We had the good fortune of connecting with Samanta Tello and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Samanta, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
Balance seems like one of the words that often pop in my head and one of the concepts I strive to bring to my life and my family’s daily life. Although by now, I feel that it’s a myth. At least to obtain it every day.
Some days I am a good mom, somedays I am a good artist, a good wife, a good pet owner, a health-minded person, someone who cares about other people and the environment… some days I feel I am none of that. But indeed, it’s more than challenging for me to get all of them simultaneously, although it’s worth aiming to try.
I have two daughters, teen, and pre-teen, and I feel they need me almost more now than when they were small, so a big part of my time is focused on them. But I also want to show them that I take the time to work on what I love. I would like for them to do the same when they grow up. It’s important. They see how essential my work is for me, and they encourage me to do so as much as possible.
In the end, I have learned to try my best and feel comfortable with not having a daily balance. I see it in waves — some periods of time, I focus more on my work, and others, family life comes first. As long as, in general, work or life don’t get neglected, I feel balanced.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I have always looked at the visual part of life. I think in images and colors more than words as it is much easier for me to express my ideas and feelings this way.
The use of art materials, texture, color, and smell bring me joy and take me to a place where I feel that I belong, that is mine, where I can express myself freely. A place that connects me to other people who feel the same. So it is a very personal space and very communal at the same time.
I am excited just at the idea to get to work and play with these materials and immerse myself in the process. I like working with contrasts, using the warmth of wood and the sleek coldness of metal; I use gold and silver leaf in most of my work. Through pyrography (burning with a heated metallic point), I burn my drawings onto the wood and use different shades of wood stains to color it, letting the grain show through and covering other parts with acrylic and gold/silver leaf. It’s a very satisfying process for me.
My artistic focus and inspiration are bringing attention to women’s and girls’ issues. My daughters bring me constant motivation and enthusiasm to keep doing my work. I like positive work and depicting women in a powerful, hopeful, solid, and ready-to-change-things attitude.
I got to where I am professionally today through work, work, work, and by acquiring the craft through constant repetition. A lot of my burning work is repetitive, even tedious, but I enjoy it; it puts me in the zone and gives me a deeper connection with the piece and the subject I am working on. The initial idea for a piece is always energizing, exciting and inspiring to me, and I can’t wait to communicate it. The making of the piece — the burning, the leafing, and painting are meditative, slow, thoughtful, and calm. I like the contrast between the two and the balance in how I feel while producing my work.
Throughout my career, I’ve learned to only compare my work and progress to my previous work and not to other artists’ work. We are all on our own path, with our unique, personal and professional situations. With inspiration from various places, people, and events from the outside world, I look within for important ideas for me to convey.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would take them for a walk or bike ride to Golden Gate Park and visit the botanical gardens on the way. Then we would go to the de Young Museum next door. Maybe stop for a cup of tea at the Japanese tea gardens and have lunch or dinner in my neighborhood (San Francisco Inner Richmond) at Burma Superstar (amazing Burmese), Chili House (Sichuan food), or Cafe Bunn Mi (great Vietnamese sandwiches and Pho).
If they came in October, I would take them to an Open Studios event, as artists open their studios every weekend of the month. And would encourage them to buy a piece or two ; )
At some point in the week, we would have a gathering with friends at our house. We would cook paella and make a tapas spread with some rosé and champagne to celebrate the occasion. Our two daughters (10 and 13 years old) would bring a friend or two, and we would welcome their dogs. We have two, Rocky and Stella, and often there’s a few of them at our gatherings.
I would probably take them to visit Chinatown and North Beach, to City Lights bookstore, and eat at an Italian restaurant we would find on the way. Maybe the Stinking Rose if they are brave or House of Nanking for some good Chinese food.
Another day, As a treat, I would take them downtown San Franciso to eat at Kokkari, one of my favorite restaurants, for some yummy modern Greek cuisine.
If San Francisco is too foggy, we would go to Sausalito for a Sunny day and show them around. The next day we would go to Napa for some wine tasting. I think all this would make a pretty good week!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My father for always explaining things to me through sketches by drawing on paper napkins, paper table covers, or any drawing surface available
My art teacher in 7th grade, Don Arturo, for telling me that I should think about pursuing an artistic path
My husband for his support and help making sure that I have time to work
My two daughters for constant inspiration in my work and my life