel: Most of Paper Samosa’s evolution has been one thing organically inspiring the next. So I never quite know what’s coming next until I’m creating it.
Manisha Dass is a pediatric occupational therapist who is surviving Trump’s America thanks to dogs, Bollywood, and deep-fried desi goodness. She can’t imagine a world without JZ (her 4 legged besties, not Bey’s), gol gappas and SRK. When she’s not catching Btown’s latest, she’s looking for love in all the wrong places. You can follow Dass on Twitter and Instagram.