We had the good fortune of connecting with Gopi Shah and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Gopi, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
I grew up as a child of immigrant parents who came to the US like most immigrants – in search of opportunity and a better life for their children. As such, my sisters and I were raised with a mindset that education is the most important avenue for success and stability. My parents worked hard to get us into an incredible high school that had a ceramics and glass studio. This is where I built my foundation and skills for my career in pottery.  However, I went to college and ended up in the non-profit sector working for public health and environmental organizations rather than pursuing a career in the arts. I was taught that job and financial security was very important, and starting a business or being an artist happens to be very risky. Therefore, when I did finally launch my business and my career in pottery years later, I was very risk-averse and still am. I’m also very good at being organized when it comes to accounting and taxes, thanks to my mom who was an accountant.  I do think that being risk-averse can be difficult when starting a business, but it has provided me with slow, steady growth over the years, and it allowed flexibility this year when COVID-19 shuttered many small businesses. Keeping my operations trim allowed me to pivot quickly and respond appropriately allowing my business a chance to hopefully overcome this year’s challenges.  I happen to take a lot of inspiration from folk art, which I believe stems from my Indian heritage as well as growing up in Los Angeles and my parents providing ample opportunities to explore diverse museums, partake in cultural events, and meet various kinds of people.  As I grow older, I am more humbled and thankful that my parents made this incredibly arduous journey to provide a life where I am able to pursue a career that brings me happiness and fulfillment. Their hard work, perseverance, interest in arts and culture, and tight budgeting skills have all made an impact on me and how I run my business, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without their guidance and teachings. 

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Inspired by Mesoamerican and Andean art, California natural landscapes, and textiles and prints, Gopi Shah Ceramics combines youthful creativity with craftsmanship to create stoneware pottery that bridges ancient traditions and techniques with the modern world. I have been lucky to have incredible teachers and mentors in my first ten years working with clay, which has led me to diversify my pottery knowledge, skills, and techniques.

There is so much to explore with ceramics – wheel throwing, handbuilding and slip casting, glazing and firing techniques, chemistry and physics, and it would take a lifelong to just explore one avenue. This prevents me from getting bored in the studio and allows me to challenge myself and constantly grow. The further I dive into the craft, the more appreciation I have for ceramics. On the flipside, my work changes and evolves every year, and what I was excited about pursuing last year, may not be what I’d like to pursue this year.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I grew up in Los Angeles, but currently reside in Long Beach, California. I think there are a lot of stereotypes about Southern California that I always love to challenge when friends come to visit. I generally don’t like doing the “touristy” stuff, like the Santa Monica Pier or Hollywood, but instead try to showcase what people who live here actually do on a daily basis. I absolutely love Long Beach and all that it has to offer, so I really love to show off the city.

Long Beach has fantastic architecture, so we’d go on a walking tour highlighting the art deco, Spanish, and craftsman styles that are central to Long Beach’s unique cityscape. I like challenging people’s misconception that everyone drives in Southern California, so we’d go for a bike ride through downtown Long Beach and along the beach bike path to the boat docks and take a boat ride around the harbor looking at the city from a different perspective, checking out the haunted Queen Mary, and pointing out the sea lions barking at us. We’d then head over on the boat to the Port of LA and the Port of LB to relish at the sheer scale of the shipping container industry.
Long Beach has the largest Cambodian population outside of Cambodia, so I always love taking visitors to Little La Lune, our favorite Cambodian restaurant. Long Beach has a diverse food scene, and we love going to Ammatoli for Levantine food or Ellie’s for Italian, getting Peruvian from Casa Chaskis and finishing with a scoop of corn ice cream at Guanabana.
Finally, I would take our guests to visit the Long Beach Museum of Art and the Museum of Latin American Art as well as visit my studio, which has a gallery on the top floor featuring art from Long Beach muralists. There are a ton of incredible things to do and see, which is why I love living here. I have only been in Long Beach for 3 years, and still have so much to explore.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’d love to give shout outs to my high school teacher, John Luebtow, and my ceramics mentor, Jennifer Prichard.

Website: www.gopishah.com
Instagram: www.instagram.com/gopishahceramics
Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/gopishah

Image Credits
Morgan Baker

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